Cold Fusion of Adventure
When it’s snowing you really don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about climbing boulders and wading through water for a hike with your girlfriends. But when you are an official member of “Arizona Women of Adventure” you may not have a choice. Two days of steadily falling spring snow had interrupted our warm, sunny weather and plans for my first hike of this very special and remote canyon. I expected our hike to be cancelled by Sara, our organizer and four time veteran of the remote, physically demanding Cibecue Canyon Falls hike near the White Mountains of Arizona. But what Woman of Adventure doesn’t quicken to the call of a 4 mile bouldering, wading, steep canyon wall hike with a thundering water fall at the end?
No matter how many times you hike into a steep canyon, it’s always a thrill. Lucky for the six of us, the drive to the trailhead took us down, down, down from our 7,000 ft home elevation of the Mogollon Rim. As we descended we got below the snow line. We knew we would be picking our way through the water and climbing boulders, so the absence of fluffy, white stuff was a psychological boon if nothing else. The water was still what you would call “fresh” if you are hard core. Downright cold if you are a “wimper”
As we parked at the trailhead I switched from my “water shoes” to my serious hiking boots. There was nothing tropical about this hike and some of the boulders we had to climb were room sized. I decided that if there came a point where I couldn’t feel my feet from the cold water, I at least wanted a good grip on the rocks. Lucky for us, one of our group is a geologist and we came to see the rocks and boulders as very special instead of obstacles.
“Are you ready for this” the “other Julie” called out when were forced into the water where the trail fizzled and the boulders were swallowed by steep canyon walk. I can’t say that I entered that water with enthusiasm, but most of enjoyment in an adventure is attitude. They don’t call us adventurous for nothing! Plus, outings like this improve your fitness and focus. With a combination of steep boulders and thigh deep water over loose rocks you have to consciously place every footstep.
As it turned out the water started to feel warmer the closer we got to the end of the canyon and headwaters. The water and “trail” zigged and zagged so much that every so often a totally new scene would unfold before us. Cibecue Canyon is a steep canyon of basalt and colorful quartzite. From down in it, you can never see all of it or even much of it as it rises in mighty stacks around you. With dozens of boulders to go around or over we migrated more and more to wading across the Cibecue Creek rapids with our walking poles for stability. Better to fall in the water than to fall from a boulder!
At last, we raised our arms and gave Tarzan yells when we turned a corner and saw the 100 foot waterfall at the canyon head. The waterfall thundered down into a deep pool that in better conditions begged skinny dipping. As we gathered on the rocky beach for lunch, we realized every step was worth this; drive through the snow, climb those boulders, slip on those rocks in the rapids, and yes, perhaps a touch of hypothermia….we WILL go back. Next time will seem so easy.