Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

The simple things in X-Pine Canyon

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on July 21, 2009

The simple things in X-Pine Canyon

X-Pine Canyon, 3BII
3.5 mile
Coconino West Clear Creek, tributary of West Clear Creek


Back in 2001 I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican-California border to the Washington-Canadian over a 4 ½ month period of time. One of the most wonderful aspects of the journey was its simplicity: walking, making miles, eating, drinking and sleeping; living in nature and enjoying its beauty. Though requiring a deeper skill set, canyoneering can also provide the simple pleasures.

A descent of X-Pine Canyon and a slog along West Clear Creek provided a bounty of the simple pleasures. After a drive along an intensely rough dirt road and a very easy approach hike we were in the bottom of the canyon. Several rappels and down climbs, a nice section of narrows through the trees and before not too long I could hear the sounds of Chris, Flagstaff Eric and Pat cliff jumping into West Clear Creek as Phoenix Eric, Laura and I cleaned up the rope from the final rappel, which incidentally had a very awkward overhanging start where you could easily flip upside down if you aren’t careful. When we caught up to the rest of the group at West Clear Creek we found an amazing swimming hole with several jumping points from up to 20 feet high.

Sun and warm water. Swimming, jumping and water bouldering. Lunch and conversation. Chris lost his camouflaged, sun brimmed hat that has seen three continents, in the bottom of the pool on one of his jumps. The once crystal clear water turned cloudy from our activity hid the location of the hat. Discussion on how to recover the hat, dives into the depths told us nothing but where the hat was not. Our society is faced with war, economic meltdown, foreclosures, state budget crisis and rising unemployment. As a newspaper photojournalist I see the lives of the people affected by these realities on a regular basis. On this day we were dealing with recovering a hat in the bottom of a swimming hole. Chris pointed down from the a boulder above, “I think I see it right there between those two rocks.” I dove down about 10 feet, grabbed the hat and returned to the surface with arm extended, hat in hand to add for dramatic effect.

Continuing down West Clear Creek Eric caught some crawdads, filleted them and we ate them raw; quality as good as the nine dollar sashimi in Phoenix. Some long swims, tricky travel over the algae covered rocks in the bottom of the creek, a good climb out of the canyon and the day was over all too soon.



One Response

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  1. Steve Schwartz said, on July 28, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    LAURA: Beautiful pictures. I envy you guys. I’d love to be out there doing those hikes/climbs/etc. For the time being though, at least until I retire (if ever), I’ll just keep doing the Shenandoah ridge and surrounding hills (which I do hike quite a bit).

    I hope you guys make some money taking those pictures, because I can’t think of a nicer way to earn a living.

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