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West Clear Creek Trail #17
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mini location map2020-09-05
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West Clear Creek Trail #17Camp Verde, AZ
Camp Verde, AZ
Backpack avatar Sep 05 2020
Backpack12.00 Miles
Backpack12.00 Miles2 Days         
20 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
This was my first trip to West Clear Creek. Special thanks to Nonot for providing excellent guidance.
Started out at ~ 6:30 a.m. at Bull Pen. Given record temps in the valley, the early start was perfect. There were only three cars in the lot. Unfortunately, there was a lot of trash piled up around the closed bathroom. It would prove to be a harbinger of things to come, as garbage was a recurring theme of the hike.
The hike to the trail terminus (4 miles) is utilitarian, and not something I would do if it were not for what followed. Although I had looked at photosets on this website, I wasn't prepared for how beautiful the hike up the creek was. I didn't see anyone until I hit the side trail that folks take to get down the canyon and on to Maiden Falls. I don't have the words to do it justice. That section (between #17 terminus and the Maiden Falls side trail) was the most pristine of the hike. No trash. Few campsites. The section required on float. Rather than an inflatable, I threw my whole pack into an oversized Osprey dry bag. I wouldn't recommend the approach, as after only four floats, and generally attempting to be careful, I had several abrasion holes. I like the idea of encasing the pack, but need stronger material for the next trip.
I encountered a lot more people once I hiked past the side trail, and lots more developed campsites. There was also more garbage. After a second float and some steep rapids, I made camp (sweet spot!), about 1/4 mile from the Falls. After setting up camp I went to check out the falls, and then spent the afternoon floating around a pool closer to camp. Oh, and picking up a couple gallons of accumulated garbage strewn about. I didn't have room to get it all, and that was just what was near my camp. More on that later.
I had initially planned a three day, but I mentally I think I need an established goal - just hiking five hours out and five hours back to my camp didn't sound appealing to me. So Sunday morning I headed back toward Bull Pen. After my first float of the morning, I began to notice more garbage. One group had even left a full garbage bag (one of those 40 gallon ones you use in a trash can), hung up, rather than packing it out. I don't have the ground clearance to get to the Maiden Falls side trail, but am game to do more trash carryout if you do (PM me). I don't mean to harp on the garbage thing, but WCC is so pristine, that the juxtaposition of all trash was jarring.
Heading out the established trail was warm in the early afternoon. The crowds didn't really show up until the final creek crossing towards the end. Given that it's Labor Day weekend, I shouldn't have been surprised, but there were hundreds of cars, both at Bull Pen and every available spot for a ~ mile leading to Bull Pen. By some miracle, I wasn't blocked in.
I look forward to more exploration of WCC. It's not my usual thing (more established trails), but what a beautiful adventure! It didn't hurt that it was really hot this weekend. The floats were pleasant, rather than bracing. I wouldn't want to do this in November. Mileage and AEG above is a space filler. I have no idea what they were. I can say that 6-8 hours from Bull Pen to Maiden Falls was doable.
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