Aravaipa and Horse Camp Canyon

April 28,2009

After a spectacular return to the east end and Deer Creek Canyon in March, we decided to give the west end another try. We were anxious to see how much the streambed had recovered from a major flood in 2006 that turned the former tree-lined creek into a stony field and erased all our old swimming holes.

A three-day mid-week trek allowed plenty of time for exploration — including the discovery of spectacular Horse Camp Canyon — and the opportunity to develop a close personal relationship with a blue heron.

After setting up camp on the sandy point across from Deek Creek, we backtracked to Parson's Canyon and hiked in as far as the first major split. Offering relatively easy hiking, this canyon winds between sandstone cliffs, alternately narrowing to a hallway and opening out into large sun-filled rooms.

The evening's entertainment was the strange dance of the turkey vultures just before sunset. We counted more than 50 of them, gathering together and taking the elevator up-canyon to wherever they spend the night.

Day Two was all about Deer Creek Canyon. On the way in we met three hikers who said they had come down Deer Creek all the way form Dry Camp Ranch on FR 5026. We made it all the way to a point where the canyon splits and is blocked by house-sized boulders, but there was indeed a narrow passage around the rockpile.

The temperature had warmed up nicely, and we returned to camp in time for a quick dip followed by a long campfire, by which time all of us were listing to port ....

The final thrill of the weekend was spotting a large coatimundi scampering up the cliff on our way out of the canyon. Arriving back at the cars by 2:00 pm, we decided to check out FR 5026, and were surprised to the find the road in excellent condition, but barricaded at Dry Camp Ranch by a shiny new padlock. Some additional research will be needed to discover why this Forest Service Road, which provides the only vehicle access north of the canyon, is now inaccessible.