|Canyoneering||6.83 Miles|| 8 Hrs 1 Min ||1.37 mph|
|1,865 ft AEG|| 3 Hrs 2 Mns Break|
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||no linked trail guides|
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|Talk about a hike that exceeded my expectations by a mile, this is it.|
Getting to the TH is definitely a 4x4 experience.
Given the ho-hum winter, I wasn't sure how much water would be flowing, but as it turns out, quite a bit. And the evidence was clear that recently it had been even much higher.
After entering the canyon, we navigated the 40-ft semi-dry fall. There was some water running down the rocks and made for one spot that was semi-precarious and required long legs, and assist, or a small leap of faith.
Below the dryfall, the Hackberry Creek drainage is a fun bouldering adventure. Nothing crazy, and no need to get wet.
Just before the junction with Devil's Canyon, there is a nice-sized pool, which we navigated around a little higher on the left.
Once in Devil's Canyon is quite a lush riparian area with lots of cottonwood trees and shade. The bushwhacking through here was not as bad as I was anticipating. It's still early in the spring, so perhaps it will be more overgrown as the summer comes on.
We mostly stayed on the west side of the creek, though in one or two spots tried the east side. Generally, we were happy with that navigational choice.
Within the last mile before the pools are two cascades that I felt merit particular mention. One is a 9-10 foot fall that cuts through a narrow crack worn in the rock and drops into a small pool below. The other is a stair-step drop at the edge of a large pool, that runs over like the "edge" of a zero-edge/infinity pool.
Overall, I kind of anticipated the hike to the pools to be kind of a grind, and mostly a means to an end. But it was quite scenic and enjoyable. Lots of cottonwoods and other foliage in the drainage. I managed to avoid the poison ivy, which was present but not ubiquitous.
We reached the first pool in about 2 hr. 20 min.
Pool #1--A nice little waterfall feeding into a deep pool. Great little cliff jump, as the hike description notes. There was a bolted anchor on the left with several ropes in various stages of health. But one was an actual climbing rope and in good order, and combined with the rest, provided ample support for the short climb back up to the top of the pool.
Pool #2,aka, the slide. The slide was in full operation. Sufficient water to support the growth of slippery moss, which aided the slip. Fun little spot.
Pool #3--Where setting up a rope is mandatory--as there is no way to get back up from pool 3 to pool 2 by hiking/climbing around--OR so we thought. More on that below. The drop here is relatively small. A fun cliff jump as well, and a nice deep pool. Two bolts for anchoring on the left. No anchor material was present on the bolts. We rigged some webbing and set up a short rope and left it there for the return trip.
Pool #4--The crown jewel of the hike. Here is the 60-65 ft rappel down the side of the waterfall to the largest and most impressive pool. And impressive it was! The bolts at the top of the falls were in good order. There was a webbing anchor set, with a ring. I added some additional webbing as back up, and we used our long rope for the rappel. What a rush! Once down at pool level, an alcove behind the waterfall made for a fun spot to look through the falls, etc.
Pool #5--We had one more rope, so we left the rope in tact at the top of pool 4. Rappelled down the first section above pool #5 with our final rope, then pulled it and cliff jumped 30 ft or so in to the fifth pool, which was also a beauty!
The scramble out from pool 5 is on the left and climbs up a short rocky section to the base of a small ridge from which you can walk to the edge and look down below pool 5. Turning in the other direction, use a large fallen tree to help scramble up onto a ledge, then veer slightly left and up steeply, with some steep and loose scrambling to where you can level out with the top of pool #4.
From there, we retrieved our rope and swam back across Pool #3 to our final rope. But, we struggled to climb up to the top. The location of the anchor was such that as we got close to the top, the rope pulled us towards the waterfall where there were no footholds. :-0 In hindsight, or for next time, I would have used my webbing to create a ladder out, or used a longer piece of rope to loop back up a top-rope belay and we could use to hoist each other up.
But, as it was, we were looking for other options. My daughter found a crack on the right side of the canyon wall (facing upstream) and free soloed up about 15 feet and then another of our party did the same and was ultimately able to get over the top and back down to the base of pool #2. With him on top, we were able to get out. Next time, I'll rig it up differently, but this "little" 12-15 foot climb turned out to be the hardest part of the trip.
The climb out from there was uneventful, other than seeing a couple of nice sized hawks taking advantage of the updrafts in the canyon. Oh, and we also were buzzed by 3 fighter jets screaming through the canyon. From prior triplogs, it looks like this is a favorite alleyway for training runs. They definitely get the blood pumping when they come flying "out of nowhere."
Other than the jets, we didn't encounter another soul the entire day.
I'll be back!