Cibecue Creek

May 16, 2014

As always this time of year we are trying to find the holes between the forest fires. The Signal Hill Fire nixed our trip to the Gila Wilderness, so we set our sites on Globe, Arizona, an old mining town in hollow at the base of the Mogollon Rim that is well outside the orbit of Phoenix and Tucson. We stayed at a B & B in Globe and spent three days scouring the area, including a spectacular hike along Cibecue Creek.

This destination has been on my list for years, but I was put off by the cumbersome permit process. You can buy permits for the White Mountain Apache Reservation online now, but the process is still opaque. You'll need to create an account and surrender all your personal information from your date of birth to your weight, height and eye color. Good luck trying to select the correct permit from 16 bewildering options. We guessed we needed two "special use" permits for the Salt River area ($15 per person per day). Inexplicably, the permit is good from noon to noon, so theoretically if you wanted to do something sensible like start your hike in the morning, you'd need two permits ($30 per person)!

There was probably no cause for concern, since we didn't see another person from the time we turned off Route 60. It's a four-mile drive along the merest suggestion of a road carved into the side of the canyon with lots of washouts. You can park where Cibecue Creek washes over the road and bushwhack upstream from there.

It was 98° when we began our hike, and were immediately tempted by an abundance of deep sage green pools. But here as on all Indian reservations in Arizona, no swimming is allowed. A little old white-haired lady with bad knees could easily trip and fall in, however ...

I haven't been able to learn much about the natural history of this area, but the white mineral deposits are certainly typical of a spring-fed stream. The rocks in the stream are coated in travertine instead of algae, so while the hike requires lots of rock-hopping, it's not the least bit slippery.

We'd seen estimates ranging from three to five miles round trip, so with our post-noon start, we didn't expect to make it to the waterfall, but we did, and it was spectacular! This is a great early summer hike if you can endure the paperwork and the drive!