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Tortilla Creek, AZ
mini location map2020-04-03
45 by photographer avataroutdoor_lover
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Tortilla Creek, AZ 
Tortilla Creek, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 03 2020
Hiking4.00 Miles 500 AEG
Hiking4.00 Miles
500 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I had a lapse in judgement. And it came seriously close to biting me and ruining not just my day, but others as well. This Hike shouldn't have happened, for several reasons, including a really big one. Today, an extremely close call made my top 5 all-time. 9 times out of 10, the scenario would have landed someone in the hospital and at least Emergency Services, if not SAR would have been involved. Not my best day by a long shot. Only a very big miracle kept this day from being ultra bad. I didn't deserve it, I made a poor decision, but I'm glad that no one else had to be involved. Go ahead and judge me, I have it coming.

On Wednesday, my new truck reminded me that it was not the Escape. I went to get in and almost broke my knee on the bottom of the door. I came damn close to tears for about the first 2 minutes. The next day, (Thursday) my leg hurt pretty bad from the knee all the way to the ankle. With that in mind, I decided I needed to do something light today.

I wanted to go back to Tortilla Flat and do a little birding first thing in the morning. I picked out 3 options for a Hike after that. I got to the Flat about 30 minutes after Sunrise and chased some birds around. I started to hike over to Option 1 (Tortilla Massif) and met a FS Truck when I started walking down the Campground road. They nixed my route and kicked me out, very nicely I might add. So, I decided to just go explore Tortilla Creek. Get to the creek and start boulder hopping away. Lots of water and flow still, making for serious navigation and route finding, while trying to keep the feet dry, at least for awhile. I was also trying very hard to be careful so 1. I didn't hurt myself and 2. to protect the Camera. I really should have saved this Hike for better times and also with different gear, so I didn't have to worry about everything so much. It all made for slow going, which was fine because I wasn't trying to make a mega hike out of it anyway. Just a nice day along the Creek with lots of breaks and quiet time. With the exception of the Parking Lot, which was really empty at the start, I only ran into one party of 3 headed to Peter's Canyon. There were more people milling around at Tortilla Flat when I got back, and a lot more traffic. But still nothing terrible.

So, I boulder hop, sometimes following the creek, sometimes crossing the creek. A little scrambling here and there and a bit of bushwacking as well. Just trying to find the cleanest, safest route. The Creek was beautiful, with pools and waterfalls. The light was harsh by then, but the sound was soothing. When I got to the Peter's Canyon turnoff, I just kept going on Tortilla. I stopped just short of Hells Hole Spring, took a lunch break and decided to turn around there. Spent about an hour in the shade just enjoying the water and the solitude.

It was about 2:00 and time to head back. Put the pack on and headed back the way I came. About 30 yards from my Lunch Spot, I come to a pretty simple, straightforward crossing. I did the same crossing an hour before and it was easy. Perfectly placed dry rocks that were easily reached. About 5 rocks to make it across. On the return trip, the last rock would be a pretty small one, but only 6" before the shoreline, which was part of a small beach. When I hit that small rock, my next step would be in the sand, right up against a large boulder on the right. Everything to the left of that boulder was sand. It was easy the first time I did it, so there was no hesitation this time and I go. It was a clean crossing until I got to the last small rock and then all I could do was react. When I hit the small rock, my next step should have been straight, into the sand, up against the boulder. But the sand next to the boulder where my foot was about to go, moved, and suddenly became vertical. There was a sound, but it wasn't a Rattle. On top of nothing short of a miracle, 3 things saved me. 1. I apparently had the element of surprise. I think Grandpa Diamondback was as shocked as I was. But he was instantly ready for a fight. 2. When I hit the small rock, it was with my right foot. I was mid-stride, but managed to do almost a complete split and swung my left foot as wide as I could, landing in the sand about 3 feet away from him. If it had been my left foot on that rock, I might have been screwed. I could only go left to miss him. If I had gone straight, my next step would have landed right on top of him. 3. I had speed and momentum on my side. When I landed, I managed to keep my feet and my momentum took me out of range quickly. I'm thankful that even in the middle of a boulder hop, I still have a pretty good reaction time. The HAZers on the 6L Ranch Hike have seen me in action when a crossing doesn't quite go as planned. :sweat: Mr. Diamondback wasn't happy and I think my heart skipped several beats. By the time I regained composure, got the heart beating again and reached for my camera, Mr. Diamondback was starting to relax and decided that maybe it was just time to go hide. There was a little piece of flood debris that he decided was his only option and he managed to squeeze himself in there and chill. Maybe get his heart beating again too. He was a pretty big, healthy looking snake and his rattle was probably just short of 3" long, so he's been around awhile. He must have been laying out flat against the boulder, possibly getting a drink of water from a small inlet around the curve of the boulder. But I'm not sure. He might have been laying in a coil in a small depression of the boulder. All I know was that he blended right in and I never saw him until almost too late. I should have been bitten, I don't know how I wasn't.

All I could think about was how bad this would have been if I had been bitten. I might have been able to still hike out, but maybe not. This is exactly the kind of thing you want to really avoid right now. Don't make the news. Don't involve Emergency Services. Don't do anything that's going to land you in the hospital. If I was going to screw up and get injured on this Hike, the very last thing I would have wanted would be a rattlesnake bite! It's not like I was on a Trail that would have been fairly accessible, if I wasn't going to be mobile. It would have been a bitch to get me out of there. I beat myself up on the entire rest of the return. The joy of a water hike turned into extreme paranoia. Now it's not just about protecting the legs and ankles. It's about the worry of another run-in. I'm boulder-hopping and bushwacking. A snake's favorite haunts. I haven't been that glad to see the parking lot in a very long time, at least from the mental aspect.

Certainly a far cry from what I hoped would be a good day. As much as I've wanted to see some snakes this year, this really isn't what I had in mind for my first Rattlesnake of the season. Normally, I would have been excited, but with the kind of times we're having right now, it shook me instead. I'm just glad that he was a nice snake and showed restraint. I should have known better. Warm day, snake season and I'm out there bushwacking and boulder hopping and all I'm thinking about is don't fall, don't sprain or break an ankle or leg. Well, I didn't do any of those things, but it could have been even worse and snakes just didn't cross my mind. In spite of me, it turned out ok, but I'm going to be more thoughtful about my Hike decisions for awhile.

Photos. Probably up by tomorrow. I really didn't take that many, my focus was no injuries and dry feet.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
Not a lot going on around the creek.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Mesquite Creek Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Tortilla Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty & well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming, "Wow What a Ride!"
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