Haigler Creek

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Time: 4 days in September
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It's a hot Friday afternoon and I'm off to meet up with my hiking buddy's in Downtown Tucson. There's eight of us and we're planing on doing some canyoneering at Haigler Creek. The van heads off at 03:00 pm and there's a cheerful atmosphere within the group. We have been planing and training for this trip for a while now and it feels good to finally be off. After six hours of driving we reach our first goal, Hellsgate Wilderness, Tonto National Forest, Arizona. We're gonna sleep under the stars here tonight so we can get an early start in the morning. Feels great to be sung to sleep by the coyotes in the black night.

After breakfast and reorganizing our gear we say farewell to our driver that will meet us on the other side of the canyon in a couple of days. We sett our compass and head out through some heavy vegetation to reach the water that we'll be following throughout this trip. Haigler Creek is a part off the beautiful Tonto Creek and it feels like no other human ever sat their foot here, it's truly wild country. There's no trails to follow and the easiest way is to walk in the nicely cooling water. It's +15°C (59°F) in the water and +40°C (104°F) in the air. It's not just the temperature of the brown water that is refreshing, there's a lot of interesting creatures living in it to; spiders, insects, crayfish, snakes, fish, leaches, frogs and lizards.

The group consists of great gang of experienced hikers and we feel well prepared. We're just hoping that we have interpreted the Tonto Nationalparks Rangers right in their estimation on how long time it'll take us crossing the canyon. We have planed this as a three day adventure.

After some hours of wading, swimming and rappelling (at the big water falls we use our climbing gear) through amazingly beautiful and wild nature we make camp for the night in a quiet clearing. New dry clothes and some warm food makes you go to sleep quickly under a magnificent moonlit sky.

The next morning we greet the morning sun as we head of for another day of wet adventure. Today the plan is to meet up with our driver and head back home. So to keep our schedule we move as fast as we can without jeopardizing the safety, but pretty soon we realize that the estimate we got from the parkranger isn't realistic. By the time we get to the spot where we're planing to start out climb up the canyon its already getting dark. As we don't wanna climb this passage in the dark we decide to spend one bonus night out in the wild. Along with two of my buddy's we try climbing the nearest hill to see if we can get our cellphones to work. We realize that soon people back home will start worrying and wondering where we are. But as we already guessed there's no signal out here. As we wanna get a really early start in the morning we hit the hey as quick as possible.

We have one more section to swim before we can start climbing. So we get to greeat this morning's sun from the water. The climb is very steep and requires full concentration. The last thing we want right now is someone hurting themselves. Cacti and sharp rocks give us some scratches but noting we can't handle. When we finally reach the top we burst out in triumphant cheer as we realize we have navigated just right; there the trail is, right where we wanted it to be. This is the first trace of humans we've seen for almost four days. The thin air in combination with the heat is starting to take its told on our group. But by respectfully sharing the last of our snacks and drinking water we're able to keep focus. At 01:00 pm we reach our pick up point one day late. We are truly longed for; cheering and hugs is exchanged. After calling off the rescue chopper and refreshing ourselves with some water we head off to the nearest village for some well earned food. Around the restaurant table our newly won war stories are shared eagerly. And during the following six hour drive back home to Tucson we all together gratefully reflect on the fantastic adventure we've just been blessed with. And the fact that we all made it back home in one peace. Now the next challenge awaits; telling our families where we've been.

Lessons Learned
Always be a bit reserved when getting information from someone else on how long it will take to cover an distance. Always add a couple of extra days to the time schedule when expecting rough terrain. You are constantly wet when canyoneering.  :)

If you're a knife nerd like me you probably have been trying to figure out what knife I'm carrying in the pictures. If you want the answer; click HERE.