Arizona is filled with some of the most amazing canyons in the country, scratch that, the world. Barring the obvious (Grand Canyon), there are hundreds of miles (thats right, miles) of lesser traveled canyon bottoms that wind and cut their way through the state. While many of these canyons only hold water for a few moments a year, there are some that sustain a trickle of water and a flood of life. That is not to say that the dry canyons don’t hold their fair share of wonder, but it is the water in this desert state that captivates me.
The canyon we visited today was one such wonder. In any state east of the Rockies I have no doubt this would be a national park. A wonder that attracted tens of thousands of people a year, to briefly walk its bottom on concrete paths and wooden boardwalks. To casually leave trash and detritus along the oft traveled path edges with the assurance a park ranger would pick up after their careless moments. People would gaze briefly at the walls, snapping a few pictures they would bring up and show friends of years to come. However this is not one of those places. This is the west. Natural wonders buried in millions of acres of public lands. Sitting there waiting for anyone curious enough to wander to its edge and scramble to the bottom.
One of my favorite canyons in all of Arizona is buried in these public lands. A spot I return to over and over again. Not necessarily for the hiking, the scenery or the fishing, but for a reason I cannot quite put a finger on or words to. This area has had its secret shared by trendy magazines like ArizonaHighways and by “hiking guides” on instagram. Which has introduced many more people to the area than maybe it should have, abused camp areas and plastic trash on the creek banks attest to this. I have no doubt some may recognize the place from the photos I have shared, so maybe I too am contributing to the sharing of this quiet place. However I would like to think that if someone recognizes these silent pools and deep canyon walls, that they too have been there before and can stay quiet so it will be there again.
We left Flagstaff early that late summer day. We drove past a herd of 2 or 3 hundred elk grazing in a dry lake bed. We were watched by curious antelope as we continued down the road. We turned off on a dirt road, watched by a silent Abert’s Squirrel. We wove our way through the headwater draws and valleys. We continued under blackened trees. We came to the edge of the canyon, the end of the road, the start of the trail.
The hike was short and steep. The bottom opened up before us, a large pool of blue green water. Perfectly still except for the rings of subtle fish rising, sipping caddis flies off the surface of the creek.