Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Apache Trail, our hometown canyon

Posted in Southern & Central Arizona by canyoneering on June 12, 2009

Apache Trail, our home town canyon

Apache Trail Canyon, 3B/CII
3.5 miles
Tonto National Forest – Superstition Wilderness
02/25/08, 04/11/08, 11/28/09

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From the front door of our house to the head of Apache Trail Canyon is only 45 minutes. David and I have descended Apache Trail Canyon a number of times and each time is a wholly different experience.

Our first outing to the canyon we did as a hike completely bypassing the small technical section. Mike, David, Pat and I hiked down and through the canyon. There were deep pools of water to avoid but no real flow. One highlight was seeing a humming bird sitting in its tiny nest.

The second time through the canyon was during an ACA (American Canyoneering Association) beginners- class. Having just been through the canyon as a hike about a month earlier David and I were surprised to learn about the technical section! During the class we practiced a meat anchor and a few other techniques that were new to us at the time. There was very little water and the pools we had to avoid a month earlier were non-existent. With the water gone we were able to explore some killer caves created by rock completely covering a portion of the canyon. This class was also where we met Chris and Eric who would soon become awesome and trustworthy canyoneering partners and friends.

Following the ACA class we returned to Apache Trail to run drills to practice our newly acquired skills in ascending.

After pressing play on video, press pause & allow a minute for video to load & buffer before viewing. Thanks!

Our dads on their first canyoneering trip, in Apache Trail.

Our next full descent of the canyon was the day after Thanksgiving. Every year for the past seven years David and I have hosted Thanksgiving. Both sets of parents and any available siblings usually fly in for the holiday. This past year for a post Thanksgiving adventure we took both of our dads canyoneering through Apache Trail Canyon. Both of our dads are in great shape so we knew physically they would be fine. It is the mental aspect of canyoneering, as in any outdoor sport, that you cannot prepare for. Confidence in the outdoors comes with experience. My father does not have a lot of experience in the outdoors.

It had been raining for the past few days leading up to Thanksgiving but the weather had cleared by Friday. After a short hike to the first rappel David and I knew the canyon was going to be showing us a side we had not seen before. The rappel was through a waterfall into a deep pool that was cold and flowing. David and I had given my dad a quick tutorial on how to rappel and luckily he paid attention. As my dad stepped over the edge of the rappel the rope proved to have too much slack and he swung into the wall. Looking up about 40 feet and seeing my father slam into a rock wall was terrifying. To my father’s credit he never once let go of the rope or panicked. He banged up his elbow pretty bad but was otherwise was no worse for the wear. I think I was much more shaken by the incident then he was. I knew if anything happened to my dad not only would I feel horrible and guilty, my mother and sisters would kill me. I was at my dad’s side the rest of the day. I could tell my dad was exhausted both physically and mentally; he had reached his limit yet we had to press on. I took care of him the best I could with constant words of encouragement and the promise of nachos and beer in nearby Tortilla Flats on the drive home. The remainder of the canyon had numerous down climbs and some long swims. After hiking back up to the rim at the end of the canyon we saw a tarantula and I found another horseshoe for my collection. When all is said and done Apache Trail Canyon with my father was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

-Laura

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4 Responses

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  1. Eric Luth said, on June 22, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Laura, I love your dad’s interview. Classic

  2. […] our dog, Briscoe instead. Lee went canyoneering with us over Thanksgiving (along with my father- click here to see that blog post) so he had an idea of what to expect. Sarah on the other hand is a brilliant city girl without a […]

  3. […] sister hiking while they were in town visiting from the East Coast for Thanksgiving (click here and here for previous adventures with David’s family). With each stream crossing Sarah and Marsha […]

  4. […] the short, sweet and straightforward Apache Trail Canyon,that I have descended many times. (Click here to read about previous descents of Apache Trail.) After rappelling into the Narrows the rains […]


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