Fish Creek Backpacking Trip 2005: Day 1

Added 14 August 2005

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The Fish Creek Gang:  Brian D. (with Cherokee), Brad, Lori, Brian J (me), Shannon, Chuck, Jeff and Kyle (in front with CJ).Over the Fourth of July weekend, I organized a backpacking trip in the White Mountains. In attendance were, Shan, myself, Brad, Lori, Jeffers, Brian, Kyle, and Chuck, as well as Cherokee (Brian's black dog) and CJ (Kyles yellow dog). All of us coming from Tucson met Chuck at the uppermost Fish Creek trailhead (marked only with a large cairn at the road, and with a sign a short ways down the trail) at around 12:30 Saturday afternoon. We ate lunch and chatted while slowly getting our gear together.

A butterfly on Shannon's pack. Shan wanted a picture of her and 'her butterfly'.Butterflies were in abundance and when one landed on our car near me, I moved my hand in to pick it up. The beautiful black and white butterfly let me slide my index finger right up to it, then it crawled onto my finger and stayed there as I showed it to those standing near me. I have a strange (though not fool-proof) knack for getting various insects to land on sit on my hand when I want them to, so Brad, who knows this, exclaimed, "What are you, Grizzly Adams or something?" Heh, I only wish!!!

Once we were full of food we started hoisting our packs. That didn't last long though, because the shoulder strap on Brad's Jansport broke. So out came our pocket knives, and we rigged something up so that we could carry on (no pun intended). Then we all hiked down Fish Creek at a leisurely pace, gawking at the wildflowers, butterflies, and the landscape, while looking out to avoid the modest amount of poison ivy that could be found along the trail.

The hike down from the road (the cairn is visible in the lower right corner of the picture. A cairn marks the trailhead from the road, and this sign confirms you're on the right trail. Brad and Lori navigate over a fallen tree.

The trail never strayed far from the creek, as evidenced by the 41 stream crossings between the cars and camp, all of them doable without getting your feet wet. The trail certainly isn't always easy to follow though. Amazingly, I don't think the trail gets used much, for the path becomes indistinct in some areas. But however you wander down the Fish Creek, it is undeniably beautiful. Our hike was marred by only two (related) things. In June, Arizona Game & Fish poisoned Fish Creek for the noble goal of getting rid of the non-native, invasive species that had taken over and kicked out the natives. That meant that the creek was basically completely devoid of all animal life.

One of the many times that the trail crosses Fish Creek. Fish Creek. Everyone remarked about how neat these glacier lilies were (plant in center).

I am certainly glad that they are trying to preserve native species in certain streams, but it was disappointing not to see any aquatic life in the creek. All I saw were water skeeters and a few things that appeared to be sort of snail-like. My related gripe was that they had left a bunch of 5-gallon buckets along the creek that were a part of their non-native eradication program. The buckets were an minor but unwelcome intrusion on the otherwise pristine watershed.

Chuck, Brian, Shan and Brad make their way down Fish Creek. Shan, Jeff, Brian D., Kyle and Chuck take a break. There were plenty of flowers and butterflies around.

There were many nice open meadows like this in the upper part of the creek. Brad and Lori make their way down Fish Creek. Doesn't Kyle look a little top-heavy???

One of the garter snakes we saw.  I looks like a Checkered garter snake (Thamnophis marcianus), but this area was a little high for that species.Along the way we saw a number of squirrels, birds, a couple of garter snakes (I think they were Checkered garter snakes (Thamnophis marcianus), but this area was a little high for that species), and a couple of elk. We stopped a great deal on the way down, not only to enjoy the beauty, but also because people were out of shape and needed breaks, so it was after six o'clock by the time we stopped to set up camp about 7 miles down Fish Creek.

Our camp site.Once we got our tents set up, we set about filtering water. And that's when the trouble started. First, Brian's filter stopped working. He'd been using it all day, filtering water as we hiked, and it just up and quit. So I got my water filter out, and even though it worked beautifully a mere two weeks prior, my filter didn't work either! Fortunately, Jeff's filter was working, so we all relied on his filter for the rest of the weekend. It was a pretty weird deal.

Lori making the fire ring.While some of us filtered water, Lori built a very nice fire ring and gathered wood. After filling everyone up with water, we set about making dinner and got the camp fire going. Amazingly, there were no fire restrictions up there. People started dropping off to bed pretty early though, so the fire didn't last all that long. That night Shan suffered from really bad allergies, which meant that neither one of us got much sleep.

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