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Friday, October 4, 2013

Family Backpacking trip to Aravaipa Canyon complete with Bears!

I'm finally getting around to updating a trip to Aravaipa Canyon we had in May.   Late May is a perfect time to visit Aravaipa.  Summer hasn't officially kicked off, so lots of families still have kids in school, but the weather is perfect.  I reserved a few permits to go in the East end, and we made it happen.  We left Sierra Vista after work on Wednesday, and drove to a primitive campsite on Turkey Creek right at the east end of Aravaipa Canyon.  The official trailhead is 1 mile or so east of Turkey Creek, but there are some amazing campsites up the side canyon, and it's a shorter hike, so camping at Turkey Creek before heading out on our backpacking trip made a lot of sense.  I counted 11 stream crossings we had to drive through to get there though.  Most of them are not bad at all if you have a little clearance on your vehicle.  I wouldn't recommend driving a sedan.
We got up on Thursday morning, the first day of our permit, had breakfast, picked up camp, made sure we had everything we'd need in our packs, then headed out!  There's no reason to try and stay dry because the trail for much of the time is in the creek.

The contrast between the streamside riparian area and the desert vegetation higher on the hillsides is really fascinating.  Not many cacti are in the streambed because they will rot if they have too much water. We hiked about 2 miles or so to a great campsite where Deer Creek enters in from the north. 
After setting up camp and jettisoning most of our loads, we put on our daypacks with some snacks and water and hiked up Deer Creek to the slot canyon.  Most of Aravaipa can't truly be called a slot canyon, but a ways up Deer Creek definitely fits that definition with the narrow water-sculpted walls.  On the way up, we found a friendly little tree frog that the kids didn't want to leave behind.  We left him and said we'd look on the way back for him. We also saw a few wild blackberry plants that would be fun to forage later in the summer.
The Deer Creek walls got narrower and narrower until finally we could touch both at the same time.  Fantastic!  More!  More! 
But all good things must come to an end, and with kids clamoring for dinner, I turned around to go back to camp and to feed a few hungry little ones.
Here's a picture of the campsite where Deer Creek meets up with the main Aravaipa Canyon.  Fantastic.  Somewhere in here is a lost Gerber pocket knife that slipped out of my pocket.  I had a lot of good adventures with that knife and still miss it
Friday we splashed our way back up the creek on our way out.  We only saw one or two other hikers, a result of the permit system that restricts access to the area.

Back at our Turkey Creek campsite, we went and looked for the Turkey Creek Ruin, constructed by Salado Indians a couple hundred years ago.  We finally found it.  It's not hard to find once you know where to look.  Going up-canyon, you drive through an old corral, after the corral, drive through the streambed and up the small hill on the other side, then park on the right side.  There are a few signs and a short trail to the ruin.  Fantastic!  It's a neat little cliff dwelling. 
Turkey Creek Canyon is an amazing canyon itself.  I really liked the sycamores, walnuts, and other trees.  We camped another night there on Turkey Creek.
Saturday morning, I got up before anyone else and went on a walk.  I walked down the canyon to Aravaipa, then up the road to a stream crossing.  As I turned to retrace my steps, I found that I was cut off from camp by a momma bear and two babies right where Aravaipa Creek and Turkey Creek come together!  I watched them for a while, then ran to get the camera.  They were pretty skittish and the cubs ran up a tree as soon as I let them know I was there.  Momma soon joined them.  It was the perfect way to cap of an unforgettable backpacking trip.

Nearest City: Klondyke, AZ
Location: N° W°
Time Needed: At least 2 days
Difficulty: Easy as far as backpacking goes
Kid Friendly:
Additional Info:

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