Tonto Creek

September, 2003

Tonto Creek was my first hike in amphibious mode. We entered the canyon from Gisela on a Saturday in September just after the end of the monsoon season.


The trail begins in a wide, boulder-strewn valley with lots of lime green desert willows. The canyon walls are mostly of pink granite, and the stones underfoot are every color in the rainbow. I've noticed that each canyon has a distinct smell. Perhaps because of runoff from a recent storm, Tonto Creek had a definite potato smell.


About an hour from the trailhead, the canyon walls acquire some serious elevation. There's only one way up. We swapped our boots for river shoes, wrapped our gear in dry sacks and took to the water, making our way upstream through a combination of swimming and rock climbing.


The swimming was a treat, but I wasn't prepared for the extra weight of my day pack once it filled with water. When we came to the first waterfall, David made two trips with the packs and then came back to give me a hand up through the narrow slot.

The second waterfall was a bigger challenge. David originally tried to swim up through the chute, but we eventually opted to climb around instead. Above the falls was a magical world of giant boulders, rushing water and sheer cliffs that make their own shade on a sultry September afternoon. And noboby but the kingfishers and the dippers for miles in any direction!