It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Saturday morning the crew and I loaded into the Forester for some off trail work up on the Mogollon Rim. Average elevation? Nearly 8000 ft. Expected weather? 60 degrees. Amazing off trail hike through canyons nearly never visited? Check. What we expected was this:
But, when we got in the car, it was raining. As smart backpackers who have used the word Gore-Tex at least once, rain isn’t something that usually concerns us. However, as we drove further to the north-east the rain transitioned from “adorable” to “apocalyptic.” No one was smart enough to take a picture, but if memory serves it looked something like this: Image credit: Marc Averette, Wikimedia
Suddenly spending the day in “little visited, sheer walled canyons” didn’t seem like quite so much fun. Realizing that our chance of death:amazing trip ratio might be swinging in the wrong direction, we needed a backup plan. Since I had been smart enough to watch the weather the night before, I knew that the rain was supposed to ease off to the south-west, which, in combination with the need to stay at a reasonably high elevation to avoid the desert heat, left us with one option: West Clear Creek.
Early adopters of this blog should recognize this area, it was the subject of my very first post. On that trip I took the ridiculously difficult back route into the area to avoid the crowds. However, for those who desire a less “my lungs are going to explode” hike, there is a much, much easier route into the lower reaches of the stream. Since we were making this all up as we went, we took the easier option.
Call me an elitist, but I am almost always of the opinion that easier is worse. For one, easier means you will see more people. Second, if the trail is easy, that usually means you aren’t high enough to get great views. In this case, if you get an early enough start and avoid the crowds, this trail exceeds expectations on both fronts.
Staying above on a small shelf above the creek for most of the hike, big views of the canyon are the norm.
At the fourth crossing (about 4.6 miles) you have reached the last time you will see the creek and the beginning of the monstrous hike out. Smart people would turn around here, but masochists like me can turn this into a pretty sweet all day loop. We wanted to get home at a reasonable time, so we cut it off here. Views on the way out weren’t as good as on the way in, but still nothing to scoff at.
So who is this Lower West Clear Creek for? Well, if you want a great big super hard adventure, probably not you. If you want complete solitude, probably not you either (there were MASSES of people driving in as we drove out). However, if you want a nice stream side walk, a place to take your family before it gets too hot, or if you need to escape a horrific downpour in the high county Lower West Clear Creek will not let you down.
Want to go? Get the details HERE
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