Monday, June 16, 2008

Trekking the Chistopher Creek Canyon

Temps hit 110 on Saturday, so as a reward for surviving another week, I jumped in a car with my ladies of TEAM ODP adventure racing for a hike at Christopher Creek about 25 miles east of Payson. I had done zero research of the hike or area and thought we were doing an easy day hike to some water. As usual with these two, easy is all relative.

Christopher Creek turned out to be a 2 mile canyon with about 50 waterfalls cascading down the length of it. Apparently, they advise bringing rope for a couple of 60 foot falls towards the end (sadly they are not jumpable cliffs). When we saw some other folks with rope, we wondered if we could do it without. Since I am alive to write this blog, lets just say that that you can do it without rope. Can and should are two different stories.

When we pulled off the road to the parking lot, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the high trees and non desert feeling of the start of the hike.

An easy 1 mile hike down to the creek led to the popular box canyon. Most stop here and return the way they came (by most I mean all). After leaving this first box canyon, we didn't see anyone for five hours until we made it to a highway.

In the first box canyon, there were some ropes tied up to help you get out of the canyon.

I also had to accept a challenge to climb this wall over water since Sarah attempted it and failed. I love being in the middle of something and being told "I wouldn't fall right now if I was you."

We decided to press on and by doing so, knowingly left behind the ability to go back the way we came from. When you jump off a cliff into a deep pool without a rope, that is the reality of it. Sarah had done some research and thought that although they advised the use of ropes, they claimed that you could make it without them, so on we went. Adventure, here we come!

Compared to Salome Jug, this canyon had much larger falls, with less natural slides. It is also more of a box canyon than a slot canyon so it did not have the narrow steep walls on either side. We thought it was only about 2 miles long but it dropped an amazing elevation in those two miles. Most of the falls either required a steep down climb (~15 ft) or just jumping down to a deep pool below. We made very slow time as we stopped constantly to play in waterfalls, nibble on food and exclaim how beautiful it was.

Here Sarah found a way to bypass a huge falls by climbing down through a tiny little hole in the rock. It was quite amusing to watch. I also used my herculean strength and my knowledge acquired from the Goonies to lift up this boulder so my friends could slip through. "Hey you guys..."

This place was just one beautiful falls after another. Our pattern was first person jumps to test the depth (you could see it was deep). If first person successfully makes it, second person tosses bag down and then proceeds after. Switch turns on subsequent jumps.

The canyon finally turned into a slowly running stream and we found the wisp of a trail ascending steeply out of the canyon on the north side beside a small stream. (Note: Look for high power lines as a landmark for the stream) A couple mile hike landed us at this high mountain vista where we could hear a nearby highway. Score. We weren't going to have to spend the night. Just 1 mile down the road was our car. Overall I highly recommend this canyoneering trip to anyone wishing to make a quick day of it with no gear needed. It is a 2 hour drive from Phoenix and took us about 5 hours with no rush. I do recommend being comfortable on rocks and down climbing with no aversion to cactus, occasional scratches, jumping off cliffs and steep dropoffs. In other words, this is an adventurer's dream.

One of my favorite pictures and favorite spots. This is towards the end of the canyon where two falls collect into a deep pool.


Bill said...

That place looks very cool. I'm planning on going some time in July. Fruita was great! Biked all six days and the place rules! Rode over a hundred miles of technical and super twisty trails. Did my steepest drop least 40 degrees. We biked right above the Colorado River in this fantastic red rock scenery Can't wait to go back. It is at least as sweet as Moab, except Moab has better places to eat. I'm doing Flag to GC this August as a charity ride...65 miles in one day...yeah. That should be fun.

Ryan said...

We did Box Canyon this last Saturday, 6/15/09, and it was awesome. It was my second time, with the first being about 8 years ago.

We followed an experianced group and to my surprise once they reached the bottom they turned around and climbed all the way back up. It was very interesting climbing up or around all the big waterfalls that we previously jumped off. It's very difficult, at least it was for me, but it can be done!