Aravaipa Canyon

October 9-11, 2014

Work kept me home for most of the month of September, so it's all out this month with three backpacking trips end-to-end. So far we've been just slipping through between the hurricanes.

By the way, when did southern Arizona's Monsoon get replaced with Hurricane Season?

The latest tropical storm dumped nearly five inches of rain on Mount Lemmon, so we were keeping a close eye on Aravaipa Creek, which peaked at 124 cfs early the morning of October 9. But it was coming down nicely, so we delayed our departure a few hours and left Tucson in a steady drizzle.

Skies were overcast and it was still misting lightly at the trailhead. Once we hit the river, we found the trails we remember from past years had mostly washed out, replaced with several inches of greasy chocolate that caked to our boots until each one weighed several pounds.

On the plus side, we had the canyon to ourselves, so we grabbed the best camping spot right before The Narrows and settled in for the evening. But one by one, our water filters clogged with the extremely fine silt in Aravaipa Creek.

The next morning before breakfast, Dennis and I headed upstream, hoping to find water in one of the many side canyons, but returned empty handed after a two-hour hike. While exploring inland at the mouth of Painted Cave Canyon, we realized that there were pockets of clear perched water in the rock, so we pumped eight liters and returned to camp.

After a good breakfast and a recharge, the whole group set off up-canyon — three of them on their very first backpacking trip — and everyone pumped their fill at the pockets of tea-colored water.

The sun was dazzling and the water levels had declined significantly overnight, retreating a good six feet from our fiducial mark. The highlight of the day was spotting a group of four or five coatimundi scampering up the cliff near Horse Camp Canyon.

Our three new backpackers successfully fledged, having amply demonstrated good humor, patience and ingenuity in the face of some challenges as well as a profound appreciation for the big payoff — a fabulous weekend in Aravaipa Canyon!