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  1. #1
    dejoha's Avatar
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    Arizona West Clear Creek Trip Report

    Okay, post your experiences!

    First off, I hope a few others made it down the canyon. My son and I got off a lot later than I wanted and the drive was _a lot_ longer, despite extending the speed limit further than the law allows. We never made it down the canyon, never saw any HF members, and barely made it back alive to tell the tale. This is our story.

    # # #

    It was a dark and lonely night. Heavy rains had been falling all week and low, dark clouds filled the sky as far as the eye could see. I had just returned home from a conference in Nevada and had only a little time to pack my bags for the weekend hanging. Only my 7-year-old son was willing to join me on what was to be the most harrowing ride of our lives.

    We arrived at Forest Road 81, south of Happy Jack around 4 PM. The first quarter mile of the dirt road was deceptively easy driving, but the road quickly turned treacherous, taking a beating from the weeks' long rain storm. Our small, low-clearance, front-wheel-drive sedan was doing all she could to miss the deep ruts and mud bogs. My son and I felt like passengers in a very bad theme park ride as we sloshed through the unforgiving terrain.

    As we neared the final stretch, the FR81E turn off, I noticed we were fish-tailing a lot more than normal so I found a spot where we could pull over. To my great astonishment, our tires were caked with nearly two inches of mud and layers of pine needles. I was secretly panicked, but held a good face for my 7-year-old. I scraped what I could off the wheels but knew we had to push forward, hoping beyond hope we could reach the trailhead before it got any darker.

    The road continued to deteriorate and I finally had to stop the sedan as the rocks gave little clearance; in addition, I had absolutely no traction with all the caked-on mud. I pulled off into the grass and decided we had no choice but to hike the rest of the way down. Maybe we would meet a better-vehicle-equipped HF member who would find us wandering the muddy roads. None came. I took some time to scrape off what mud and debris I could off my tires and wheel wells so they wouldn't lock my vehicle in the mud in the morning.

    It was hopeless for us. With nearly 2 miles to hike and twilight already upon us, we wouldn't be able to get far. At first, I tried to hike quickly, but a 7-year-old with a loaded pack is not something to rush. At last, I admitted defeat. We had to find a place to stop, make camp, and prepare dinner. We had hiked nearly a mile, but that was about all we could do before it was dark. The low clouds and mist magnified an already somber mood. A look at our shoes and you would think we'd been in the brick pits, slowly churning clay and straw into mortar. Mental note: pine needles make an excellent brick additive.

    We had set up camp near Dukey Tank. We quickly found an appropriate place to set up our hammocks, bunk style, maybe 200 feet from our proposed kitchen site. My son was eager to help set camp and we began immediately prepping our site and unloading gear. We had both packed light, so-to-speak. My pack weight was 15 lbs and my son carried 12 lbs, although to my son, this represented nearly 25% of his body weight, which likely felt considerably heavier than what I carried. He never complained.





    Dinner included fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad; steamed rice with broccoli; and chicken tenders. We forwent dessert (Snickers) and decided to turn in and watch a movie (UP! by Pixar) to lighten our spirits. We never made it through the movie (too tired), but we did make it to bed.



    We both slept wonderfully warm and cozy and woke at 6 AM ready for breakfast. It had rained nearly all night, but the rain was gone by the time we were ready to get up. My one thought: the road _out_ will only be worse.







    Breakfast consisted of fresh toast, hot cocoa, and a home-made omelet with bacon. After clean-up, it didn't take much convincing that our best option would be to return to our car and attempt an escape while we still had a car to return to. While we were disappointed we wouldn't make it down the canyon, we knew our first priority was saving our own lives. Plus, there had been no evidence of any other HF member; perhaps they were smarter and stayed home?

    The slosh back to our sedan left our shoes, again, caked in layers of mud and pine needles. Any attempts at scraping the mud off was futile as the next step put a new layer mud and needles back on. Our only consolation was that there was only so much mud and debris that would stick to our shoes.



    We prayed as we started the car and made our way out. The roads were much worse and it was all I could do to keep the sedan on courses as we narrowly avoided undercarriage-crushing stones and wheel-well rubbing ruts. Fresh pools of water awaited us and sprayed their tempestuous sludge on our windshield, mocking us as we drove through.

    The forest road wound on and on without abatement. Crisscrossing roads intersected our lane tempting us to turn. I had to constantly spray the windshield in a vain attempt to keep it clean. We both strained through streaked mud, my knuckles turning white as I gripped the steering wheel making sudden turns to avoid hazards that only returned with reckless abandon.

    Finally, the paved access road appeared and the first quarter mile of "good" dirt met our muddled tires. I said a little prayer, thanking God that we made it out alive.

    The food was good. The companionship excellent. But we will think twice before ever attempting a forest road, again.
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  2. #2
    dejoha's Avatar
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    On a more serious note, did anyone else make it down the canyon? I thought we would pass some HF member on our hike and drive in/out, but all we passed were hunters, who probably wondered what lunatic was driving these forest roads in a sedan.

    Having gone through this experience, may I recommend that for our next (and future) group hangs in Arizona we pick sites more accommodating to vehicular access? I don't mind a good hike, but I think West Clear Creek requires a bit more in the way of accessibility. I look forward to getting down there some day...

    Thinking of group hangs, maybe we can do some that lend themselves to easy access at a campground, and some that include some backpacking, so we can reach more of our growing AZ base. In fact, I was wondering if anyone would be interested in making Fossil Creek an annual hang for the backpacking format -- February in Fossil Creek?

    In the meantime, I'm seriously going to look for a 4x4 truck.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bradley's Avatar
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    Awesome adventure for your 7 yr old . . .

    Glad you made it out alive,

    and to share, God is good.

    I will let my girls (7&9) read this in the morning and let them enjoy your trip.
    Bradley SaintJohn
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    and Curing Ground-In-somnia.

    "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show you great and mighty things . . ." Jeremiah 33:3
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Roadtorque's Avatar
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    Glad to hear you made it back ok. I decided on Friday not to go based on a lack of time and a huge concern about road conditions with all the recent rain. Sounds like I wouldn't have made it very far. I can't wait to hear how others made out.

  5. #5
    dejoha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roadtorque View Post
    Glad to hear you made it back ok. I decided on Friday not to go based on a lack of time and a huge concern about road conditions with all the recent rain. Sounds like I wouldn't have made it very far. I can't wait to hear how others made out.
    I'm glad you were the smart one! At each turn or fish-tail, I wondered what I was doing. But I was so determined to make this hang (I helped organize it, after all!) that I threw common sense aside and practically drove my sedan into a bog.

    I do feel terrible I didn't meet/see any other HF members. I'm really eager to get a good group of us together.

  6. #6
    Senior Member bigbamaguy's Avatar
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    Absolutely fabulous talel and from the telling it was worth every white knuckle, death defying moment that you went through!!!!!!!! I am glad you and your son had an adventure that you can always look back on and go..........well, we did survive!!!!!!!!!!!!! From the photos I can tell he will always remember this trip and he will have one surefire great tale for Monday at school.
    Par Si Vis Pace Para Bellum

  7. #7
    dejoha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbamaguy View Post
    Absolutely fabulous talel and from the telling it was worth every white knuckle, death defying moment that you went through!!!!!!!! I am glad you and your son had an adventure that you can always look back on and go..........well, we did survive!!!!!!!!!!!!! From the photos I can tell he will always remember this trip and he will have one surefire great tale for Monday at school.
    Thanks. I sure love it when my kids _want_ to come. Three volunteered weeks ago, but the rain dissuaded the rest. The trip was miserable, all told, except for the great 1-on-1 time I had with my son -- we had great conversations, and when I wasn't trying to speed-hike, we actually hiked hand-in-hand.

    Ironically, the place we camped was as nondescript as almost any Ponderosa Pine forest location in northern Arizona. It was about the most boring, non-scenic, waste-of-time trip I've ever done, except for the family bonding. Oh, and the food was some of the best I've done recently too. Yum!

    If I could change anything, knowing what I know now, I would have driven 5 minutes to my back yard and pitched the hammock. It would have saved a huge amount of scary mud driving and hours of clean-up (I still haven't been able to remove all the thick-as-clay layers of mud under my car!).

  8. #8
    Senior Member drewboy's Avatar
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    Wow, thanks for sharing. I wonder how the rest of the group made out? It sounds like a typical Te-was instigated adventure to me! :-)

  9. #9
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    Well, I got to the trail head at about noon on Saturday. The road in was still bad. Not bad enough to stop a 4wd truck. Had to turn around once. Took a wrong turn. Found two vehicles parked at the trail head.

    Started down the trail. Went about a hundred yards. Tripped twice, fell once. Decided it just isn't the trail for me. Way beyond my physical ability. Turned around and headed back up. Tripped and fell again.

    Got to the top and saw a hammock set up at an overlook. Went over and said hello. It was SamD. He had gotten there the night before and made the same decission I did. He had driven up with Gnome77. Gnome made it down to the creek. They were in radio contact with eachother. Gnome77 was not comming back up till Sunday morning, so I decided to stay and camp with SamD.

    Te-Wa and his wife showed up about 1PM. Visited with them for just a few minuets. They were rushed to get down to the creek. The sky was getting dark, more rain clouds rolling in.

    I set up camp near the trucks. SamD got a fire going. We both showed off our gear to eachother. I learned how to cook dinner in a freezer bag. Thank you, Sam. We sat around the fire and told stories about our previous lives. We have alot in commun.

    Hit the hammock about 9PM. I woke up about two hours later needing a drink of water. I had left a water bottle on the ground next to me. So I just reached down to grab it. To my surprise, I ended up grabbing alot more than I wanted!

    One word....SKUNK!

    I reached down and grabbed a handful of that critters rear end. It scared me, I scared it, but he won. I got a hand full of spray. It went everywhere. Got it on the hammock, underquilt, topquilt, shirts, tarp, shoes. Everything!

    Well I wasn't gonna stick around to find out what will happen next. (Sorry about leaving ya all alone, Sam. I had to get out of there.) I threw everything into the bed of the truck, tossed the spare tire on top of it, and rolled out. I hit the blacktop at about midnight and made it home right at 3Am. My wife was surprised to see me, but, not too happy about the smell I brought with me.

    Does anyone know how to get skunk odor out of fabric?

  10. #10
    Senior Member KerMegan's Avatar
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    conventional wisdom is lemon or tomato juice; something about the acid neutralizing the smell; (breaking down the molecules?)
    best advice is ask your veterinarian or possibly at a dry cleaning establishment?
    KM(who now has even more reason to not leave stuff on the ground..)

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