Added 11 September 2004
I was out of the sack by six a.m., with Jeff soundly sleeping away. I took advantage of a cool, leisurely morning by wandering the quiet canyon, simply enjoying the solitude. Jeff got up at around eight o'clock, and we slowly got ready to move camp up canyon another mile or so in order to be closer to Hannah Hot Springs. By mid-morning we had found our next camp, an idyllic little spot on a terrace above the creek. It even came complete with a small seep coming out of the canyon wall, supporting beautiful red flowers and a nice grove of trees. We also found a mascot. In the middle of the spot where Jeff decided to put his tent there was an old agave-type plant that looked sort of like Wilson from the movie Cast Away. So we called him Wilson and Jeff put him on a rock near the entrance to our camp.
Before setting out we set up camp and filtered plenty of water. Then we got our daypacks ready and hiked up Little Blue Creek to Hannah Creek. We then headed up Hannah Creek in search of Hannah Hot Springs. Hannah Creek was gorgeous, and had a different character than Little Blue Creek.
As we made our way up the creek we spotted a lizard that I believe is either a Gila Whiptail (Cnemidophorus flagellicaudus) or a Sonoran Spotted Whiptail (Cnemidophorus sonorae). He was shedding his skin when we found him, and apparently growing part of his tail back.
We knew we had found the hot springs when we saw three guys lounging on some rocks. We talked to them briefly then moved on, deciding to check out the hot springs later (hopefully after they had left). Quite frankly, I didn't feel like being around anyone else. As we continued up the creek, the canyon closed in and eventually we shed our daypacks so that we could navigate some of the deep pools without getting our gear wet, as there was no easy way to go around them. The water was rather chilly.
We continued up the canyon until we came to a pool with a four foot vertical waterfall at the upper end that would have been nearly impossible to climb up (pictures above). At that point we turned around and headed back down the creek. On the way down, Jeff must have had some inner ear problem or something, because within a span of about 5 minutes he fell in the water 3 times. The last time I was sure he was joking, but he says he wasn't. (Personally, I would have said I was!) After Jeff's exhibitions of style and grace, we saw an Blackneck Garter Snake (Thamnophis cyrtopsis) swimming in the creek. It dove underwater and stayed there for quite a while. Out of curiosity, Jeff and I sat around to see how long it would stay under water. It was underwater for nearly 25 minutes before it came up for air.
When we continued on we found that those guys weren't at the hot springs anymore, so we checked it out. The main pool was shallow and muck-bottomed, so we only felt the water. In the mid-afternoon sun it felt unpleasantly hot, and we decided to head further downstream to a large cool water pool we had encountered earlier. Perhaps others would feel differently, but Hannah Hot Springs is nothing to write home about, as far as the hot spring itself is concerned. I would certainly not recommend such a long journey just to bathe in the hot spring. The real treasure here is the surrounding area. Hannah is nowhere near a world class hot spring, nor even a state champion. My advice, avoid the hot spring and spend your time enjoying the canyons and mountains of the area. And a few more words about the hot springs. Let's face it, hot springs are popular. People like going to them. People are protective of hot springs that are away from the maddening crowd, and understandably so. So even though I don't think the hot springs itself is worth the 7+ mile trek to get to it, if you do go to Hannah hot springs, please, DO NOT BE THE MADDENING CROWD that everyone else is trying to get away from. Respect the solitude and beauty of the place. Don't be rude or loud, and absolutely don't litter or trash the place.
Anyway, when we got to our swimming hole, there were many small fish in the pool, and when we stayed still they would approach and actually nibble on our legs. I'm not sure if they were picking algae out of our hair or what, but it was interesting.
While in the area, in addition to the fish and snakes (we saw nearly half a dozen A Blackneck Garter Snakes), we also saw some cool dragonflies and a Madrean Alligator Lizard (Elgaria kingii).
The plan for the following day was to hike up Little Blue Creek past the confluence of Hannah Creek, travel through Little Blue Box Canyon, and take an overland route over to the Blue River and HU Bar Cabin and HU Bar Box Canyon. I had no idea what to expect as far as being able to get through Little Blue Box Canyon so wanted to check it out to make sure it wouldn't be too difficult with full daypacks on. After some confusion, we did make our way to the box canyon. What we saw at first made us hesitate. It was deep, and it looked like we might have to do a lot of swimming. I shed my pack and only brought my camera. Jeff shed anything not waterproof out of his pack and carried it so we would have water. The water was cold and deep, but not for very long. Once we rounded the bend, we discovered that the only deep pool was right at the entrance of the box canyon, so it wasn't too bad.
There were some large logs logged pretty high up in the canyon walls, a testament to how much water rips through the canyon when it floods. We also saw a baby Western Patch-nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis deserticola). It was the sixth snake we had seen that day alone! All of the others had been Red-Striped Ribbon snakes. We hiked all the way through the box and a short ways beyond it before turning around. We didn't want to have to swim back through the box after dark. There was still a little light left when we got back to camp, so I wandered a short ways before returning to camp for dinner.
Again, we went to bed pretty early, which is just as well, since we would get woken in the night. At around 11 o'clock, I awoke with a start. I heard rocks falling. I yelled to Jeff then moved into a fetal position as I felt a number of pebbles hit my sleeping bag and heard larger rocks hitting the ground around me. I realized my head was vulnerable so I tucked onto my stomach, at which point I quickly realized my spine was exposed so I rolled back onto my side, then immediately thought to roll myself under my sleeping pad, hoping it would cushion any larger rocks that came down, as long as they weren't too large. It was probably all over in 10 seconds or less, but it was a harrowing 10 seconds. After we thought all the rocks had fallen, Jeff got out of his tent and we started looking around to see what all had come down on us. While we did this we discussed whether we should move our camp that night or not.
I reached for my headlamp to find it already turned on. A rock had hit it, turned it on, and broken it so I couldn't turn it off. The headlamp was sitting less than a foot from where I was sleeping. There were two rocks within a foot or two of me that were about the size of two fists put together. Then Jeff went into his tent to look for something. At that point he noticed that his rainfly was INSIDE his tent. Along with a rock about the size of a soccer ball. We pieced together that this rock had fallen off the cliff, hit the base of the cliff and careened sideways, hitting the tent, grabbing the rainfly, and pulling it through a the hole it created in the door of Jeff's tent about two feet off the ground. The rock basically went over the top of Jeff, then hit the back of the tent leaving a small hole there before it settled to the floor. There was no more discussion on whether to move camp. It was a foregone conclusion.
We didn't really want to have to pack up all of our gear and hike at night, so we just moved our sleeping gear to a moderately level spot on the other side of the creek. While I lay there writing a poem, I realized that my camp stove had been sitting in between where Jeff and I had been sleeping. If a rock had come down on top of the pressurized fuel canister it could have blown up and seriously injured both of us. Having already been woken by a rock fall, I immediately got up and moved the stove so we didn't get woken a second time by an explosion.
Here's the poem I wrote:
All day the creek was soothing.
Pleasant friend, constant companion.
Now harmony has turned to menace.
Where once was a song, now a scream.
A rockfall near midnight changed the tone
As deep sleep turned to moments of terror.
Waiting, wondering, if the next THUD
Would be a piece of mountain crushing skull.
In the end, the cliff came down all around
Broke some gear and left a twelve inch hole in the tent
and we survived unscathed yet unhinged.
Now safely across the creek the night is still a knife.
Each jagged sound a red alert.
Each change in the rhythm of the water a bear coming near.
Perceptions of wilderness changed tonight.
A still dear friend found comfortably uncaring of me.
A smile. An easing of mind. And soon, sound sleep.