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Aravaipa Canyon
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mini location map2020-03-13
34 by photographer avatarddgrunning
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Aravaipa CanyonGlobe, AZ
Globe, AZ
Canyoneering avatar Mar 13 2020
ddgrunning
Canyoneering27.98 Miles 6,370 AEG
Canyoneering27.98 Miles   9 Hrs   51 Mns   4.81 mph
6,370 ft AEG   4 Hrs   2 Mns Break
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Route Scout GPS Route Recorded on Route Scout View
We were originally planning to drop in on Thursday, but were deterred (correction: my wife was deterred) somewhat by the rainy forecast. Even though Friday was also forecast for rain, we decided to go anyway. Turned out to be an excellent call!

I had been in touch with the BLM office, and although there had been several days of rain, the stream gauge on Aravaipa was pretty steady. No major concerns with flooding, and the ranger encouraged us not to cancel our plans. I asked about the road, and was told it was fine other than the 1.5/2.0 miles from the TH to the actual wilderness boundary--where 4x4 is recommended.

So, off we went, leaving the East Valley at 4 a.m. for the 3+ hour drive. Along the way, the rain poured, and we hoped that the skies would get it all out of their system by the time we arrived at the TH.

The 40+ mile dirt-road drive in to the East TH was easier than expected. It looked recently graded and was in better condition than a lot of paved roads I drive on. 45-50 mph was no problem for the vast majority. And with the exception of a few puddles near the TH, the rain did not seem to have impacted drive-abiltiy at all. The only surprise was that you have to cross the creek 3-4 times before you get to the TH (I thought the creek crossings were after the TH). All were easy in our 2WD Suburban.

At the TH, we signed in the register, and were pleased to see that the last entry was several days prior, and that group had since exited. At that point, we knew solitude in the canyon was all ours! :y: And indeed, we did not come across another human soul for the rest of our trip until about 1 mile from the Wilderness boundary on our return.

We decided to risk the drive from the TH to the boundary in our 2WD, and it was the right choice. This section does require high clearance, but there was only one semi-dicey spot, where the road dropped into the creek from a somewhat steep incline that was washed out. We bottomed out on one side after plopping into the creek, but had no problem moving. I made a mental not though, that climbing out of the creek at that spot on the return might present a challenge ....

We made it to the wilderness boundary before 8 a.m. and strapped on our packs. The skies had cleared from the morning rain and we knew the forecast should be okay till later in the afternoon.

Right out of the gate, there was a cool waterfall coming into the creek from the south side of the canyon. And, with three-days worth of rain, cascades streaming in from the tops of the canyon walls on both sides were a frequent occurrence.

Footwear consisted of thick, wool socks, small gaiters over retired running shoes. Worked great. I didn't have to empty out sand or pebbles from my shoes the entire trip, while hiking.

This was our first trip to Aravaipa. I'd heard the rave reviews, and seen the photos. It looked nice, but I admit that I wasn't convinced it was a "must-see" destination. I know otherwise now. Walking alongside, and in, the babbling creek, surrounded by waterfalls, towering cottonwoods, unique and diverse geological features, with animal life around every turn, was pretty magical.

We passed by Parson Canyon to the south and, before too long, we made it to the mouth of Hell Hole Canyon, where we dropped our backpacks for a side tour. Unlike the other two side canyons we explored on this trip, Hell Hole has a flat bottom (no bouldering) and has the most slot-like features. Towering walls and winding/meandering canyon turns were the order of the day. Beautiful area with (of course) a lot of waterfalls pouring in from all around. We brought our lunch along and ate in Hell Hole. I'm guessing the "hole" part of the name comes from an arch/hole high in the canyon wall relatively close to the mouth of the canyon(?).

On our way back to our packs, we had our coatimundi sighting. I didn't notice him until I was a few feet away, and then he scampered off. I got a good look at him, but was only able to capture a poor photo on my phone. Still, cool to finally see one out in the wild. :)

Strapping on our packs again, we continued down the creek towards our destination for the day--Booger Canyon, where we would make our overnight camp. Along the way, we gave a salute to Paisano Canyon. Lots of beautiful creek and canyon views in this stretch of Aravaipa, including a section where a large cottonwood had fallen across the creek about 10 feet off the ground, making a nice bridge/photo op.

We arrived at the mouth of Booger around 2 pm. Other than a couple of sprinkles along the way, the weather had cooperated nicely. We quickly set up camp and made sure everything was protected from the anticipated afternoon rain, then tromped across the creek with daypacks and ponchos for an explore up Booger. What a treat! Waterfalls, "caves," and cascades running down every nook and cranny. It was a cornucopia for the eyes. Every turn or climb up to the next level brought new oohs and aahs.

After some exploring, the thunder and lightning started on, followed by a good downpour. Booger was the perfect place to be at that time, since its large boulders (boogers) created several nice alcoves/sheltered areas, where we were able to stay dry and simply watch nature do its thing. If we had been at camp, our only shelter would have been to hole up in our small tents. As it was, the rain lasted about 30 minutes, and we just enjoyed the show and each other's company from a lofty spot in Booger, looking across to the southern canyon walls of Aravaipa, and surrounded by cascading waterfalls. :y:

Once the rain stopped, we debated exploring further up the canyon, but the rain had made the rocks extremely slippery (I only fell hard once :doh: ) and we were more concerned about downclimbing than going up. So, we decided to head back to camp.

The sheltered spots in Booger had another benefit--they also contained here and there some driftwood that had been spared from the several days of rain and was relatively dry. This made our evening campfire much more enjoyable.

Back at camp, we enjoyed dinner and some evening chatter around the campfire before turning in around 9:30 pm.

Saturday morning dawned, with no more rain in the forecast. The alignment of the sunrise was right down the middle of the creek and made for some nice photos, with a little "smoke" on the water. A small buck sauntered up the creek right next to our campsite and continued heading upstream.

After a quick breakfast, I couldn't resist heading back up Booger Canyon for a second look around. Well worth it, and even more fun to see the falls and capture them in photos with a little blue sky and rising sun against he canyon walls.

Back at camp, we partially cleaned and then strapped on our daypacks for a trip downstream with the goal of exploring Horse Camp and Virgus Canyons before returning to camp and hiking out.

After such cool experiences in Hell Hole and Booger, I was worried that Horse Camp might be a little anti-climactic. Nope! Just a short jaunt from the mouth of the canyon was probably the most impressive waterfall of the trip, flowing down a 30-40 foot granite wall into a nice pool and continuing on into a riparian area, covered with grassy tuft and flowers. But above the large falls is where Horse Camp put its real unique stamp on our trip. There, the canyon had carved out several pools and smooth granite "slides" for our enjoyment. The water was quite cold, but we couldn't resist and had a great time shooting the slides, including a large slide with 2-3 "S" turns along the way to the final drop into a large pool. It reminded me a bit of the Jug.

Well, we ended up spending too much time goofing around in Horse Camp to include our additional planned tour of Virgus Canyon, so we decided to save that for next time, and dub this trip the "north canyon" tour of Aravaipa. :lol:

After lunch, we headed back upstream to Booger camp, where we finished cleaning up camp and headed back to the east exit. Weather was beautiful on Saturday. Saw several more deer and some wild turkeys (on our drive out, we came across a group of 18 turkeys!).

About a half mile east of Hell Hole canyon, we finally had our first human encounter, passing a couple that had set up camp on the south side of the river.

We arrived at the car/Wilderness Boundary around 4 pm, supremely happy with our experience. On the drive out, I stopped at the tricky creek exit and built a little ramp for right-side tires with surrounding rocks and it worked like a charm. Easy-peasy.

On the drive out, when we hit cell coverage, my phone blew up with news of the "Coronapocalypse." Made me want to turn around and go right back. Plenty of "social isolation" to be had in Aravaipa. :)

We stopped in Fort Thomas on the way home for a bathroom break and ended up staying for dinner at Meg's Place. Just opened in November and right of the side of US 70. Burgers, Navajo Tacos, chips with homemade salsa. Full stomachs. Highly recommend.

This trip was another testament to the awesome sights that await those who are willing to endure a little rain as part of their outdoor adventures.

Already thinking about my next trip to Aravaipa ....
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