Aravaipa East End

May 7-9, 2010

The warm weather is returning, and with it, the very best of times to visit Arizona's watery canyons. With a bit of advance planning, we landed four permits for the eastern end of Aravaipa, and planned a three-day trek with David and Rogil that would include a full day to explore fabulous Deer Creek Canyon.

We met at the Klondyke Store -- still for sale and waiting for a buyer -- and caravaned to the trailhead. Thanks to a trip from Stace Walker of the Aravaipa Canyon Preserve, we avoided the long hot hike along the road from the trailhead to Turkey Creek, and in no time we were sloshing along in a crystal clear stream.

We made for our favorite camping spot on the sandy bar below "Sentinel Mouse Rock", stashed our gear and then continued our hike downstream past Paisano Canyon. Along the way, we splashed in a couple of small waterfalls and found one really nice deep pool -- one of the best we've seen since the flood of 2006.

We still made it back to camp in time to properly celebrate David's retirement. Yup, after all those years at Moneywell, David is officially a pantouflard (yeah, right). I wonder whatever happened to that big bottle of port David hauled in? Or those little bottles of champagne? Well they took a little of the sting out of those gnasty gnat bites. They're really bad this year, thanks to our wonderful wet winter.

Saturday we crossed the stream and headed up Deer Creek Canyon, a fabulous slot canyon that twists and turns some five miles between silos of a porous rock known as "Hell Hole Conglomerate". A small permanent stream lines the bottom of the canyon, creating a lush riparian habitat well shaded by the towering canyon walls.

Deer Creek Canyon is often referred to as "Hell Hole", for an impressive rock window. But even greater pleasures can be found by continuing up the canyon, including several springs that leap straight out of the rock, forming miniature waterfalls and shelves of travertine.

On our first hike in Deer Creek Canyon, we delighted in a curtain of cool water tumbling from overhead "showers" in a grotto lush with ferns and columbine. On last year's hike, we continued up canyon until we encountered a split plugged by giant boulders. This year we followed the water and stumbled across a "secret passageway" that led us through the rock pile to the next level of the canyon. From here, the walls begin to widen, revealing conical formations that reminded us of Tent Rocks. When we turned back, according to our GPS we were 3.6 miles into the canyon and less than a mile from Bear Creek Road.