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Aravaipa Backpack Trip
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area
October 2-4, 1998
by Tom Van Lew
Aravaipa Canyon
The trip began with everyone meeting at the McDonalds on Power Road just north of US60 for breakfast and coffee. We left there at 6:30 am and headed to Globe/Miami. We stopped again for refreshments at the McDonalds in Globe and were again on the way by 8:30 am. It was an hour to the Aravaipa/Klondike road turn off (62 miles), 25 miles to the Klondike/Bonita Road turn and another 16 miles of dirt road to the Aravaipa trailhead.

Once down in the valley we passed through the Diamond X Ranch, the Flying Diamond Ranch and the Cobra Ranch where we noticed a few Texas longhorns mixed with “regular” cattle. We made a quick stop at the Klondyke store, which we found out was closed, the building now held only the post office. Once we entered the Aravaipa Preserve the vegetation became thick and we passed many large old Cottonwood and Sycamore trees. We spotted a coyote drinking from the stream and later a dinosaur along the road – a collection of old parts welded together by a local artist!

Salazar Family Church

We stopped a few minutes at the Salazar Family Church. The church was made of adobe with a thin roof. Inside was a wood floor with a number of rows of pews. At the front was an altar with at golden tabernacle and Stations of the Cross displayed on both sides of the walls. We then made the last of the 6 water crossings to get to the trailhead.

Hiking down to Aravaipa Creek: Jeanne, Barb, Ben, Dennis, Craig, and Tom are in the lead group.
Doesn’t look like Hell Hole Canyon to me.
Once we reached the parking lot we ate a quick lunch, loaded up our backpacks and were soon on the way. The hike in was rather uneventful. We kept watching for wildlife. After we made camp, Craig returned to his car for more supplies like his cooler and guitar. Jeanne and Dennis took a nap while the rest of us explored Hell Hole Canyon.

Dinner was made around the campfire with all our different camp stoves. Some of us needed more practice on lighting and controlling his new whisper-lite stove! After dinner Craig got out his guitar and we were entertained with fine playing from Craig and singing by Barb. She sang songs by Janis Joplin and then some of her own songs.

Saturday morning began with omelets and oatmeal. We took a day hike down stream to Booger Canyon. Along the hike we saw a hole in the rock and the grandfather of all saguaro cactus. In Booger Canyon we were amazed by the “mother lode of geodes!” We used my hiking stick to pry a few apart. We stopped for lunch and soon returned the way we came. Each turn and crossing looking different hoping to chance upon a sheep or group of ringtail. At the same time scaring away anything that RATTLED!

Chuck, Tom, and Dennis study the topo map before the group heads back to the trailhead.

Returning to camp some of us stayed down by the creek, filling water bottles, rinsing our boots and socks and taking in the beauty of the cliffs towering above us, gently sloping down to the creek side spotted with giant saguaro cactus.

Soon dinner preparations were in full swing. Marshmallows were roasted on the fire and the melodious sounds of guitar music and singing added to the experience of being with friends and companions.

Clockwise from top of picture: Chuck, Jeanne, Barb, Dennis, Tom, Craig
and Ben sit around the campfire, while Jeannie captures the moment.

Our last day we had breakfast early – some having oatmeal and coffee (Craig’s coffee pot was a nice addition). Then there was Dennis making blueberry pancakes! He is our official backpacking gourmet chef! as we each chose to explore new canyon’s re-visit special places or spend some quality time alone thankful for such a wonderful place!

We packed up but before we got underway, a rattlesnake that felt they had wandered too close to his space and warned them of such startled Barb and Jeanne. The rest of the hike out passed quickly and soon we were at our vehicles, enjoying cold refreshments.

Ben Velasquez wrote:

This was my first try at “real” camping so I was very excited to try. I believe the hardest part of the whole adventure was the drive. That little truck of my son’s was not the fastest thing in the world.

I did not believe there could be scenery like that in southern Arizona. The canyon (Devil’s?) that we at camped was something I would expect to see in northern Arizona. To look straight up a couple hundred feet was just amazing. I was disappointed that I saw no wild life except for 4 deer on our drive out. Charles and I were looking the mountain sheep.

I haven’t forgotten singing around the campfire. Barb has a great voice and the sounds of Janis Joplin and the Blues songs made the night. I’m a big blues fan. Her voice was also apparent when she saw bugs and Rattle snakes. I would have liked for Jeannie M. to sing a whole song. She was great back-up. I was envious of Craig and his guitar playing. I have trouble playing the radio. Jeannie V., you and Tom ought to work up a duet for the April trip; maybe Sunny and Cher song.

I want you all to know that trip, carrying the pack maybe, loosened up kidney stones. The next week I passed several kidney stones and it really hurt but it was worth it.

I do believe that Dennis should be the camp cook. The pancakes he cooked looked really good. He seemed to enjoy too. Did you ever get your stove to work properly? I can still picture you scrambling for safety when that thing was lit.

Thanks for the memories guys. I look forward to more trips. If someone has pictures they would like to share I would love to see them. I took my camera but I was so excited I only took 5 pictures.

Dennis Miller wrote:

The most memorable part of the Aravaipa Wilderness as the actual campsite, situated at the base of Hell’s Hole Canyon. The dried wild grass that stood a foot provided excellent cushioning for weary legs and sore backs after hiking side canyons and sloshing through calf-high waters of Aravaipa Creek. The only disappointment was the lack of wildlife (with the exception of Jeannie’s rattlesnake) in the wilderness area. I guess we made too much noise for the “locals”.

I have to thank Tom and Jeannie for organizing the trip. A return adventure is a MUST!!!

Dennis, a.k.a Jerky, Social Climber   

Chuck Parsons wrote:

Jeannie and Tom, Thanks for organizing a terrific backpacking experience into Aravaipa Canyon. I believe we are all already looking forward to the Spring, 1999 return trip into Aravaipa. Barb and Craig, thanks to both of you for providing such great nightly campfire entertainment. It is quite apparent you two once worked together the way you harmonized and blended guitar and singing so well. You did Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and any number of past and present R & B greats proud. Barb, please don’t ever lose that refreshingly wonderful child-like curiosity you have. You managed to keep something we all started out with as children, but unfortunately seem to lose somewhere during the transition to adulthood.

Aravaipa – what a special, unique place this is with it’s picturesque, winding stream flowing year-round, towering canyon walls that almost seem to reach out and touch that deep blue Arizona sky, deep, dark slot canyons that beckon mysteriously, evidence of numerous waterfalls just waiting for the right amount of rainfall to spring into life and pour their contents over towering precipices into the still remaining clear deep pools hundreds of feet below, and so many different life forms – some no doubt unique to Aravaipa. How fortunate we all really are to live in this special place called Arizona. I believe a big part of what this hiking club is and should be all about is to help keep this place special for the generations to follow in our footsteps.

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updated August 6, 2019