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mini location map2021-06-10
15 by photographer avatarLJW
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Willow ValleyPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Canyoneering avatar Jun 10 2021
Canyoneering12.00 Miles 2,000 AEG
Canyoneering12.00 Miles   12 Hrs      1.66 mph
2,000 ft AEG   4 Hrs   45 Mns Break
Canyon Hiking - Non-technical; no rope; easy scrambling; occasional hand use
B - Up to light current; wading/swimming; possible wet/dry suit
III - Normally requires most of a day
 no routes
1st trip
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Partners none no partners
Had never been here or to WCC proper, started with Willow Valley for an intro to the area. Brought a couple friends along and we did the conventional loop from Maxwell Tank. FR81 is solid but 81E to the trailhead requires some clearance, good tires lend peace of mind. Started out a little late, around 7:30 and went clockwise. Willow Valley and this route sort of defy language; it's like a photographer saying pictures don't do a place justice, well it's hard to explain the magic down there and I'm not sure it's possible with ordinary words.

Down from the tank along the drainage bottom is rocky but only a light bushwhack. Some poison ivy that is not worth the effort to avoid. Eventually the drainage falls away and someone has anchored a rope to a tree to help with the climb. Went down and had to come back up to get down farther north. Canyon started dry and we worked around the first pool to the west. There were three unavoidable pools where we had to get in. First two were take-your-breath-away cold. Both combine for maybe 60 yards of swimming. Brought a float to ferry packs and boots across. So damn fun but took a lot of time, especially the pre-swim beers we needed to work up the excitement to get in with the cool morning air.

After the pools the canyon dries up a little before getting wetter and wetter. No more swimming, but our feet stayed wet the whole time. More and more fish and marshy areas where the grass grows over the flowing water. Absolutely sublime. Lots of wildlife, including a black rattlesnake I didn't notice until I'd stepped over it and it got to rattling. Nothing for noise but the whisper of wind and clicking of insects in the firs. Amazing mixed forest of old, huge conifers and deciduous trees that escape my taxonomic knowledge. Some use trails, some creek. It's quite slippery on the bottom and slow going. More numerous and bigger fish closer to Clover Canyon and WCC. Good campsites in the many bends. Diverse scenery along the way and around every corner.

Maxwell trail is flagged with orange tape in the trees and some cairns. It's in great shape and by then we were happy to have a trail. Cut between the roads through the hordes of cows back to the car and made it just as the sun set. Didn't see anyone on the hike, register indicated no one for three days. One car parked by Maxwell trailhead was the only sign of human life. Going back I'd backpack so as to be in no rush. No fewer than twelve hours will do, even if it could be done faster.
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Wildflowers Observation Isolated

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Maxwell Tank 51-75% full 51-75% full
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