Having nearly killed ourselves hiking to
two weeks ago, John and I decided to take it easy this weekend
and do some "luxury backpacking" -- an easy hike into a familiar area,
bringing with us items we would not normally take on a backpacking trip (i.e.
alcohol). We picked Clover Creek because we were already familiar with the
area, having already made two trips there, and we knew that we would be able
to find some solitude there.
About a week prior to the trip, we found out that Janice and Danny would also
be camping on the Mogollon Rim that weekend. We suggested a campsite for them
near Pivot Rock Canyon, and we invited them to hike into Clover Creek to join
us for a drink at our campsite. The hike was easy enough that Janice wouldn't
have any problems getting there with her bad knees, and we were only planning
to camp a mile or two from the car, meaning that they wouldn't have far to
travel if they decided to take us up on our invitation.
Our backpacks loaded with the necessities as well as luxury items (i.e. five
liters of wine), John and I left for the Mogollon Rim at 5:30 on Saturday
morning, hoping that we could be at the trailhead by 8:00. That was when then
adventure truly began. First of all, we were going to go to Smith's first, but
as I drove out of the apartment complex, I turned left instead of right,
taking us to Einstein's Bagels first. Then, John realized that he had
forgotten his watch.....and his sunglasses.....and the compass! So we had to
go back home to retrieve these items. From there, it was on to Smith's to buy
ice and a newspaper. Finally, a half an hour later, we were ready to hit the
highway. We made one stop en route -- in Payson, where we purchased a bottle
of scotch -- before arriving at Clover Creek, an hour behind schedule.
But it really didn't matter what time we arrived, as we reminded ourselves,
because this was "luxury backpacking" and we weren't on a strict schedule! Our
plan was to take it easy. We would hike in until we found a suitable campsite,
where we planned to drop our gear and relax. Then, when we were ready, we
would take just our daypacks and bushwhack into Clover Creek until we could no
longer go on, at which time we would turn around and return to camp.
The plan seemed simple enough, and the fact that we had hiked into the dense
regions of Clover Creek before made it seem like it would be an easy weekend.
In fact, despite the slow start we had had that morning, things were
progressing rather smoothly. At 9:00 a.m., we began our effortless hike into
beautiful Clover Creek, which flows through the eastern end of the West Clear
Creek Wilderness Area. All of the meadows in the region were full of lush,
green grass, and all of the wildflowers were beginning to bloom -- it is
impossible for me to walk into that area and not feel a sense of peace, because
for me, this is paradise.
At 9:40, we came to a nice little campsite -- one that we had seen before,
during our previous missions into Clover Creek (see "Naked by a Road" & "Naked
in the Woods"). Someone had set up granite chairs around a tree stump "table",
and there was even an ample supply of firewood stacked next to the fire ring.
Though I could have continued hiking for a while, I suggested that we camp
there so that we could take advantage of its "luxuries". John agreed, so we
dropped our gear and set up our tent. Once we were settled, John pulled the
wine out of his backpack and began to serve it. Keep in mind that it was only
10:00 a.m. by the time we started drinking, but this was, after all, luxury
We remained at camp for about forty-five minutes, during which time a dozen
horses and riders passed through our site -- probably the most people we have
ever seen hiking in Clover Creek. Soon after they were gone, John suggested
that we get moving as well...but first, we had to bear-bag our food. John had
already had one successful attempt at bear-bagging, while we were in Mount
Wrightson, so we thought that he would be an expert. Of course, at Mount
Wrightson, there wasn't alcohol involved! Ten attempts, one rock, one bone,
and several photo ops later, John finally got the rope over the tallest branch
he could find, and we were finally ready to go hiking.
He wanted to hike until one o'clock in the afternoon to see how far we could
get. Then we would turn around and go back to camp. His goal was to cover more
distance this time -- maybe we would even reach Tom's Creek, which he has
always wanted to do. We hoped that the path we had cut last year would still
be there, making it easier for us to bushwhack through the wilderness to reach
At first, the hike was easy. John and I walked at a steady pace along the game
trail -- up and over ridges, through sunny, grassy meadows, across Clover
Creek -- until we reached the point where bushwhacking became necessary. And
that was when we learned a brand new lesson: "Sometimes you reach a point
along the trail where it just isn't fun anymore -- it becomes work. And that's
when you have to give up and turn back." Although we were able to find the
trail we blazed last August, it was now covered with more foliage, including
thorny plants that scratched up our bare legs as we passed through them. When
we weren't hiking in those awful plants, we were hip-deep in icy cold water,
which can be quite sobering if you've had a few drinks before hiking!
And if that wasn't bad enough, John cut himself with his handsaw while trying
to bushwhack his way into a very dense area, and I fell onto my rear-end, thus
jarring my recently-healed tailbone. At that point, I really wanted to turn
around, but my curiosity kept me going: I wanted to reach the same point we
had reached during our last expedition: the rock shelf where John had carved
"John loves Heather" onto the canyon wall with a soft chalk-like rock. I just
wanted to know if the inscription was still there.
We did make it that far, and John discovered that the inscription was still
there. I wanted to see it, so I tried to climb up the rock shelf, only to lose
my footing and fall, scraping the skin off of my elbow on my way down. I also
managed to get jabbed in the neck by my sunglasses, which had been tucked into
my T-shirt. At that point, I suggested that we turn around and go back to camp
because I was no longer having fun. He whole-heartedly agreed with me.
Before returning to camp, John and I sat on a flat boulder in the middle of
the creek to have lunch, only to discover that I had lost our summer sausage
and cheddar cheese somewhere along the way! Both of us were starving, but
there was nothing we could do about it but fill up on Power Bars and trail mix
until we got back to camp and try to look for our lost food -- and my lost
hair-scrunchie -- on the way back to camp.
Our return trip didn't go without incident. John fell several times, and I had
another bad fall -- again, I landed on my rear-end, on my pelvic bone. By that
time, I was so frustrated that I burst into tears and said, "I hate this
place!" John agreed with me and said that he never wanted to try bushwhacking
into that area again.
Finally, at 3:30 in the afternoon, we arrived back at camp, and we found that
there were people there: Janice and Danny had hiked into Clover Creek to join
us! They had been waiting for us for a while, and while they were waiting for
us, they helped themselves to our wine and had sex in our tent! John remarked
that he should have "Verley-bagged" -- or in this case, "Guckenburg-bagged" --
the wine (but, as we all know all too well, hindsight is a beautiful thing).
After Janice and Danny left us, we decided to clean ourselves up a bit -- and,
since there was no one else around, we had yet another chance to strip down
and play naked in the woods! (Of course, we have played naked in the West
Clear Creek Wilderness Area before -- on the
west-end, near Camp Verde -- and
we have also skinny-dipped in the waters at the bottom of the
#37, so we didn't add any new statistics to our totals.)
We dined that night on pasta and canned chicken and washed it down with wine.
Then, after dinner had settled, John decided to go exploring. He invited me to
go with him, but I declined because I was very comfortable wearing my sneakers
and sitting by the fire. So he went off alone into the woods. He climbed up to
the top of the hill next to our campsite and continued to go south until he
found an old jeep road that he described as a "grass highway". It was a good
road; he said that we could have taken the Oldsmobile on it, but it was part
of the wilderness area, meaning that it was closed to motor vehicles. As he
followed this road, he found the remains of an old cabin and another jeep road
that he suspected would lead us to West Clear Creek Canyon. Upon his return,
he described the beauty of the area and said that it definitely warranted
further exploration -- perhaps it could be another way to get to West Clear
That night, after finishing off the wine and most of the scotch, we crawled
into the tent and fell asleep. Though it was a little cold, I found that I was
able to sleep rather peacefully for most of the night -- and we even slept in
to 6:45 a.m. the next morning! Talk about luxury backpacking: that was the
latest we have ever slept in during a backpacking trip!
After an unsuccessful attempt to make pancakes for breakfast, John and I
decided to pack up camp and head back to the car. We drove into Clint's Well
for a decent breakfast of French toast, ham and sausage, and hash browns, as
well as orange juice and coffee -- "real" coffee, not the Folgers filter bags
that I use when backpacking. Full of food and very content, John and I then
drove back into the forest, where we planned to meet Janice and Danny for an
easy, 2.5 mile-long day hike into Pivot Rock Canyon.
Our "easy" day hike didn't go without incident, though. John suggested that we
do a "two-car shuttle", meaning that we would park my car at the other end of
the trail -- at Tom's Creek -- and we would park Danny's truck at the
beginning of the hike. John and Danny left Janice and me at the trailhead of
Pivot Rock Canyon while they drove my car to Tom's Creek. We didn't think that
they would be gone very long, so after a half an hour had passed, we were
beginning to wonder what was going on. When they finally arrived, John jumped
out of the truck and held up eight fingers: he had blown tire number eight!
(That is, that was the eighth flat tire we had had since we met.) "So, when we
finish the trail," he said, "we have to change a tire."
We began hiking through Pivot Rock Canyon, a very easy hike along a game trail
and an ATC route from the Pivot Rock Canyon campground, along
Springs, to Tom's Creek. The trail is very scenic. It crosses the creek
several times then cuts through green, grassy meadows. A mile and a half into
the trail, there are the remains of an old log cabin, next to a meadow.
Ironically, we also found Janice and Danny's campsite along the trail. They
had stumbled across the site by accident while following an old jeep road. We
had no idea that they were camped along the trail, and they had no idea that
that was the same easy trail we had told them about earlier that week!
Danny's dog, Sheba, provided us with some comic relief along the trail. Just
after we began hiking, she found some horse apples and decided to roll in them.
She had shit all caked in her fur -- Janice called her "Shithead" -- so Danny
threw her into Pivot Rock Springs to wash it off of her. Of course, after she
pulled herself out of the water, she ran up along side of me and shook her wet
fur, soaking my legs! Sheba also kept us amused by her clumsiness as well as
by her stunts. Once, during a creek crossing, she couldn't pull herself onto
the shore, yet, later on, she was able to jump up onto a fallen log that was
three feet off the ground! What a crazy dog!
Once we reached the end of the trail, we found the Oldsmobile exactly as John
had left it: with a flat tire! John and Danny changed the tire while Janice
and I tried to organize a way for all five of us to fit in the car. Then, once
we had the donut spare on the car, we drove into Clint's Well to have the tire
fixed. While the repairman worked on the tire, we had sandwiches and beers at
the same café where John and I had eaten breakfast.
With the tire repaired, we drove back into Pivot Rock Canyon to retrieve
Danny's truck and to say goodbye to Danny and Janice. It was time to head
home, where we could take a hot shower and tend to our wounds. After making
our traditional stop in Pine to get ice cream at the Texaco station, John and
I drove back to Phoenix. Another adventurous weekend was over.