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EWolfe

[TR] Secret Canyon Trip 5/3-5/4/08

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Last weekend I was invited to go on an overnight Canyoneering trip. It was to be my first experience canyoneering, so I was quite excited. There wee to be 5 of us: my friend Tim, his GF Natalie, and her two friends visiting from Montana: Sarah and Corrie.

Friday afternoon, Tim and I checked out a new climbing area in Sedona I recently found called “The Mystery Spot”, and afterwards dropped a vehicle at Dry Creek for the end run.

Saturday at the crack of noon, we drove out to the Secret Mountain Wilderness area, and after 25 miles of dirt road and a wrong turn, found ourselves at the trailhead. It was a beautiful view from the parking area down-canyon as we gathered our packs:

 

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The start was a 800-foot plummet down a dirt slope to gain the canyon bottom. Hard to reverse that one, I thought as I descended. Here’s Natalie on the slope down:

 

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Corrie psyched to get started:

 

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Almost immediately we encountered a tricky log descent:

 

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There was a fair bit of water, and plenty of downfall to navigate, making for an exciting afternoon:

 

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There was supposed to be a log for one of the descents down an impassable 12-foot drop. “Ken’s Log” had washed away apparently, and we were all thankful for “Tim’s Rope” which we fixed with loops and knots and left for the next party.

After about 3 hours of tricky descending, log-hopping and creek-skirting, we found a flat spot to set up camp. We were lucky to have a water source nearby, as well. The funny thing was that I had predicted we would find this spot just before dark. I was somewhat of a celebrity in the party for my uncanny accuracy in this prediction...

Anyhoo, the next morning I got up early, as usual, and took some pictures, did some rock-hounding and filtered water for the day:

 

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Nice morning light:

 

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I was wandering around when I heard a big “crash” of branches. Looking up, I saw a good-sized black bear, but didn’t have my camera. I yelled “bear!” to the others, but they were asleep. Sarah heard me and got up to look, but the bear was heading back up the slope and was a fair distance away when she got to where I was. The black bears are brown around here, which always throws me a little.

Around 9 the others started to get up and ready:

 

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Almost immediately we were in the rock canyon:

 

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On and on we went, water crossings, wading, log descents and bush-whacking were common. The canyon is beautiful...

 

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Around noon we came to a pool that was quite deep. I took the initiative to find out how deep, and as a male in waist-deep water, I can tell you: It was cold!!!! Tim set up a rope to get to the entry of the pool, as it was slippery and narrow. Sarah taking the plunge:

 

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Tim grimacing at the chill to his man-parts ( I could relate):

 

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Lots of downfall everywhere, requiring constant attention and route-finding. We used the rope four times for descents and waded innumerable times. Very different and much more technical than what the guidebook described. Sarah negotiating downfall:

 

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“Hey, look! A frog!”:

 

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There were a lot of frogs in this one area, often times stacked two deep (**ahem**). Mating season in the ponds!

 

I took a ton of pictures, so I’ll just let them speak for themselves:

 

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Another log descent:

 

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I even got a little bouldering in:

 

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On and on we went. The canyon is 10 miles from where we started to the finish, but when you are going 1/4 mile per hour in the canyon, it can seem like a long ways!

 

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Tim checking out some bear tracks in the mud:

 

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About mid-afternoon, the walls really started steepening around us:

 

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We loves us some log-walkin’, but we hates the damned under-loggin’!:

 

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At one point we really hit a blocker - hard descent to a difficult mantle, then down a steep slope to a deep sandy pool.

The crew sizing up the prospects after my initial scouting:

 

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The mantle:

 

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The others decided to skirt this pool, but I went for it. Waist-deep, with shifting sands - exciting stuff! Some of the best pictures came from this one little area though, I thought. Glad I went that way:

 

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More shots from the afternoon:

 

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As we descended, things started to get really green, and there was a lot more water than up higher:

 

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Bear signs were everywhere, from scat to footprints in the mud. These were quite big:

 

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Eventually, we picked up a trail, and were glad to take it. We started making good time then:

 

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The trail afforded us better views than being in the clogged canyon:

 

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Tim had brought a picture of his nephew - a “flat Jeffry” if you will - and Natalie had one of his hands sticking out of her pack:

 

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Alligator Juniper:

 

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The large trees started disappearing, and gave way to deciduous trees:

 

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A huge wall towards the end of the canyon:

 

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Keepin on truckin’!:

 

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Amazing fern patch (in the desert?!?):

 

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Arch:

 

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Things started opening up as we approached the chapparel:

 

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A much-needed break in the diminishing shade:

 

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Looking back up the canyon:

 

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Getting close! Coming out onto the chapparel:

 

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Manzanita in bloom:

 

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And finally, a two mile hike on the road to get back to the bottom vehicle (Tim and I were cursed for not driving to the end of the road!):

 

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What a great trip!

 

Erik

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Awesome trip Erik! Thanks for sharing it!

 

 

FYI, there is either a bug in Firefox 1.5/2.0 or in the board software so that the TR cuts out about 1/2 way through. You can view the TR fully in the new Firefox Beta or in IE, so I suspect Firefox. We ran across this already in Joe P.'s epic SW climbing TR in this forum.

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Damn I got to get myself back to the states some time, it is really a beautiful country. Thanks man.

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