A hiking buddy and I had Pacheta Falls on our White Mountain bucket list for several years. On Saturday we finally got around to checking it off while base-camping at the cabin in Show Low. We picked up our Black River Special Use permit ($15 per person) on Friday night, at Kmart of all places. We departed Show Low early Saturday morning for a long 3 hour drive to the "trailhead". Steve had downloaded a driving track on HAZ which was the north approach from Sunrise. It's a good thing we had that driving track as there were many intersections along the way some of which were not signed. Fortunately all the dirt roads on the Rez were Subaru-friendly, even the muddy one at the very end of the long drive.
We parked about 300 feet short of a turnaround at the terminus of a dead-end road. From the turnaround we readily found a short route to the brink of the falls on the north side of Pacheta Creek. It was at most a 1/4 mile hike to the top of the falls. After the long, time consuming drive we wanted to hike more so we continued to follow the route down the north side of the canyon in an easterly direction. There was a sheer drop off into the canyon for as far as the eye could see. We thought there was no way we could access the bottom of falls without bushwhacking in from quite a distance below the falls.
Much to our surprise, about 200 yards east of the brink of the falls, we stumbled upon a somewhat-hidden steep chute which led down to a wide ledge above the creek. We were a bit intimidated by the chute at first but eventually decided it was doable. However, before scrambling down, we scouted from above and mentally plotted what we thought was a doable route up the rugged canyon choked with boulders and vegetation.
After scrambling down the steep chute to the wide ledge, we continued up canyon across two boulder fields that were connected by a route through the lush vegetation. Before we knew it we were at the base of the falls enjoying the cool mist on a humid morning. We finally felt rewarded for our long drive. The scramble down the chute and bushwhack up the north side of Pacheta Creek were not as difficult as it appeared from up on top.
We could have spent a good half hour at the base of the falls but after less than ten minutes we heard thunder and felt a few raindrops. We got out of there in a New York minute as we did not want to scramble the boulder fields and climb the chute on slippery wet rocks. Fortunately we beat the rain back to the car.
Persistent afternoon rain put the kibosh on our plans to explore the East Fork of White River, so we drove back to Show Low via Christmas Tree and Hawley Lakes thus making a big circle drive around Mt. Baldy which took most of the afternoon. Christmas Tree Lake required an additional permit. Upon passing though Pinetop we had an excellent dinner at the Red Devil and then stopped at Darbi's for triple berry pie dessert, but they ran out