Three plus one equals the days spent on the trail this past weekend! The plus one proved necessary due to the six-hour drive south to another of Arizona’s beautiful canyons, Aravaipa. Even the desert cannot contain the overflowing power of water, which in this instance is the cause of diverse vegetation and a high species richness. This trip was bountiful in its returns, for it provided exotic wildlife, clear water and sunny skies.

The lengthy drive was interrupted by a short hike to a natural bridge in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. The hike began atop the bridge, providing a memorable vantage point looking down into the small ponds created by the trickling shower of spring water falling from the bridge’s apex. The trail continued down and into the natural amphitheater created by the gaping travertine rock face. Back at the van we snacked on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then made our way to Aravaipa.

Temperatures reaching the low 90s greeted the group as we found the night’s camp. Here the group crafted a 4-cheese ravioli topped with a creamy pesto sauce paired with garlic, sriracha green beans. All of these goodies provided the group the necessary oomph for the upcoming backpack. After dinner, the group passed out gear, such as aqua mira (water treatment), stoves and fuel canisters in preparation for the backpack. Once the gear was distributed, the group was quick to bed! Unfortunately those who chose to go tentless had trouble sleeping due to the intrusive population of winged insects.

Monday morning came and the group was quick to eat breakfast, pack backpacks and grab a pair of trekking poles, which allowed for a proper traverse of the coming days’ hike. The hike brought the group down into the lush canyon along a shallow creek and far from civilization. For the most part, the trail and the creek were inseparable and left the group hiking in the shallow waters, which actually provoked gratitude due to relief from the hot desert sun. Moving upstream across slippery river rocks slowed the hiking which gave the group a better opportunity to absorb the riparian ecosystem. Five miles and dozens of fish sightings later, the group spotted the night’s camp. Eager to unloaded gear, the group set up camp quickly in order to go for a quick jaunt further up the canyon to explore one of Aravaipa’s scenic side canyons

Equipped with only a nalgene of water in hand the group was ready to traverse the many precarious boulders lodged in the drainage, which was most likely the result of the previous year’s flash flooding. During this excursion, the outdoor intern inspected a small water hole, which upon further investigation turned out to be more of an anomaly then a water hole. A 15-foot log did not have enough length for a depth check. The pool was about the size of a kitchen table. A resident and guide were determined to establish the depth of this anomaly and as a result, jumped from its edge and swam as deep as their breathe would allow. The depth will remain unknown until time’s end. The group returned to camp, ate dinner, talked recovery and found their sleeping bags.

The sun rose and the residents prepared to hike back the way they came. The infamous man-bunned guide known for his delectable cheese waters and his dinner shots was met with a debilitating stomach bug this morning. The group concluded this to be a karmic reaction of his incessant trolling of residents in the past. Nonetheless, he trudged on and relieved most of his duties to the other guide who is known for his handlebar mustache and his grandiose reputation at Flagstaff Athletic Club. The crew reached camp about midday, which left much room for tomfoolery.

On the shores of camp sat a school of fish, which provoked 3 residents to go fishing. A mesh tent was the most logical trap of course along with the residents flailing bodies in order to lure the fish into the trap or should I say tent. A valiant attempt, which reaped zero fish, still left the group confident in their innovative fish trap. The group, heads hung low, returned to camp for a consolation prize of macaroni and cheese and another A.A meeting.

Wednesday morning came sooner than preferred, for it was time to pack up and make the final push to the van. A two-hour hike downstream brought the group’s weary legs to the reprieve of the cushioned seats of the 15-passenger van. A stop at Inn and Out burger provided our tired bodies with a fraction of the calories burnt in the previous days. The group soon found themselves at ground zero and began scrubbing the stinky foot smell from the van.
Though some are reluctant to hike come Sunday mornings just about all return from the trip with a sense of pride from the weekend’s accomplishments. This holds true on Wednesday afternoon. All are left with another memory for the books and, most importantly, a better appreciation of a night’s sleep in an actual bed.