Trip Report: West Clear Creek, Camp Verde AZ

This is the closest we have been to a complete group on our overnights. We are missing Doc since she is still in Colorado “learning” stuff. The FallGal and myself brought our 13 year old daughter along to fill her shoes.

Day 1

The drive from the valley started at 5am on Saturday morning and we quickly found ourselves on a forest road just outside of Camp Verde. The road is very well maintained and if dry, you could easily make it in and out with just about any vehicle. The road starts fairly normal with expansive desert views of the surrounding mountains on the horizon. As you drive along there are some mines mixed in with the views and unexpectedly a simple turn in directions places you overlooking a dramatic canyon filled with huge bright green trees. Although the water is not visible through the trees, you can make out the path of the creek as it cuts though the desert with trees zigzagging the canyon. As you make it near the end of the road there is a sign for Bull Pen Ranch; to the right offers disbursed camping locations right along the creek. To the left you will find a parking lot at the base of the trail head. This weekend was pretty full with overnight “car campers” that set up shop right in the parking area.

After squeezing into a parking spot we loaded up and set off to the trail. Immediately the sounds of flowing water fills the air as you walk along a very wide path with giant trees allowing little sneak peaks of the creek. Not to far into the hike the trail heads away from the creek slightly and climbs up to one of the largest “open plain” type areas I have ever seen in Arizona’s high desert. About a mile or so of amazing photo ops with the creek breaking through the thick tree cover you start dropping back into the canyon where you come face to face with the creek. This is not the crossing however, but offers a nice swimming hole. Veer off to the left and follow the trail a little further until you hit the crossing.

Crossing the creek and staying dry is not possible. Come prepared; strapped sandals, five fingers, water shoes are all good options. However, the rocks appear to be very smooth and the water is extremely clear so crossing barefoot is possible as well. With points of knee high water be sure you don’t have anything in your pockets that can get wet. The water was a perfect 60 degrees and flowing pretty good, enough to push you over if you are not being attentive to your balance. Depending on your shoe situation, changing from the 1st to the 2nd crossing is not necessary as they are very close to one another. The 3rd and 4th crossing however are very spread out and putting your hiking shoes back on is the smart choice.

In between crossings the trail brings you up and overlooks the creek from above. Exposure is pretty high in these areas and it can get very hot. The weather took an unexpected turn this weekend and was about 10 degrees hotter than what we were wanting. 90 degrees in the shade made each one of the creek crossings a welcomed opportunity to cool off. After hitting the 4th and final crossing we had two options, find a place along the creek to camp or continue up trail 17 to the top. The top would give us slightly cooler temps but little to no protection along the way, water would also be limited. We made the choice to find a spot along the creek, however we did not want to plop right down in a high traffic area, so we pressed on along the trail.

The trail heading up after the 4th crossing is steep, wet, and muddy. Trekking poles will be your friend here. About a half mile further we found a shady place to take a break while Chuck and I went scouting for access back down to the creek. Eureka! We found the most amazing place to camp…but it was going to take some work to get our way down. Following a seasonal wash down to the creek we would be faced with a 20-30 foot set of shelves that we would need to navigate all the packs and dogs down. The reward, a camping spot completely secluded from the world. There was evidence of campers in the past, but the odds of anyone coming across us was slim to none. A waterfall/rapid area filled camp with the sounds of rushing water, there was a nice little fishing hole and a great place to take a dip in the water. This was a slice of paradise just 2 hours drive from the city!

We set up camp and then found our own ways to start enjoying our home for the day. Chuck and Chick spent some time fishing while Breanna and I took a dip to cool off, FallGal and Wicked Witch started to explore the area. As the sun started getting sucked up by the canyon walls we started working on a fire, dinner, and relaxing. Surprisingly the mosquitoes were not bad, our guess was because the water was flowing so well there was no standing water. The spiders however were INSANE! I have never seen such a concentration of spiders in one area; they were everywhere. After dinner and a few laughs around the fire we decided to hit the sack. This turned out to be one of the funniest moments of the day. Breanna, being a 13 year old girl was freaking out about bugs and Wicked Witch discovered that leaving her gear under a tree would result in a coated pack of fresh bird crap. The silent canyon and the sounds of the flowing creek were drowned out by the repeated phrase “What IS that!”

Day 2

The morning came early and packing up camp was mixed in with breakfast, fishing, and filtering water. As we skip from boulder to boulder to cross the creek we said goodbye to our perfect camp paradise. and began shuffling gear back up to the trail. We were all fighting the idea of heading back to city life, but we also had a slight sense of urgency to finish the day out quickly, doing the best we could to beat the heat. As the sun pounded down on the trail we took advantage of each crossing to cool off. Along the way we passed a few others that had set up camp near the crossings, but other than that the trail was pretty quiet today.

Once we made it passed the final creek crossing it was a long hot way back to the trucks. The dogs were walking along the grassy edges of the trail to keep their paws cool and we were playing hop scotch along each little section of shade that we could find.

The Backpacking Journal gives this trip our definite seal of approval. Collectively I believe it is one of the most favorite trips so far. Make it a day trip, or a weekend adventure, this kids and dog friendly area will not disappoint.

Here are some more pictures

A quick video to show the water flow


Half Dome Cables Permit!

The Backpacking Journal is extremely excited to announce that we have received a permit from the lottery system to climb the infamous cables at Half Dome during our upcoming trip to Yosemite!

A huge focus of this trip is Half Dome and we have been impatiently waiting for the last 44 days to see if we were going to make it to the summit or not. To increase the odds of success we each individually entered the lottery with an application requesting 6 permits and it paid off.

Last night Chuck Norrisย  received an email “Dear Customer, Congratulations! You were successful in securing a permit to hike to the summit of Half Dome from the Cables on Half Dome Lottery.” While the rest of us got “Dear Customer, We are sorry to inform you that you were not successful in securing a permit to hike to the summit of Half Dome from the Cables on Half Dome Lottery.”

7 Weeks to go!!!!!!!!

Slimms’ 6 Essentials

The 10 essentials of backpacking has been around since the 1930’s. The list was developed in order to answer two very important questions every adventurer should ask them selves. Can Iย  safely spend the night (or more) where I am going? And, can I respond to an emergency situation? If you are brand new to the outdoor world, or you have been doing this for 30 years these are two critical questions you should think about while you are planning every trip you make. It is very easy to get caught up in all of the technological sales jargon of new and better items, and before you know it you will have the very coolest, lightest, most expensive bar of soap and not a single bandage.

If you have never seen or heard about the list here is the original

  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Headlamp/flashlight
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Firestarter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food

Since the list’s creation there have been many varieties published and individuals will often tweak the list in order to fit their needs of the specific trip. However, the changes made should always revert back to the two questions.

Here is my list along with some explanations of why I have modified it:

1. Navigation – A map and compass go hand in hand, with today’s technology I would say the majority of novice hikers/backpackers rely on GPS devices to find their way. This is a mistake! I am not saying to not use a GPS, I have one and I love it but GPS can fail. There are many ways they can fail; a few would be, dead batteries, heavy cloud cover, electrical interference, mechanical malfunction, you could simply drop it and break it. A map and compass however are pretty much fool proof. If you do not own one, buy one. If you have not used it in a real world application, practice. Never rely on following a well marked trail; unexpected weather could turn your trail in to a flood zone, or a blanket of snow 2 feet deep.

2. Exposure Protection – Heat, Cold, Wind, Sun, Rain, there could be more and depends on where you will be going. Be sure that you have something to protect you from all of the elements. Shorts may not be the best solution just because its hot, and having 15 layers of summer clothes may not be the best choice during a blizzard. This also includes your shelter, but building a shelter is usually a simple task if ever needed.

3. First-aid – Bandages and aspirin are probably not going to cut it for this. First-aid is one of those checks and balances that you really should analyze. You will want to carry things that would be useful if needed, but it can be difficult to justify carrying the weight for something you ultimately want to never use. Whatever you decide to bring along be sure you or someone in your group knows how to use it. Some items I would recommend would be super glue, duct tape, needle & thread, tourniquet, and pain killer.

4. Fire – Fire can be extremely important depending on the surroundings and can be the difference between survival and death. Always bring 2 ignition sources, generally this would mean a lighter and matches as a backup. I would use waterproof, strike anywhere type matches if you have them available. I personally have never attempted to start fire without traditional ignition sources, but it is something I am planning on learning in the future, and would not be a bad idea if you did the same.

5. Food – I tend to include the knife (number 9 on the original list) into this category as this is when I will most likely “need” the knife. Always bring extra food; you don’t need a lot, but in an emergency situation you will be thanking yourself for having it. Make a plan on how you would ration food if needed and pay attention to the amount of calories your food offers. If you were to be stuck for several extra days you can then estimate the amount of energy you should be exerting through the day based on how many calories you can replace into your body. Study the general practices of survival hunting, fishing, trapping, etc. This would really only be needed in a severe case where you may be held for a week or longer, but it is a valuable skill.

6. Water – This is where I think the list really dropped the ball. Water is essential to life. Without water it is just a matter of time before death creeps in. It is always a good idea to plan your trip around water. Make sure you are passing drinkable water each day, if this is something you need to filter or purify be sure you have the necessary equipment to do so. If you are ever in an emergency situation water should be your number one priority. Learn techniques for digging ground water, desalination if you are near saltwater, collecting rain water, etc. An ideal situation would result in consuming 1 liter of water per hour of strenuous physical activity.

You can see I have left a few things off; the flashlight for example. I always have a flashlight with me, but I believe I can survive without it so I don’t consider it to be essential. If I was using it long enough the batteries would die and it would be useless anyway. With fire you can make torches if you need to travel by night. Even with those missing items I can still satisfy the questions mentioned earlier.

And of course, this is not some magic list that will keep you alive out in the wilderness, it is just a starting point. The most important thing you can bring to your trip, no matter where it is, would be common sense.

I would love to hear what your essentials are, how have you modified your list, do you think I am missing something you could not live without?

I “GoGirl”ed, and I liked it!

This post is going where only one post has gone before…Yes…the pee post! ๐Ÿ™‚

Again, I will start with a disclaimer to my post…if you are easily squeamish or offended, please stop reading right now. That being said…let’s press forward ๐Ÿ™‚

As I mentioned in a previous post about the GoGirl, I had yet to try it out on the trail. This first overnight was the perfect time to do such a thing. We were out away from anyone really, and essentially I had no choice but to “GoGirl” for it finally. I must say…initially…it was a bit awkward. I was scared I would make a mess of myself…then what would I do. Walk around silly for sure…which I did anyways the last day because I ripped the seat of my pants somehow but that’s a totally different embarrassment. ๐Ÿ™‚

First things first, I am thankful my pants had lots of pockets. ๐Ÿ™‚ The GoGirl comes in a cylindrical plastic tube with a cap. It also has a plastic storage bag with it. You need a place to put both of these items while you are using the GoGirl because you do need both of your hands. I guess I could have always put them on the ground, but that seemed gross to me…go figure. And I also recommend bringing your water bottle with to use a bit of water to rinse it out after. First time I used it, my Nalgene had drink mix in it, so upon suggestion from Slimms, I put some water from my pack in my mouth and held it there. I wanted to laugh at the whole experience before I even tried using it.

Ok…I take it out of the package and get all set up…I am laughing so hard inside and doing my best to keep from spitting my water everywhere. Just seemed so foreign to be standing while peeing next to a “tree”…it was more so a bush though. But it worked like it did at home…no messes except I think I splattered a bit on my boots. Gross I know…but I didn’t know what to expect or what I was doing for that matter. Once done, I used the water to rinse it out a bit…there really wasn’t much to rinse out. It stays fairly clean ๐Ÿ™‚ I shook it a little bit as well to get as much of the remaining moisture off it. I put it all back in it’s package, zipped up, and was done ๐Ÿ™‚ I walked back to the group, big smile on my face, and exclaimed “That was the greatest thing EVER” ๐Ÿ™‚ The act of peeing is now known as “GoGirling”.

The whole process of using it may seem a bit much compared to just dropping and squatting but as I said before, I have always had an issue with that and hate it more than anything. I used the GoGirl about 5 times during the trip and it got easier to manage with each use. Obviously, practice makes almost perfect.ย Once we got home I cleaned it with soap and water and let it air dry. I will be replacing the plastic bag that came with it and just use a regular ziploc. I will use a new bag after each trip. It still folds up easily into the original tube. There is a trick to folding it up though.

I believe I will continue to be the only girl in the group that will be using this contraption and that is fine by me. It made my trip just a little more convenient. There are other options out there but for now, I’m gonna stick with the GoGirl.

We are officially “backpackers”

We finished our first trip, although 2 members of the pack were not able to make it we still had a blast!

It was challenging, rewarding, and exciting all wrapped into one. For now it somewhat hurts just to type so I will keep it short. Be on the look out for a full trip report, lots of pics, and when I get some time to edit we will have some HD GoPro footage as well!

Until then, here is an amazing shot from our camp as the sun sets on (what I am almost positive is) Black Mountain

Packing in 60 seconds

The Fall Gal and I are getting ready for our first overnight this Saturday. If you consider today as being over and the fact that we are heading out at O’Dark 30 on Saturday you could kinda say that it is only 2 days away! Can you tell we are maybe just a little excited?

I wanted to try out a new time lapse app that I got for the iPhone (iTimeLapse) and we thought what better way to pack a bag than Benny Hill style!

Now there is a slight disclaimer here…before any of you get all picky and laugh at some of the stuff we are packing. We are piecing together our gear as our budget permits and we have 2 months still until our Yosemite Trip. That being said, sometimes you just have to improvise!

Now kick your feet up and enjoy the show…but dot get to comfortable, I did say it was only 60 seconds!

My “prep” for our first overnight!

Excitement is building with Slimms. The steaks are marinated and frozen. The dehydrators are full and drying fruit; kiwis, pineapples, strawberries, pears…YUMMY! Got granola and nuts for trail mix. Think some chocolate is in order in the form of M&M’s. Little toiletries were purchased today as well. I did my part right there ๐Ÿ™‚

I’d like to imagine that my bag is packed…hmmmm…I will need to step out of my daydream and actually do that. Slimms has been nice enough and more than eager to help practice pack though. Just the water and sleeping bag is heavy enough already. Gonna be in for a shock I think when it’s fully loaded and this is only a one nighter…but a huge distance hike. I think I am mentally prepared but not quite sure about the physical part yet. Been slacking on my exercise. I also have to drive 4 hours the night before and 4 hours the night we get back. Waaaa…poor me! Moving on…

Mental list here we go…My pretty salsa red Osprey Ariel 65 pack, check! Kelty Cosmic Down +20 sleeping bag and Therm-a-rest RidgeRest SOlite sleeping mat thingy, check! ย Water and bladder, check! Purple (meh) Nalgene bottle, check! Black Diamond Trail Shock trekking poles (grrrrr…I do not like those though), check! Multi-tool and knife, check! BO stopper (deodorant cuz BO is not fun), toothpaste, and toothbrush (top secret secret), check!! GoGirl (yup, field test time), ย check! Food, check! Other stuff I am not sure of yet, check!! Whatever Slimms is mental listing, check! Check check!! Am I missing something?????

I will do a review on the pack after this trip is done. I am the only one in the group with it, so we shall see how it goes. Most of the other stuff is all the same among the group…few different odds and ends. I will also probably do an update on the shoes because I will be carrying a load with them for the first time. I’m not as prepared as I should be I’m sure but this is a learning experience…can’t be perfect just yet.

I’m excited ๐Ÿ™‚ Pack on, let’s go!!ย