|Canyoneering||8.00 Miles|| 9 Hrs ||0.89 mph|
|1,800 ft AEG||16 LBS Pack|
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|Hit up a buddy with the idea to do this hike, I bailed on this hike once before back in 2020 and with the clear weather in the forecast it seemed like a good time to give it a go.|
Was to start near the parking lot adjacent Highway 87 and FR 142; heading north through Clover Creek Canyon then southwest to the junction of Toms Creek to find camp; the next morning continuing on through Toms Creek to the junction of Pivot Rock Canyon; and finally heading south/southeast through Pivot Rock Canyon back up the ‘trailhead’ adjacent FR 616. Here we’d have another car parked so we could avoid the 2-3 miles of road back to the start of the hike.
We completed roughly half of what we had set out to do. Our bail out point was approximately two miles south/southwest from the junction of Toms and Clover and up to FR 9399X to FR 142 which we walked back to the car.
It’s not worth your time and don’t even bother with this hike.
Our hike began around eleven AM Saturday morning. The temperature was in the low sixties at the start of the hike and climbed a few more degrees before settling back down to 60 degrees while hiking through the canyon. During our first two miles in this section we passed a solo hiker and two groups of people with dogs. I imagine this section of trail is decently popular and some-what crowded on a holiday weekend. The area showed signs of once abundant wildflowers. We likely missed that show by probably about a month. I am sure it’s quite nice in its prime. It was also noted that during my visit, Clover Creek did not show any recent signs of flow and no pools of water were observed. Overall this section of trail is nothing special but decently pleasant to hike.
As we continued on past mile two the evidence of the trail becomes fainter and less traveled. Towards end of the first two miles, we noticed two campsites which appeared to be sparsely used. The two campsites are spaced approximately one tenth of a mile from one another. The first campsite we encountered had rock seats and a small fire pit, second site showed signs of even less use with the fire pit being mostly dismantled. Each campsite was noted as being clean and probably had not seen use in at least a few months if not longer. It’s nice to see people leaving the area clean and not over used.
Moving beyond the campsites further into the canyon and approximately three and one half miles in is where things changed. You encounter your first obstacle which was a big boulder that obscures a pool of water about the size of a jacuzzi. The water is about waist deep, partially muddy, and decently cold. This is also where the northern terminus of the trail you were following ends. From here on out you’re choosing the pathway of least resistance.
Beyond the aforementioned section, the conditions of the canyon just continued to degrade and become more challenging. Our pace slowed down to less than one-half miles per hour in sections. Intensely thick brush, debris piles, and pools of cold ankle to waist deep water where encountered. This is what you can expect for the next nearly four miles of hiking until the canyon begins its hard left turn to the southwest. As we continued northward zigging and zagging through the canyon, the brush became thicker and higher. In some cases towering three to four feet over our heads. What in the hell had we decided to get in to? …and was this even worth the effort! Lots of things that just said you need to turn around now. It wasn’t until about mile four things once again changed...
At around mile four and change, you’re going to encounter the down climb that’s mentioned in prior triplogs. The down climb is immediately following a sharp right turn into the canyon. This spot in the canyon is actually some-what scenic as things really tighten up and your views are mostly unobscured from overgrowth or debris piles. The obstacle itself is much more daunting than it actually is. In my opinion, this is one of the easier obstacles encountered on the hike in. The way down is fairly straightforward…
There is a log located at the downclimb that is partially submerged in the pool of water below. This can assist you with your climb back up and out as well as your way down. We adjusted the position the log to be a bit more locked into place during our visit. The short wade is cold but not too awful. The depth of the pool of water below ranges from waist to (estimated) shoulder deep at its deepest. We stopped short distance from this climb to filter a liter of water and take a quick breather. Maybe now the hike gets better? Nah.
The next major obstacle is immediately following this downclimb and is a bit tricky to navigate. It’s a debris pile of partially submerged wood floating in a tank of water which we estimated at about five feet in depth. It looks like you can just walk right across this section. As much as you may want to do this, don't do that. If you do you're going to be slowed up by a mess of debris in a some-what deep pool of water. The way we mitigated this section was to stick to the right, look for the bigger log parallel to the canyon wall. It’s about a four foot shimmy across the log to solid footing. As your step on this log it will partially submerge but should give you support to reach solid footing.
When you’re not fighting with the thick unrelenting brush, down climbs, or pools of water with hidden booby traps you’re dealing with debris piles. One in particular gave me a good scare for a second. I managed to lose a leg as it busted through into the darkness below. My foot never hit bottom. That was a flash of type 3 fun in a quick (expletive) hurry. Thankfully, I was okay and without injury. The mood changed after this incident and it seemed as though the thought of this hike was just a bad idea. Leading up to the point of this incident the occasional chit-chat was still occurring. Following this incident, things quieted down between my buddy and I, we were now questioning our decisions of continuing on past the downclimb. This hike was turning into what seemed to be a never ending slog, something that is not only physically but mostly mentally taxing. It wasn’t getting any better just worse. We didn’t go into this hike blindly; we had the expectations of this hike being some-what miserable, but not quite as bad as it was.
It wasn’t until the canyon began its hard left turn southwest, that the hike again changed. This is where things opened up and became a more pleasant stroll through the woods. It was kind of wild how the canyon just opened right up and spit you out into what was mostly a walk in the park. A completely different change of pace from the last four and half miles of hell.
Having arrived in this area around 5pm and with with waning sunlight our goals soon changed. We needed to find reliable water and home from the night. We decided on a campsite around 100 yards from the confluence of Clover Creek and Toms Creek. The site was decently level and previously used. Nothing spectacular but it worked for our needs. Our water source was not too far of a walk and tasted great and filtered well. Despite the hike being a chore we were both in high spirits and thankful to be over and done with the sufferfest in which we just experienced.
As we settled in for the evening we laughed and shared thoughts on the hike and decided to call this one good. We discussed some exit route ideas with the intent of getting the hell out instead of persevering on. We were both over the area and didn't need to prove anything to ourselves or others. The assumption was that much of the same conditions as experienced in Clover as would be in Toms and so on. The past two years of decent monsoons have made these areas very ‘special’ and a bit cumbersome to navigate.
The next morning came quickly with a not so restful night of sleep. The overnight low fell to 42 degrees and was decently humid. Overall very quiet with just the sounds of owl and occasionally the cry of a fox were noted. We began our hike later starting at around 9:45 thinking we would have an easy exit route back to the car. We began our back track to the drainage which we had discussed the evening prior. This seemed like a really neat area and looked promising on the topo. Nope. The next section up was through a nearly vertical debris pile which looked rather sketchy. Luckily we only made it about 300 feet into the drainage before having to turn back and head toward Tom Creek Canyon. This area wasn’t done with us just yet.
Toms Creek Canyon was much of what we had already experienced in Clover Creek but with a bit more poison ivy. At approximately two miles up Toms Creek Canyon we found a bailout point leading to now closed forest road 9399X. The way up was thick and brushy for the first half with the last half being a very steep ascent up a game trail. From here it was route finding to FR 142 and then back down to the car.
In retrospect, I think the hike was a fun adventure with good company but I am okay with calling this a one and done. I’m glad I did it, but it was a proper ass kicking from the West Clear Creek Wilderness. There are some short stretches of pretty dang awesome but a lot of it was whole lots of 'nope' and is not worth the price you'll pay to get there.
||Wildflowers Observation Light
||Pools to trickle
||Pools to trickle
|Did not travel all the way to Willow Valley, only to the confluence of Toms Creek. Water is first observed at around the 3.5 miles in. Various pools of standing but crystal clear water. Once the canyon begins it's hard turn southwest headed towards the confluence of Toms Creek this area is largely dry. You may find a seep in the area but there seems to be reliable water directly at the confluence of both Clover and Toms Creek.|