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Oct 05 2014

 Triplogs 7

29 male
 Joined Mar 31 2014
 Tempe, AZ
West Fork Oak Creek Trail #108Sedona, AZ
Sedona, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 05 2014
Hiking8.00 Miles 200 AEG
Hiking8.00 Miles   4 Hrs   30 Mns   1.78 mph
200 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
And Oak Creek Canyon is back! With the exception of a few trails, most of the canyon is accessible again :).

It was delightful to get back to the West Fork this weekend. I led a small group up from the AOC to check out the trail (first time for all three of them!), but it was a scouting mission for me to see how much fire damage there was. The drive up was a little concerning, as significant burn scars were visible on the cliffs on the left during the last 5 minutes driving.

Once we got into the Call of the Canyon trailhead, though, not much had changed. A few temporary signs were added warning of post-fire dangers, but very similar first bit of the hike until the first creek crossing.

The creek itself received quite a bit of black ash deposited on its bed, meaning that it appears much darker than before. The water is running mostly clear (though warnings of runoff and e-coli because of erosion); it's just the banks that appear blackened. In some sections, significant amounts of black mud have been deposited, making things messier on a couple of crossings than they used to be (nothing difficult or crazy, just a few muddy patches). There's also more debris than normal (twigs, branches) caught up along the creek at various points. Water level was quite low, though I don't know whether I've just visited at high-flow times in the past and it's actually normal for this time of year (or whether it's fire related)?

Only a couple of sections were clearly burned - relatively small, and not terribly intrusive. The canyon fared very well (at least compared to what I feared), and there should be lots of foliage left to see when it starts turning colours soon. By and large, I didn't notice much impact on the trees at all.

The trail has typically ended at a pool 3.3 miles into the hike. This pool is now filled in with sediment - mostly dark and black in colour, I'm assuming ash. Indeed, if I recall correctly (from last time I waded a ways up), some parts ended up with 12-18 inches deposited! Pros and cons to this: it means that the cliff walls appear much shorter and we've lost the beautiful end turnaround - it's now muddy and less visually striking. But, it's rendered the hike very easy to continue: with waterproof boots or a bit of skipping and jumping, you can now easily stroll at least another 3/4 mile up the canyon, allowing incredible access to what used to require a bit of shin wading. We explored a fair ways up, and I found it really cool to see more of the canyon than I ever had before!

So, short version: colour change and ashy-mud is the biggest post-fire impact, rather than any actual burns along the trail. Take advantage of easy canyon access while you can, and know there will be a pretty normal crops of leaves changing colours (unless the fire somehow affected this, but left healthy looking green leaves until this point). I'll be intrigued to see what snowmelt does for cleaning out the ashy mess after the winter.
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
Not much has turned yet, but /lots/ of deciduous trees left standing to still change colours! Expect good colours soon :)
average hiking speed 1.78 mph

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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