Monday, April 18, 2011

Return to White Canyon

I had gone hiking in White Canyon for the first time about a year ago. There was a lot of water flowing through the canyon and in other areas near there. I made the comment that I would have to return in the summer and see if the water was still flowing. I did try to do that last summer, but the "road" had deteriorated and I couldn't park very close. I had parked about 0.8 mile away when I hiked there, and that extra distance wore me out. I couldn't get closer than about 1.2 miles as the road deteriorated and I'm just too lazy to walk that far, especially when it's hot.

I'm taking a long time to get to the point, and I'm not there yet. Sorry. On Friday evening I was trying to decide where to hike the next day (yes, I do actually plan ahead sometimes). I was looking at Google Earth and saw what looked like a road or trail going up to the top of a ridge. The view might be nice from up there, and I would get to see what was in the canyon on the other side without having to climb over boulders or push through shrubbery. And yes, I would rather walk up a 500 foot high ridge than climb over dozens of waist-high boulders.

I charged my batteries, ate lots of lunch, loaded up on water, and headed out. As I approached White Canyon, I could see the road going up the side of the ridge In one spot there was enough dirt piled on the slope that it looked like there could be an old mine up there. Could be interesting. In the satellite view, the road or trail looked like if faded away by the time it got close to the main road. I drove to where I thought I would need to start climbing and it looked like the first 50 feet or so would be very steep and difficult. I kept driving, looking for an easier spot to start. I think 2011 must be the year for bulldozing dirt roads, though, because this one was in much better shape than it had been the last time I was on it. I decided to keep driving and see how far I could get before I climbed the ridge.

I easily cruised past the large cottonwood where I had gotten a huge boulder stuck in my wheel well before. I could have hiked about a mile on the energy I burned up getting that boulder out from under my truck so I could move again. Oh, and I had to do that while standing in flowing water. The spring was dry now though. When I got to the next obstacle, which used to have black tire marks on it from all the people struggling to get over it, it was barely a bump now. I started thinking that I might be able to hike in White Canyon again. The road was remarkably smooth all the way to the entrance to the wilderness area. I had to park a quarter mile away because the final descent is too steep for me to drive back up, but it's an easy quarter mile to walk.

This part of the road might be too steep for me to drive up, but look how close I am!

So far, on the drive, I had not seen any water in places that I was used to seeing it. I had read somewhere that water was always flowing in White Canyon, but I couldn't find it. Anyway, I started up the canyon at about 2:30 and the temperature was in the mid 90's. I stopped in shade whenever I could find it, but there wasn't much.

I eventually came to a puddle. The water didn't look like anything I wanted to drink, or even get on me. It looked stagnant.

The first puddle.

I don't remember seeing this rock column before. It's hard to see unless the lighting is just right. I'll have to climb up there some time to get a better look.

I got to a spot where the canyon floor is solid rock, and there I found flowing water. It emerged from the gravel in a pool upstream and vanished again in a pool on the downstream end. I suppose it looked drinkable as long as you didn't think too much about the people wading in it. It looked very inviting after stumbling over river rocks in the heat. So maybe there is water here year round. It's just hidden part of the time.

A family enjoying the cool water. These are the only people I encountered on this hike.

Not only had the road been bulldozed, but the trail had been marked with cairns. And not only was it marked, but somebody had cut most of the branches out of the way. I was back at the point where I'd had to turn back before in no time. I found an easy path around the boulders that had stopped me back then. I think I may not have been able to get to that path last time because of all the water. Not much further upstream, though, I encountered more truck-sized boulders. I found my way around several of these before I decided that it was getting late enough that I should turn back.

I made a short video of one of the boulder obstacles, from the inside.

Up until I started back, I had taken only 1 or 2 HDRIs. I figured there were so few shadows, I didn't need that. It turns out that there were a couple of places with very bright rocks where I should have used it. I was in the shadow of the western canyon wall on the way back, though, so I wound up taking more HDRIs then.

I like the way this turned out.

I was past most of the interesting scenery and was thinking about how there are bears and bighorn sheep in that area and how I should have been looking around more for the sheep (and probably the bears) when something to my left moved and hissed. I must have startled it for it to jump like it did. It was a Gila Monster, the third one I've seen in 8 years of wandering the desert. I took a bunch of pictures. I think it was too dark right there for video. Anyway, that was the perfect finish to a very enjoyable hike.

Gila Monster sniffing the air.

There's beautiful scenery everywhere you turn out there. Click below to see pictures of a little bit of it.


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