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Thursday, July 14, 2005

West Clear Creek Hike

Sally- Thought you might like to read about the wild West. This is from my daughter Bonnie about a hike she took over the weekend with friends.I didn't check the map, but I think the area is in the mountains near Payson,Arizona. Ponderosa pine country-beautiful mountain landscape. Not the desert of Arizona that everyone pictures.
You'd never guess that Bonnie is a Journalism and Geology major at ASU after reading this -would you???

Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2005 1:58 AM
Subject: West Clear Creek Hike

Hi all:

West Clear Creek is as beautiful and remote as ever. It took me a little over 2 hours to drive up there (near Happy Jack) - not bad for such a change in climate and scenery. I didn't have much trouble with the rough road or finding Ann and her gang. (I flagged down a passing car to make sure I was on the right track - the Forest Service signage is pretty vague.)

Three of the campers decided to go shopping at the antique stores of Pine instead of hiking into the Canyon, so it was just me, Ann and her friend Jo. The hike in was just as steep as I remembered, but it seemed shorter - only a mile or so (about 1000 foot elevation change.)

It is such a pretty canyon - Pines everywhere; Kaibab limestone on the top of the rim. (I didn't see Toroweep) and towering cliffs of Coconino Sandstone the rest of the way down. Some of it has weathered into pinnacles peeking up through the trees. The dune lines have been etched by the wind into curving sweeps and grooves.

In the stream we found rounded stones with crystals inside, and some with chert inclusion and fossils. I thought I had picked up branches coated in minerals on the last trip, but now I think they may be coral or sponge fossils that have weathered out of the Kaibab limestone. (Similar to the ones on Hermit Trail.) Plus we found a few basalt rocks that must have traveled downstream - from where?. Ann and Jo both like rocks, too, thank goodness. Between looking for rocks and watching our step, we were looking down a lot. But then, we'd pause and look up and catch our breath at the sight of the carved cliffs, and blue sky and towering pines.

We hiked downstream about 3 miles (?) - sometimes climbing through bushes and over logs on the shore, sometimes wading through pools, sometimes jumping from hummock to hummock - and sometimes trudging through marshy spots. It was a good workout of all the muscles.

The petroglyphs are still there near where we camped before - not washed away in the high Spring floods. We had fun identifying the bear (claws), sheep (curving horns), deer (antlers), man falling off cliff (falling from mountains upside down), rain (streaks) and water falls (lines of falling droplets), but one creature looked like deer with claws! Some extinct species?

Clumps of debris were hanging in the tree branches and there were a couple of huge logs balancing on pinnacles of rock, but otherwise, not much had changed.

We had lunch in the box canyon. You can hardly tell it's there as you walk in the steam. A narrow passage leads to an alcove with vertical walls, one with a fault and offset rocks. There was only a trickle of water down the wall, but during a rain, it must just funnel in and fill the chamber like a well. No place to be during a storm. Ann and Jo both played their Indian flutes. I'm thinking maybe I should get one and try to revive my old flute and recorder skills (if they can be called that.). The music sounded so haunting, echoing in that deep small alcove.

We saw one small snake swimming in the stream and several birds including hummers and stellar jays. People were fishing, but I only saw minnows and crawdads.

After hiking back upstream, we were glad to take off wet shoes and have a trail to follow and solid ground, but after a little bit of that steep climb out, we were wishing we were back in that cool, (relatively) flat stream again. Ann wasn't feeling up to par because she had an upset stomach, so we went slow on the way out. I didn't think I was that tired, but I'm feeling it in my calves today. It was about 6:00 when we came out.

Ann and Jo were staying another night and I wished I was. The sun was going down as I left, making it a little hard to see the ruts through the dust on my windshield. And, I was worried about finding my way back. I did take one wrong turn. But when the road got small, took a sharp turn, plunged down a hill and under a branch that I didn't remember, I turned around. I have to say, I was glad to see pavement again, that time. I saw one small group of elk along the way and then I came to the route 87, traffic and civilization.

As I left Ann and Jo, I sighed and said something about having to return to the real world. Ann waved her arms wide to the pine trees and said, "THIS is the real world." She's right.


Thanks Bonnie for sharing your hike.


Anonymous Marc said...

That was nice lil story .Talented writer made you feel like you could see what she saw!Thanks for shareing.

9:21 AM  

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