Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Quicksand and warm springs in Kaiser Spring Canyon

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on January 25, 2010

Kaiser Spring Canyon
8 miles
BLM land, northwest of Wickenburg


As a massive storm violently ripped through Arizona last week, pounding the state with rain and filling its reservoirs, David and I pondered what kind of outdoor activity we would be able to do over the weekend and still bring our dog. After talking with Mike he suggested Kaiser Canyon, a non-technical hike with tight canyon narrows and a warm spring.

The weather on Sunday was wonderful in Wickenburg with the highs in the upper 50s and clear blue skies. While driving northwest on US 60, other than wide sandy washes flowing with water that would otherwise be bone dry you would not have guessed such a powerful storm had passed through just days earlier. Parking under highway 93 we headed up canyon and were quickly surrounded by towering rock walls. The lower narrow section of the canyon that is normally dry had some flowing water and ice-cold pools that we can only assume collected from the storms earlier in the week. Along with trying to avoid the chilly pools of water on the canyon floor we encountered an abundance of quicksand that was hard to avoid and difficult to recognize. David seemed to have the most issues with the quicksand immediately sinking up to his shins after one faulty step.

Having Briscoe along for the day was fun. Geared up with his super doggie harness he rock hopped and splashed through the canyon. On the few climbing sections it was easy to pick Briscoe up like a brief case and carry him forward. (Click here and here and here for other adventures with Briscoe)

After the first section of narrows the canyon opened up to a sandy flat wash. We continued up canyon to a second section of narrows and riparian area. Fighting through thick thorny brush for a few minutes we gave up and turned around heading back down canyon the way we came. Retracing our steps with Briscoe in the lead we walked past where we parked the car and continued down canyon to the warm springs. I didn’t have the highest hopes for the pool but it turned out to be just warm enough to enjoy in the brisk late afternoon air. The temperature of the water was around 95 degrees. Briscoe made an island out of David and we all relaxed in a Zen-like state of calm.



The unexpected in the Blue Range Primitive Area

Posted in Southern & Central Arizona by canyoneering on June 3, 2009

Hannah Canyon and Hannah Hot Springs, 2BV
19 miles
Blue Range Primitive Area
05/30/09 – 06/01/09

We had never been to this wilderness before. We knew little of what to expect beyond tidbits of information online, in books and maps. It is the Blue Range Primitive Area in far eastern Arizona and consists of over 174,000 acres of rugged and raw country. The draw was Hannah Hot Springs; an isolated 133-degree hot spring in a narrow canyon in the middle of the Blue Range Primitive Area, 20 miles from the nearest civilization.

The approach began with a 13-mile drive on dirt road from New Mexico. We parked literally on the New Mexico side of its border with Arizona and crossed into our home state with a sign indicating “ENTER ARIZ” on a barbed wire fence. Under stormy but dry skies, four miles of trailless navigation over mesas and through dry washes brought us to the head of Hannah Canyon. We set up camp for the night on top of the rim above the canyon and before nightfall were treated to a massive full rainbow that spanned the entire valley.

The next day we made our made way down Hannah Canyon. After three miles of relatively easy travel the canyon narrowed up and we were faced with a number of down climbs and full on swimmers. There were no rappels but the difficultness of the down climbs was unexpected and was compounded by the fact that we were joined by our 20-pound dog, Briscoe. Assisting Briscoe with the climbs and swims we finally made it to the hot springs.

The hot water was welcome relief after the cold swims, especially for Briscoe, but with temperatures in the upper 80s and the catch basin of the hot springs in the full sun, dunks in the cold pools were necessary between soaks in the hot bath.

Our return route to camp included ascending two different conjoined canyons, one of which featured an amazing section of conglomerate narrows with logs wedged into the walls 25 feet off the ground, demonstrating the power of the flash food. Continuing we climbed up and over a mesa covered in surreal rock before dropping back into Hannah Canyon.

That night in camp a full rainbow resembling the one from the night before appeared in the exact same location as the earlier rainbow. The next morning with a sun bleached cow’s skull we left this new and exciting wilderness.