For you regular readers of Naked in the Woods, this story
is written by John rather than Heather.
My brother-in-law, Danny, and I had been planning this trip for several months.
I first read about this trip in a book called Canyoneering Arizona. The trip
sounded like a real challenge: A 10 mile hike on the Bell and Apache Maid
Trails, followed by descending 7 water falls in Waldroup Canyon and then
bushwhack, wade and swim through 20 pools in
Wet Beaver Creek. A 22 mile, 3
On Friday, Danny -- who had not really been backpacking before-- arrived at my
house about 5:15 in the morning. After transferring his stuff to my van and a
quick stop for gas, we headed off to the trailhead. We arrived at the Bell
Trailhead around 7:10 and began final preparations. I stowed my house keys and
my wallet in a hidden compartment in the van and asked if Danny wished to stow
his wallet, also. He said, "No, I'll keep it with me". Although I questioned
his decision I let him have his way.
We set off on the trail at 7:20 and quickly made our way down the
It took us only 40 minutes to get to the junction with the Apache Maid Trail.
We signed in at the trail register and began our climb. After fifteen minutes
of switch backing, we took our first break -- a quick breather in the shade of
a tree. We then climbed for ten more minutes and I had to call for another
break. Ten minutes after the second break and I called for a halt as my pack
was digging into my back. I had packed it too compact and it was riding poorly
and digging into the center of my spine. I told Danny that I needed to repack
my pack and he offered to switch packs instead. I agreed and, after putting on
Danny's lighter pack, we were able to complete the climb to the top of the
At the top of the rim there is a Forest Service sign advising that the trail
is not maintained after that point and that further use is discouraged. We
continued along following the cairns until we came to a old ranch road. At
this point we were not sure whether to go left or right so we arbitrarily
chose right. After walking down the road for 5 minutes I stopped and checked
the GPS and the topo maps. I discovered that we had gone the wrong way and we
had to back track. We went back and eventually found the trail. We continued
along the flat rocky trail for a mile or so and then took a snack break.
While we rested, I repacked my pack and we had a quick snack. We also noted
that we had drank a lot of water during our climb and that our water bladders
were nearly empty. We transferred the spare gallon I always carry to our
bladders and planned on stopping at the Apache Maid Tanks to resupply.
Thoroughly refreshed, we continued on our way.
The trail eventually became an old jeep road and the going was good. However,
when we got to the Apache Maid Tanks, we found them both bone dry -- not even
a mud patch remained. This was a real bad thing. Although we each had about 70
ounces of water left, we became concerned that if Apache Maid Tanks were dry,
maybe the Waldroup, Waldroup Place and Mullican Tanks were also dry. If that
was the case, we would have to continue hiking until we had descended Waldroup
Canyon and reached the springs of Wet Beaver Creek. This was not a prospect we
were looking forward to as it would lengthen our day by about 3 hours, most of
which would be descending the dry falls of Waldroup Canyon without adequate
water during the hottest part of the day.
Bearing this in mind we continued on and went easy on our water. After 2 more
miles, we crossed a small drainage and followed the road as we began to climb
over Hog Hill. When we came to a second drainage, I knew we were not in the
right place and consulted the topo maps and the GPS. Somehow we had gotten off
the trail. Instead of backtracking the 1/4 mile to the junction, we instead
set the GPS for where the topo said the trail was and beat it cross country
through the scrub oak and juniper. When we found the trail we discovered that
it had become a single track. We followed this rocky trail up hill for 10 more
minutes, when suddenly I started to feel light headed like I was going to
faint. I knew this was caused by the heat and the water rationing I had done.
I told Danny it was time for lunch. We stopped under a tree and while Danny
ate lunch I had some raisins and then tried to take a nap. Danny tried to nap
also. Although neither of actually slept, the 20 minute rest did us good and
soon we were able to continue. I however, had to do so without my sunglasses
as I had laid on them while I rested and broke them.
We continued our climb over Hog Hill topping out at 6300 feet. Just before we
reached the high point a Mule Deer ran across the trail (which had become a
jeep road again). After passing the point where we left the Apache Maid Trail
for the last time we crossed the ridgeline and began our descent into Waldroup
Valley. As we entered we could see the shimmering of Waldroup Tank in the
afternoon sun. There was water!!
We went toward the stock tank and scouted around for a campsite. We found one
nestled in some trees on a bench above the tank. We dropped our gear and went
to filter some water. The tank was surrounded with sticky mud. We found the
driest area we could and began to filter. The water was so silty it was like
filtering gravy! It took 45 minutes and 10 or 12 cleanings of the filter to
get a mere 1/2 gallon of water. We tried straining the water through a towel
and a t-shirt but nothing helped. We even let a half gallon sit for 3 hours to
see if the sediment would settle but to no avail. We did get enough water to
get us through the night.
After filtering, I went back to camp, which Danny had been setting up. Danny
told me that he had accidentally set Heather's Therm-a-rest, which he had
borrowed, on a sharp stick and popped it. I also discovered that Danny had
brought a newspaper to read! We made dinner and, while we ate, discovered that
our camp was inundated with mosquitoes, gnats, beetles and ants. After dinner
we made the decision to leave our packs and supplies in the trees and move our
beds. While searching for a better site, I walked to an overlook of Waldroup
Canyon. The view was not what I had expected. The canyon was narrow and tree
lined. I could only see a few hundred feet of the canyon but, I liked what I
saw. We eventually chose to sleep in an open meadow a hundred feet away from
the trees where we first set up. There we watched the sun set and moon rise
before falling asleep around 8:00p.m.
After sleeping on and off all night, I awoke at 5:15 and immediately packed my
bed up and began the tedious tack of trying to filter some more water from
Waldroup Tank. It took another 45 minutes to get another half gallon. Danny
had awoke at 5:45 and we began to pack up our camp. After a quick breakfast of
Pop-Tarts we set off at 7:00 a.m., hoping to beat the heat.
We entered the canyon mouth fifteen minutes later and began our descent. The
going was mainly a lot of bouldering along with some easy scrambling. The
waterfalls were a challenge. The first one was easy. A simple scramble led us
down. The second one was a shear cliff with a 25 foot drop, however, there was
a route around to the left. The third fall was like the second, also with a
route to the left. The fourth fall had a route to the right and required some
scrambling. The fifth fall was the scariest, but not too bad. It required that
we lower our packs down on ropes and then climb down a vertical wall for some
20 feet. The sixth and seventh falls were in limestone. On the seventh, we
again lowered our packs and scrambled down an area to the left of the falls.
10 minutes after the last falls, we reached the bottom and the junction with
Wet Beaver Creek. It had taken us 2 hours to cover the one mile long canyon.
We rested at the bottom for a few minutes and the headed downstream to the
springs. The canyon at this point is all boulders and we hopped from one to
the other for a half a mile until we reached the springs at 10:00 a.m. We
spent an hour at the springs filtering water. It was easy to filter this cool
clear water and in no time we had topped off. After tasting it, I joked to
Danny, "This is the best tasting Wet Beaver, I've ever had".
After the springs, we immediately entered the first cool pool. We put on some
water shoes we had brought. The water was waist high and the bottom was very
slippery. After wading that one we came to the first swimming hole. The hole
was about 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. Danny's first attempt at swimming
was a flop as he had left his waist belt undone. I told him to just hook it
up, but he decided he'd rather use the child's pool inner tube we had packed.
While he blew up this neon pink ring, I swam the pool and waited for him on
the other side. He put his pack in the ring and swam across, then donned his
pack and carrying the ring followed me down the creek.
The journey downstream was arduous. When we were able to walk on shore we were
hopping across vast boulder fields. These fields would dead end into a wall or
the creek and then we would have to fight our way through the willows that
lined the creek. Once in the creek, we had to try to stay on top of the
boulders in the creek as the creek bottom was so slippery it made walking
nearly impossible. We crossed back and forth from shore to shore picking our
route the best we could. We continued to get scratched and battered as we
battled our way amongst the trees and rocks. Every half hour or so we would
encounter another pool that had to be swum. We swam 6 in all on Saturday.
2 hours from the spring Danny finally decided to give up on the pool ring and
put his hiking boots back on. I had changed back to my boots after the first
swimming hole as the water shoes I had been wearing gave me no support or
traction. We hiked on and on resting and checking our location every hour. The
going was slow and agonizing. Then, the rain began.
It started as a drizzle, but soon it forced us to take shelter under the tube
tent I had brought. We sat under the tent for 15 minutes until the rain let
up. I did not realize it but while I sat, ants had been crawling on me and as
we began moving again, they started biting. We hiked another thirty minutes
before the rain hit again. Again, we hid out in the tube tent until the rain
passed. Then, we decided to just ignore the rain and make what ever progress
we could for the day and find a suitable camp. At nearly 5:00 p.m. we found a
gravel bar on the inside of a corner in the creek. We had been hiking for
almost 10 hours and only covered 5 miles. There was a slight overhang and an
small alcove to store our stuff in. We soon discovered that most of our stuff,
including our clothes and sleeping bags were wet.
We made dinner and I then immediately tried to go to sleep. I was unsuccessful
and soon the rain began again. We moved against the canyon wall and pulled the
tube tent over our heads to keep the rain off. We eventually fell asleep like
this. I awoke around 9:30 p.m. to find that the rain had stopped and the sky
had cleared. I moved away form the wall and fell back asleep. I slept poorly
most of the night.
We awoke the next morning around 5:30 and after our breakfast, packed up camp
in order to get another early start. We knew we had 7.5 miles to go and that
3.5 of them were in the water. We set out at 7:00 a.m. and almost immediately
came to a pool. We had to swim 4 pools in rapid succession. By 9:00, we had
covered a mile and a half of pools, rocks and slick creek bottom. We were
anxious to get out so we kept our breaks short -- just long enough to get our
bearings on the GPS. We kept going and the pools became more numerous. In all,
we swam 15 on this day. Around 10:30 we discovered a spring and a unique hole
in the rock. The hole looked like a five gallon bucket would pit perfectly
into it, yet it was just a natural occurrence. While examining the hole, we
noticed a problem with the next pool we had to swim -- there was no way out!
The pool in question narrowed to about 20 feet wide and 40 foot Supai
sandstone walls defined it. However there was a twenty foot tall log jam
completely clogging the creek. It looked like our exit had been closed!! Going
back was not an option, so we scouted a route around the blockage. We climbed
up a slanted sandstone slab to the right of the blockage. This took us up and
over the logjam but the route dead ended on a ledge 30 feet above the water,
which was only 2-3 feet deep. There was a dead tree growing about 8 feet away
from the ledge with a lone limb that extended to the ledge. I was unsure if
the tree could support us, but after dropping my pack and a very scary climb
out on the limb, I was able to shimmy my way down to the ground. During the
attempt, I got a severe friction burn on my left fore arm from the bark. Danny
then lowered our packs down and then climbed down himself.
We continued, slipping, and hopping, and hacking, and swimming our way down
stream. Finally, around noon we reached Bell Crossing. Here we saw the first
people we had seen in 3 days. After swimming the last hole of the trip we
emerged from the water and rested next to the Bell Crossing trail sign. We
squeezed the water out of our socks and prepared for the final part of our
journey. From here to the van was a 4 mile trail. No more boulders. No more
slick creek bottom. No more willows. And best yet, no more water!
We had taken no more than a dozen steps down the Bell Trail toward the van
it started to rain. Being this close to the end we marched on. Before we would
get to the van the rain would get harder and harder and at one point we were
even pelted with pea sized hail. We made the 3.5 miles to the van in just over
an hour. As I put my key into the lock to open the door the rain stopped.
Danny and I threw our wet gear in the back of the van and changed shoes. It
was here that Danny discovered his wallet was completely soaked.
With hugs for each other on completing our adventure, we got in van and headed
for Camp Verde. There we called our wives and Danny bought sub sandwiches. We
then drove home. It was a great trip!