Into the Blue River Valley 2: A trip Report

2015-08-21 Day 2

We woke up at sunrise. The sunlit clouds were inspirational.

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We weren’t disappointed by the change of plans, because this wonderful place made us feel blessed. The rain had not returned. We had a quick breakfast of bananas and the last of the porridge, which we smothered in vanilla yogurt. We had a decision to make. I was determined to inspect the Blue River. The road was for all we knew not passible, but it would make for a hike. We had a weather forecast for Alpine, of 60 percent chance of rain, the monsoon was still on. Although we were seventy miles away and 4000 feet lower than Alpine, we knew that that rain would be coming up from this direction from Mexico by afternoon.

We took off down the road.

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The road went on and on , but it didn’t go deeper!

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In the far distance, we could see the neighbor’s white pickup truck on the other road that would take them to meet the Blue River, three miles south and away from us. The road ran along the ridgeline of the layers of rock, dipping at each small gorge and then would go back up again.

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It was wise engineering to use the layers of rock bed as they made a surface of near concrete solidity.

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But for us, it was a tease AND it was continuously either up, or down.

We came to the particularly rough spot where we had turned back. Laughably, after that, the road became much better. Steep, but very doable in the 4runner. Finally a steep spot appeared to head down into the canyon.

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We could now see the treetops below.

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When we reached the bottom, we found a river rock wash, but once again the road went steeply up. “Ah mayan!” When we arrived at the top, we found one of the ATV’s parked, the driver was out hunting animals somewhere.

Looking back at the teaser from next to the ATV

Looking back at the teaser from next to the ATV

The next dip around the corner finally was the real deal.

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We descended into a grassy paradise, filled with ancient cottonwoods and tall brush. IMG_1867

The old barn was still there, a plaque of a sign explained the wolf reintroduction program and what to do in an encounter.

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We made our way through the brush to a piece of wood that had “trailhead” painted on it.

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There were three trailheads listed on the map, but three were not to be found, now. Even this one had no trail.

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We climbed through the brush and the rich familiar smell of an Arizona riparian area to the river. It is a creek really, today. Maybe the water is 20 feet across and mostly ankle deep. The river rock below the surface is treacherous. Their smooth round surfaces are coated with algae, but tributaries have added a collection of silty mud. Each step was delicate, slow and precarious with a good current.

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We saw a couple of nice boulders downstream and decided that that would be a nice place for a snack lunch. They were still shaded by the cliffs next to it and we needed more water and wanted to get wet in the cool stream.

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We discovered a deep swimming hole next to them, after the rapid’s flow.The sun’s shadow slipped slowly back as we rested and ate.

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Our last bath had been a few days before. A wash cloth and generally airing out in the breeze and sun, as we stayed nude, kept us from that clammy textile feeling. Still, we needed a good wash in that cool river.

I think that I learned something. In Arivaipa Canyon (See Timing is Everything in Paradise, August 2015) in the spring, we had walked through the creek for miles. When we did this same route in an August, the same rocks were much more slippery, as I found there this late July. My theory is that the daily rains bring soil down through the dry tributaries, coating the rocks like this. This would be a better hike for the spring. The lesser waters would also be less troubling, the brush would be less thick, but with new growth. It was tough just crossing to the boulders. A 4.2 mile trek upstream would take all day like this. The danger of flashflood had been demonstrated. The ranger in Alpine warned us as we left, that a rain up there would make a flash flood way down where we were. Even though we now knew that we could drive down here, it would be an ordeal trekking in the wilderness. Rain was predicted, torrential showers likely. Another time would be appropriate. The hot springs backpacking trip into the wilderness for three days would go back into the bucket list.

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Now, we had to figure out what to do for today and the next two days. Another factor in our abort of the plan decision was that it was getting hot down there. The climb out was going to be much hotter. The greater intensity of the day’s sun was coming in about twenty minutes and that would be a two hour hike. The greater heat would follow, and the rains would come after that. We could stay there all day and hike out possibly in a lightning storm, or leave now and cover our shoulders. I had a sarong and I gave the umbrella to DF for sun protection. We filled up our bottles, got psyched for the climb, and then just sat in paradise for a little while longer.

We explored a tad upstream.

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The place was just compelling.

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There were prints left from a large deer and a raccoon on a beach. Suddenly, we heard the rustle of a large animal just right there in the bushes, on the other side of the river/creek, the deer!

If we beat the rains, and clouds were accumulating already, we might make it back to the alpine mountain ecosystem for a couple more days of pleasure in that user friendly cool environment.

We paid our respects and blessed the man who had homesteaded this place. He is buried in an iron fenced plot in this place that he loved and endured in his cowboy way, 1857 to 1916.

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The road was just as up and down as before. It seemed longer in the heat.

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We could feel the heat exhume from the rock face with our naked bodies. We rested at every shady opportunity and drank water there. We didn’t stop often for lack of these opportunities as the sun approached noon.

I laughed at maybe the stupidest thing I’ve done, Standing in the sun taking a pic of DF in the shade

I laughed at maybe the stupidest thing I’ve done, Standing in the sun taking a pic of DF in the shade

It was necessary to march. DF told me that she counted her steps up each hill to keep her pace, “That one was 700 hundred steps.”

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She tried the thought of herself as Mary Poppins with her sun umbrella that would float her up the hills, but it didn’t work.

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Her prayers for help did accomplish some of the climbs. Clouds were accumulating and this brought us relieving shade, at times.

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We got back to find our two chairs sitting in shade under a pinion pine. The two Seltzer and limes poured into the last of the cooler’s rocks was heavenly. DF made up a quick protein shake with a mix and the small ice-cubes.

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The storm clouds were around us, there was thunder. We had at least a one hour drive until pavement. With DF’s help, I packed as quickly as possible to beat the risk of flashfloods.

Bare rock creates funnel and then flashfloods

Bare rock creates funnel and then flash-floods.

We could see the area much better during this return trip through.

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The rains had made the hillsides very green, which contrasted beautifully with the color in the rock formations. It was delightful, though a long intense drive in 4×4 mode.

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At one point, we came around a bend and saw a cattle guard.

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On the other side was a cowboy rancher up on horseback staring down at us. We quickly jostled to cover, in our complete surprise. Unless the glare of the sun on the window blocked his view, he very likely saw two naked people scrambling for cover-ups. I had slowed to 1st gear, nearly stopping. Now presentable, we waved and smiled in passing. He just looked grumpy and stoic, no wave no greeting. He probably doesn’t like tourist in his kingdom of grazing permits. We crept past his three dogs that didn’t understand vehicular traffic at all. One acted as though it might run along and follow us home.

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We did beat any storms. We encountered rain out on the highway here and there as we ascended the mountains. Our destination was “That-a-way.” Now, the only plan that we had was to check the maps and time before dark, when we got closer to Hannigan’s Meadow.

 

 

 

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