|Canyoneering||22.00 Miles||3 Days |
|200 ft AEG|
|Canyon Hiking - Non-technical; no rope; easy scrambling; occasional hand use|
|B - Up to light current; wading/swimming; possible wet/dry suit|
|VI - Two or more days|
|The air was crisp and hard, winters chilly fingers were tightening their grasp and were reaching deeper into the normally warm deserts of southern Arizona. We remained snug and warm within the confines of the Suburban as we threaded our way along the Klondyke Road as it winds between the Pinaleno (Graham) and Santa Teresa Mountains west of Safford, drawing ever closer to our destination of Aravaipa Canyon. We watched with measured trepidation, the digital readout on the rearview mirror as the outside temperature continued to drop into the mid 30s, well below the mid 50s projected by the weather channel for nighttime lows in the area over the weekend. There were 4 of us along for this wilderness adventure, Hunter, a young teenage friend of the family, Dustin my oldest son, Robert, a friend and school teacher from our little town of Joseph City and myself.
We were planning to camp on Turkey Creek this first night near the east entrance of the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness area in order to facilitate an early start into the canyon on Friday morning. We had permits for the maximum 3 days allowed by the BLM and had plans to explore and photograph the main canyon and the tributary side canyons comprising the wilderness areas east end. After fording the creek several times we arrived at Turkey Creek and located a spot off of the road near the corral about 1.5 miles up from Aravaipa Canyon. It was after 1:00 am so we opted to just sleep in the Suburban...fun, fun, fun!!!
Rising early I walked upstream and located the trail and marker for the small Salado ruin tucked into the cliff on the west side of the canyon. This is a very well preserved ruin and although small it is well worth a look. Here is some of the text from the marker at the ruin:
The Salado first settled in the Tonto Basin in the Superstition Mountains around 1150 A.D. and later occupied a large area of high deserts, mountains, and river valleys. The Salt River, after which the Salado people were named, was the heart of their territory and a major source of water, farmland, and trade routes to other tribes in the area. They had an extensive trade network with the Anasazi to the North, the Mogollon to the East and South, and the Hohokam to the West and Southwest. They were fine craftsmen and produced some of the most exquisite polychrome pottery and intricately woven textiles to be found in the Southwest. For reasons not yet well understood, they disappeared suddenly around 1450 A.D.
This unique cliff dwelling is one of the best preserved of its kind in the Southeastern Arizona. It was likely built around 1300 A.D. by prehistoric Salado people who lived permanently in the nearby Aravaipa Valley. Although they were mainly farmers who grew corn, beans and squash, they used this base camp for hunting and gathering wild plants in Turkey Creek Canyon while their crops matured in the valley. It is likely that a family occupied this house temporarily during certain seasons of the year to utilize the natural resources available in the canyon and the uplands.
This one room structure is ideally situated in an east facing overhang which is sun warmed every morning and shaded after mid-day. It has a low, keyhole shaped entrance facing south and a small window in the east facing roof to conserve heat. The architectural details reflect the materials at hand and ingenuity in incorporating features found in the natural environment. The house was built against the cliff face to which they added walls made with local stone and mud mortar. The sloping roof is made of juniper or sycamore beams interlaced with agave. These were then covered with mud. River water and soil allowed the people to build with mud which absorbs the suns heat to keep the room cool during the day and warm during cold nights.
The Salado harvested a variety of plants for food. Along Turkey Creek and up the canyon slopes they gathered acorns, mesquite bean pods, fruit from the cacti such as prickley pear, seeds from the desert shrubs, various roots, bulbs, and herbs, and the hearts of agave plants which were roasted. Its likely that the Salado hunted mule deer, bighorn sheep, javalina, and small game using a variety of hunting techniques and devices. One of these, the bow and arrow, was adopted by cultures of the Southwest as early as 500 A.D. They also used traps, snares, and nets to obtain fresh fish and meat.
We fixed breakfast and watched with some amusement as, Robert, started removing items from his very heavy pack, trying to decide what he could get along without over the course of the next 3 days: 7 changes of clothes, a roll of bailing wire, large tin of Bag Balm, 5 man tent, 16 knives and a backup, spool of twine, an entire deer made into jerky, 3 pairs of boots and a pipe wrench.
Soooo, how come yer leaving all that important stuff behind?
Well I have bad knees..!!
Howd that happen?
Not sure, old age I guess.
You ready now?
Yeah, I think I got my pack below 80 pounds now so I should be good. How far did you say to camp?
Oh... about 2.5 miles.
Is there a shuttle?
Ok it wasnt quite that bad and our friend Robert is actually quite the outdoorsman, just not acquainted with the lightweight concept. This weekend was a learning experience for all. And Robert received in good humor more than his fair share of ribbing about what he had in his pack and I must say that it was a pleasant change, having a sink to wash camp dishes in!
We hiked downstream past Parsons Canyon on creek left and then located a campsite on the south side of the creek in the large open area at the confluence of Deer Creek and Aravaipa Creek. We set up camp and then headed down stream to explore Aravaipa between Deer Creek and Booger Canyon and then we climbed, hopped and scrambled up Booger Canyon to the fork and the spring on the east fork of the canyon. Our light was quickly fading at this point so we headed back to camp, arriving just after dark.
Tired, we enjoyed our dinner and a small campfire and then retired early for some well deserved rest.
Following a hot breakfast we began our journey of exploration up Deer Creek which flows through Hell Hole Canyon. Our plan was to hike through the canyon to its junction with the dirt road in Arizona Gulch. We stopped for lunch at the large spring on creek right which I would guess flows about 100 to 150 gallons per minute. While we were stopped at the spring a couple of other hikers came by, also headed up the canyon. After a brief conversation we discovered that we were fellow HAZ contributors. It was a pleasure to meet and chat with Mr. Kanode. His partner and he continued upstream while we continued with our lunch and our more leisurely and in depth exploration of the canyon. We continued up canyon and again met Mr. Kanode and his hiking partner as they came back down the canyon to go home to Phoenix that night. There are several small springs throughout the canyon and water is readily available. Each of them creating their own small eden where the water splashes.
We made it all the way out of the canyon to the road and discovered that there is a ranch located there as well. At the ranch corrals we turned around and headed back down canyon to camp exploring the many side canyons of Deer Creek along the way.
I had read somewhere that the original Salazar homestead of the family that farmed and ranched in the canyon, starting with the arrival in the canyon of Epimenio Salazar in 1865 was located at the confluence of Deer Creek and Aravaipa Creek. One of our goals for this trip was to locate if possible the location of the homestead and see what remains were still in place. The entire area around the confluence of these two creeks is heavily overgrown with mesquite and other vegetation making the search for the homestead location more difficult. As we entered the open area surrounding the confluence of the two creeks we split into two groups and each searched opposite sides of the canyon. We met back at camp and my son Dustin and the other young man with us, Hunter told Robert and myself that they had found the homestead directly opposite the creek from our camp on the north side of Aravaipa creek and up next to the base of the cliffs at the west side of the open area at the confluence. It was getting dark so we delayed our exploration of the homestead site for our last day in the canyon.
After breaking camp we crossed the creek and began our search of the homestead ruins. They are well hidden in the mesquite covering the low bench next to the creek. The main item that remains visible are the fence posts and actual fence lines made from wooden rails. The stock fences were higher and more stoutly built. We located a more decorative style low fence that must have surrounded the house. No obvious remains of the house itself remain and I am sure that at some time or another it burned. We did locate the frame of an old bed that probably still rests where it did in a bedroom of the home that used to shelter it.
I have located a text that contains the story of Rosalia Salazar Whelan who was the daughter of Epimenio Salazar. She was born on February 4, 1904 at this homestead in Aravaipa Canyon. This text is her story about life in the canyon while she was growing up there in the early part of the 20th century.
"My name is Rosalia Salazar Whelan. I was born on February 4, 1904 at my parent's home in Aravaipa Canyon. My fathers name was Epimenio Salazar. He was born in Oposura, Sonora, Mexico. He was a full-blooded Opata Indian. My mother's nave was Crespina Lopez de Salazar. She was born at Estacion Llano, Sonora, Mexico, in about 1873. She and one of her sisters-my Tia Carmen- came with their grandmother Rufugia-Dona Cuca to Arizona when they were very young children.
After my father and mother were married they went and lived in Aravaipa Canyon. My father had gone to Aravaipa Canyon looking for work. He worked as a cowboy there with a man named John Dunlap. I think that is when he claimed his land there. (Family sources set the date of Epimenios arrival in Aravaipa Canyon as 1865)
My father was one of the first people to settle in Aravaipa Canyon, but later there were other families too, mostly Mexicanos, old families that had been there for a long time. There were some Americanos too, but just a few.
My father had a cattle ranch in El Canyon and a farm. He had a lot of land there. He kept most of his cattle in another place down below the canyon, towards the mountains. They called it "El Campo de Caballos." Later the Anglos named it Horse Camp. In those days the land was not fenced; it was all open range. All the rancheros and vaqueros in the area would gather the cattle during roundup and there would be thousands of cattle together in one place. Then they would drive the cattle to Willcox and ship them from there. It took them four days to drive the cattle that far.
My brother Guadalupe used to take care of my fathers cattle at El Campo de los Caballos. From the time he was very small my father taught him how to ride a horse. All of us girls also learned to saddle and ride a horse at a very early age. But in those days one didn't wear pants; we wore skirts and rode sidesaddle. We called the sidesaddle "el albordon."
We had quite a few horses as well as the cattle. We had quarter horses for working the cattle and another kind of horse for the tiros - the teams that pulled the wagons. My father had four teams of horses for the wagons for the farm to haul wood, the harvest to the barn, the grain and hay for the animals and to carry provisions from Willcox. I and sometimes my sister Lucia, used to go with my father once a year to get supplies, the staples that we did not grow ourselves. It took two days to get to Safford and three days to get to Willcox. Toditito el dia en el sol. (all the long day in the sun.) We camped by the side of the road.
It may be true that my sisters and I worked harder than the daughters of our neighbors. My parents had only one son, and as my brother Guadalupe got married very young, we had to fill in and do the work of men.
Sometimes when I am sitting around and talking about those days to my friends that are my age, they say they don't believe me, that it is not possible that women did such work! I tell them "It is true! When you have to, you have to! What you are taught, you learn!" But sometimes I stop to think and remember, and I say to myself, "How did we do it?" I remember nights when we would go to bed and I didn't know whether or not I'd be able to sleep from weariness.
From the time we were very young we had our chores, there is always so much work to do on a farm. When we were small, one of our jobs was to bring in kindling at night for the morning fire. We had to get up at 4:30 or 5:00, and who at that hour is going to go outside and gather kindling? We had to milk the cows before we went to school, and then we walked to school. It was a couple of miles from our house over there by the T-Rail Ranch. We had a clock - do you know what that clock was? We'd hear my father make a sound - hrrumph, hrrumph, hrrumph. And we knew it was time to get up, because we had to take him his coffee to bed before we went outside to start our chores. He was the boss alright...
As we got older we had other jobs as well. We washed. We ironed. We worked in the milpa. We picked fruit and vegetables. My mother worked very hard. It was enough work just with the large family she had. She was always tending to the kitchen, not only to cook for our family but for the men that came to help my father.
My mother made her tortillas medium sized. Smooth and even she used to say, "You girls never learned to make tortillas the right way. Except for your older sister, Pastora. She makes them like I do." Sometimes she even made tortillas from the wheat we grew on the farm. We'd grind the flour ourselves on the metate.
You know, I get to thinking. I say to myself, "Todo se acaba." ("Everything comes to an end.") When you get older you don't do things the way you used to when you were young. My sisters and I used to make lots of tortillas, piles of them, because when you go out to work in the fields you don't have time to come in and make them at midday.
My mother sewed for us. She mended. She patched. She made us our underwear from manta cloth. And our blouses and skirts and house dresses. She had a treadle machine, and she ordered material from a catalog. She even bought our shoes that way. Every once in a great while she bought us a ready made dress. When we needed a little better dress, Tia Carmen made it for us, but don't think for a minute that we had many clothes.
My father had a didho (proverb) "Remember it is not a sin to be poor, but to be dirty, heaven forbid!) My sisters and I had the chore of the washing and the ironing. It was a lot with that big family. We washed twice a week. And all on the washboard. We gathered wood and made a big fire and hauled water. We boiled the clothes and them added more hot water and rinsed everything twice. There were so many clothes to hang that we even had to drape them over the branches of the mesquites. And then we used those heavy irons made out of cast iron. We'd put them on the wood stove to heat. My mother helped with the folding and ironing the dish towels. We'd also wash and iron for some of the Americans, wives of the ranchers who lived in El Canyon, to earn a little extra spending money. There were times when I would iron from seven o'clock in the morning until five o'clock in the afternoon. When it was cold, we'd find a spot of sun to warm our backs; and when it was hot we'd look for a bit of shade to cool us."
We began our exit of the canyon, hiking upstream and enjoying our last day in the beauty of this wonderful place. Upon our arrival at the entrance to Parsons Canyon we delayed our exit and hiked up Parsons Canyon about a mile and then returned back to our packs and continued our trek out the Suburban and our trip home. I hope you enjoy the photos of the canyons we explored and take the time to visit in person sometime.
||Autumn Foliage Observation Light
||Wildflowers Observation Light