Birthday Backpack

October 31-November 2, 2014

Another great trip, combining not just gorgeous wet canyon scenery, but Halloween and All Souls' Day (also my birthday)! We met everyone at the turnoff. I brought feather masks for everyone for Halloween, and Noreen distributed little baggies of Halloween candy.

Across the creek the road was really washed out this year, so we left the low-clearance vehicles at the top of the hill and after checking the water depth, we parked the high-clearance vehicles at the bottom of this hill but before the second crossing.

There was a group of 24 guys from Phoenix camped about one mile in, but after that we didn't see another soul for three days. Debra and I were in the lead. "Where are you two girls going?", they asked us. We thought that was pretty funny.

The weather was a bit unsettled, but the forecast was good, so we hiked in about four miles and found a nice place to camp on a sandy point in the shade of some giant Arizona sycamores besides a nice deep swimming hole.

The next day dawned clear and sunny and we got a decent start, hoping this time to finally make it all the way to the ruins of a historic ranch a friend told us about. It turned out to be quite a long hike — about eight miles round trip and all of it off trail. But to our delight, the canyon just got prettier and prettier, sometimes charging narrowly between towering volcanic cliffs and sometimes looping sleepily back and forth between lower clifss set well back from the stream. And everywhere there were delightful camping spots in meadows shaded by enormous cottonwoods and sycamores.

We stopped briefly at the ruins of a ranch we visited earlier this year, where the name of the ranch along with the owner's name are carved in elegrant script on the inner wall of a large cement water tank. We've heard rumors that there was once a two-story Victorian house nearby, complete with running water, electricity and a wrap-around porch.

Additional ruins were visible at the top of the hill on the west side where the river makes a broad turn. And then finally we caught side of an old water tank, marking the location of a ranch established by my our friend's great-great-great grandfather in 1905. We were astonished to find it very much intact and fully furnished, so although its current ownership is in doubt, obviously someone is providing some basic maintenance. The location could not be more charming, set well back from the stream in a broad grassy meadow sheltered by cottonwoods and Gambel oak.

We enjoyed our second lunch in the shade of those trees, and headed back to camp, arriving just in time for a refreshing dip before the sun scooted behind the canyon walls./p>

While I was preparing dinner, Noreen somehow produced a gorgeous fully frosted LAVENDER birthday cake with 61 flaming candles, and I was also surprised by very nice gifts from Linda, Debra and Max. But of course the best birthday gift was sharing such a gorgeous environment in delightful company!

It rained during the night, and started up again in earnest as we broke camp Sunday morning. We are all too familiar with how quickly this creek can fload, so I was concerned about the water level, but there was no perceptible increase.

While making my way around an old campsite, I waded into some faster current, and suddenly found myself floating downstream, probably looking like the Wicked Witch of the West as I bobbed along in my enormous lime green rain poncho. But only my pride was injured, and even my camcorder survived unscathed desite being fully submerged.

Birthday Backpack Group