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FR 344 Slate Creek Loop, AZ
mini location map2019-04-20
22 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
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FR 344 Slate Creek Loop, AZ 
FR 344 Slate Creek Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 20 2019
Hiking7.40 Miles 1,683 AEG
Hiking7.40 Miles   3 Hrs   47 Mns   2.05 mph
1,683 ft AEG      10 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
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A few weeks ago I planned a rerun of a Slate Creek/Forest Road 344 loop hike, so on the drive home after our Denton Trail bail-out it seemed like a good second-choice... less of a challenge and somewhere around 5 miles.

Five years ago we hiked counter-clockwise, doing the short Slate Creek segment first and circling back on FR 344. This time the plan was in the opposite direction. Although I didn't have the GPS route, it's just follow FR 344 to the creek, follow the creek back to the mining road and back to FR 344.

Easy enough, but barely a mile into the hike I just wasn't feelin' it... I have no explanation for it, like my body just said, no more today! But being the first of Tracey's two days off, I let her make the decision whether to bail-out for the second time today.

In retrospect, I'm glad she said let's go another mile and see how you feel because by time the next mile had passed I was already on cruise-control... I was paying no attention to where I was going but my feet seemed to be doing a great job without me giving it a thought, and suddenly the road is next to Slate Creek, which did not appear to be flowing much. With my mind back-in-the-present, I knew I wasn't up to the extra 2-mile round-trip to the windmill so we dropped into the creek-bed and started back.

In my two previous hikes in Slate Creek I experienced absolutely no water flow, so it was a gamble whether we could make it as far as the mining road shortcut back out of the creek. I wouldn't have hesitated if we had prepared for pools of water but it was a gamble we took.

It became almost as much a challenge as the Denton Trail had been, with the exception getting thoroughly wet would be the likely outcome of a misstep, not falling into a ravine. Using some creative routes back-and-forth across the creek we were able to stay dry. Unfortunately with all those efforts we were well past the old mining road before I realized we had missed it.

Tracey said how about following the creek to the Slate Creek TH and road-walk along Beeline back to the car? I wasn't thinking straight because I thought it was just a few more turns and it would be easier. Only after-the-fact would I realize I had never been in that next half-mile of the creek.

And it was NOT easy! By this time Tracey had given up on staying dry and simply waded through the shallow parts, almost taking a dive once when it was a foot deeper than expected.
And then we came to a pool too deep to walk through followed by a smooth boulder angled back toward us. Whether I stayed dry or not, it presented a real challenge so it was decision time... bail out and backtrack to the mining road or solve the puzzle.
With no way to bypass the choke-point there WAS no puzzle... it was just a matter of take a running jump bounce off a rock in mid-stream and launch high enough to grab the top of the smooth boulder. I mulled it over, gauging the odds because if I missed, getting wet may be the least of my worries, my back may take a bad hit.
Ok... no going back, it's now or never, and I made the leap. Damn! The mid-stream rock moved as I bounced on it so my lunge was not as high as I hoped and my legs were left dangling... all that kept me from sliding back off the boulder was the friction of my clothes.
So I'm hanging on for dear life and there's nothing for Tracey to do but wring her hands... wondering out loud it I should just drop down and we'd just back-track. Only problem... it was DEEP water below me so I'd probably lose ANOTHER camera to dunking (as if my previous four weren't enough). I really don't know how I made it up... but all that mattered was that I DID! I must have willed my body to slide up until I could roll over the top.
And now it's Tracey's turn! However, with foreknowledge of the loose rock mid-stream she could take it into account and plan a bigger leap.

It worked... the mid-stream rock did NOT move which allowed her to get high enough to reach the edge and pull herself up. Immediately she asked me how I felt because she couldn't believe I was able to do it, especially since I'm carrying 55 lbs more weight. Maybe that's why the mid-stream rock didn't move on her.

Whew! I wish I could say the rest of the hike was a breeze, but it was not. Just continuous boulder-hopping and crossing the creek to avoid thickets of brush washed up against rocks and trees. Being headed upstream, most of it was pointing straight at us so Tracey resorted to walking in the water. Her boots will drain while mine won't so I didn't want to be sloshing the mile-long road-walk back to the car.

By time we finished the mile-plus road-walk in the sun I was thoroughly worn out... I slept very well that night.
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