Water—Spring 2020

Here are a few recent water photographs in northern Arizona.

Dry Beaver Creek and Jacks Canyon Creek confluence.
Dry Beaver Creek and Jacks Canyon Creek confluence.

This photograph was taken in mid-April after a spring storm brought snow to the Mogollon Rim and rain to the lower elevations. The runoff was sufficient to swell the flow in Dry Beaver Creek from a light trickle back to a noisy roar. This is the confluence of the smaller Jacks Canyon Creek with Dry Beaver Creek. While the flowing water is in late-afternoon shadow, the trees and distant hills remain in sunlight.

Rogers Lake.
Rogers Lake.

A day later I was at Rogers Lake southwest of Flagstaff. The reflections of the clouds in the shallow water is interesting. Getting this shot required walking out into the mud. I was glad I had thought to bring a spare pair of shoes for the drive home.

Headwaters of Sycamore Canyon.
Headwaters of Sycamore Canyon.

A week later I did a morning run along the Sycamore Rim Trail. When finished, I retured to a few spots that would make interesting water photographs. This is typical of the upper sections of the canyon with ponds of slow moving water and grassy edges.

Dry Beaver Creek.
Dry Beaver Creek.

This image was taken on a different location on Dry Beaver Creek about two weeks after the top photograph. Water levels have dropped substantially. A few large pools remain but water flow is down to a trickle.

We are now entering our dry season and the water in these locations will quickly disappear.

Pictures from the Parks

National Parks, that is. Here are several photographs taken this winter in the National Parks and Monuments that are in northern Arizona.

Sunrise at Wukoki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument.
Sunrise at Wukoki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument.
Sunrise at Wukoki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument.
Sunrise at Wukoki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument.

These two images were taken shortly after sunrise at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument. A recent snowstorm had brought snow to lower elevations and I was hoping there would be some snow at this location. No snow but the sunrise was still pretty nice.

New snow covers Sunset Crater.
New snow covers Sunset Crater.

Later that morning in Sunset Crater National Monument, where there was new snow, a small amount of snow on the namesake crater helping to reveal its subtle textures.

Low clouds and fog near the Unkar Delta in Grand Canyon
Low clouds and fog near the Unkar Delta in Grand Canyon
Clouds lift out of Grand Canyon.
Clouds lift out of Grand Canyon.

The next two images are from Grand Canyon National Park at sunrise. A recent minor storm had left some low clouds and fog in the lowest reaches of the canyon. As the sun rose higher and the canyon walls warmed the fog was lifted up and out of the canyon producing some eye-level clouds for a brief moment.

Moonrise over North Rim of Grand Canyon.
Moonrise over North Rim of Grand Canyon.

Finally, we have a panorama of the rising nearly-full Moon in late afternoon. Wonderful!

Mountain Biking on Gooseberry Mesa—October 2019 Edition

It was mid-October and that made it a good time to head to southwest Utah for some autumn mountain biking.

We left Flagstaff around 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the Wire Mesa Trailhead on Gooseberry Mesa about 4 hours later. After a quick lunch, we jumped on the Wire Mesa trail. Good news! They are upgrading the parking lot with a fence and possibly other amenities.

Riding the Wire Mesa Trail. That's Zion N.P. in the distance.
Riding the Wire Mesa Trail. That’s Zion N.P. in the distance.
The view towards the southeast from Wire Mesa Trail.
The view towards the southeast from Wire Mesa Trail.

This was our first time on Wire Mesa Trail. It’s a nice loop with some great views of Zion National Park and the cliffs of Gooseberry Mesa.

View over the edge of Gooseberry Mesa.
View over the edge of Gooseberry Mesa.

The next day we visited the Gooseberry Mesa trails, starting on Windmill, then North Rim and out to the west end of the mesa. This route wanders between the edge and then through ramps, chutes, small hills, all on a high-traction surface. The geologic name for this rock is Shinarump Conglomerate.

North Rim Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
North Rim Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
Just follow the dots!
Just follow the dots!
Practice Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.
Practice Trail, Gooseberry Mesa.

The return to the trail head included a quick jaunt on Yellow Trail. Great fun! We then returned to North Rim and connected with Practice Trail. The photos shown here are very similar to photos taken on earlier trips to this mountain biking area. See, for example, the trip reports for April 2015 and October 2016.

Amazing terrain on Gooseberry Mesa with Zion NP in the distance
Amazing terrain on Gooseberry Mesa with Zion NP in the distance

We had planned on a third day of riding but instead opted to do some hiking in Zion National Park.

Zion National Park.
Zion National Park.

Nice!

Hiking West Fork Oak Creek—From the Top

West Fork Oak Creek.
West Fork Oak Creek.

Most of the time when we hike West Fork Oak Creek we do it from the bottom up. Only once before have we done top-to-bottom and that was back in 1999. We were new to northern Arizona and had read (Tyler Williams, Canyoneering Arizona) that this could be done in very long, hard day. He was right about the long and hard. We have since referred to that epic day as our bootcamp hike.

The start of the hike on Woody Mountain Road.
The start of the hike on Woody Mountain Road.
West Fork Oak Creek. You have been warned of the difficulties that lie ahead.
West Fork Oak Creek. You have been warned of the difficulties that lie ahead.

The passage of time can dim the memories of how hard and unpleasant things were. So here we were in 2019, twenty years later, and we wanted to do this hike again but with some modifications. We were not planning on hiking the entire length of the canyon. Instead, we would simply head down canyon and turn around when we had enough.

The first few miles feature a dry wash filled with boulders, sand, and thick vegetation. There is no trail.
The first few miles feature a dry wash filled with boulders, sand, and thick vegetation. There is no trail.

It didn’t take long to realize that even this would be a challenge. There is no maintained trail—and not even much of any hint of a trail at all. The vegetation was so thick we had to bushwhack our way through it. Remember that the Slide Fire in 2014 burned through this area (mostly low intensity) and this thick vegetation may be the result of the burn and regrowth. And there was lots of poison ivy. After the first few attempts to get around it we gave up and just plowed through it.

It took us about 2 1/2 hours to reach the first set of narrows about 3 miles down canyon. Just below the narrows is the confluence with Casner Cabin Draw—which ended up being our turnaround spot. We had some commitments that evening so we did not have unlimited time for exploration. Maybe that was a good thing!

The first narrows are encounted just upcanyon of the confluence with Casner Cabin Draw.
The first narrows are encounted just upcanyon of the confluence with Casner Cabin Draw.
At the first narrows (2019).
At the first narrows (2019).
At the first narrows (1999).
At the first narrows (1999).

I had just been looking at some old photographs from that 1999 hike so I remembered a few locations and took new photographs in the same spots. The tree on the right has grown substantially in 20 years.

Navigating the boulders in the dry narrows.
Navigating the boulders in the dry narrows.

We did not encounter any water in the stream bed until the narrows and even then it was a small pool only a few inches deep and a few feet wide.

Wading through the cold pools (1999).
Wading through the cold pools (1999).

I’ve also included a photo (a scanned Kodachrome slide) from that 1999 hike showing one of the “must swim” cold pools of water.

We enjoyed the quiet and solitude of the upper canyon.

A Summer Hike up West Fork Oak Creek

In early July we invited some friends to join us for a hike up West Fork Oak Creek. This is a hike we used to do almost every year until the Slide Fire in 2014 . We made a short trip up the canyon when it reopened and were pleased that the canyon had not burned but saddened by all the silt and ash that had clogged the deep pools.

West Fork Oak Creek—First Narrows
West Fork Oak Creek—First Narrows

Earlier this year we did our first hike up the canyon in many years. Our main interest was to learn if the heavy rains of this past winter had successfully flushed out the silt and ash from the 2014 Slide Fire. As reported in a previous article here, the heavy rains had done a fine job of returning the canyon to its former pristine condition.

First time in West Fork!
First time in West Fork!
Wading through the water in the first narrows in West Fork.
Wading through the water in the first narrows in West Fork.
Above the first narrows in West Fork.
Above the first narrows in West Fork.
Water is channeled into this narrow and shallow slot in the canyon.
Water is channeled into this narrow and shallow slot in the canyon.
Enjoying a break in the cool shade above the narrows.
Enjoying a break in the cool shade above the narrows.

Now, with warm weather and sunny skies, it was time to hike as far up West Fork as time would permit. In the past, we have made it up and just beyond the “Camping Permitted” point which is around six miles up canyon. Years ago, we also did an end-to-end starting at Woody Mountain Road and hiking the entire length in a day. But since that “boot camp” day back in 1999, we have only hiked up from the bottom. This day was no different—except that we traveled farther up the canyon than any of our previous hikes. That’s a successful day. We spent about six hours hiking up and returned in about five hours.

Our friends were not able to commit as much time so they turned around after about 3.5 miles (i.e., after the “End of Trail” and just a bit beyond the first narrows).

Another narrows section.
Another narrows section.
Tree and sandstone wall.
Tree and sandstone wall.

The wildflowers were great. There were masses of Monkshood and Monkey Flowers—so I was motivated to get a photograph of both “monks*” in one shot. Nope. Apparently, they prefer slightly different conditions and while they would sometimes be close, they were never clustered together. Columbines were also in great abundance. And there were a few flowers we could not immediately identify but could certainly enjoy.

Monkshood wildflowers.
Monkshood wildflowers.
Columbines line the shore of West Fork Oak Creek.
Columbines line the shore of West Fork Oak Creek.
Stream orchid.
Stream orchid.

About a mile or so above the “camping permitted” sign we began to encounter thickets of brush from one side of the canyon to the other. These made forward travel very difficult. They also brought back memories of how challenging this section was back when we did the entire canyon. And, with that in mind, we declared that location to be our turn-around point.

Deep pool with overhanging sandstone wave.
Deep pool with overhanging sandstone wave.
Reflection pool.
Reflection pool.
The crux move. If you slip, you swim.
The crux move. If you slip, you swim.
Hiking through the narrows.
Hiking through the narrows.
Cairn marking the trail.
Cairn marking the trail.

What a fun (and tiring) day!