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Fossil Springs Weekend Trip

July 15, 2008

If you’re going to successfully live in Arizona without going desert blind and heat stroked, you need to know about its hidden gems and getaway spots. Most lie towards the edges of the state or in the high country. Why we cluster down in the steamy crotch of cactus town when the beauty and bearable temps lie elsewhere is beyond me. Also beyond me though is that most people are oblivious to the wonders that wait beyond the valley walls. That does actually end up being a good thing to those of us willing to persue nature’s beauty in the form of fewer crowds and the evidence they tend to leave behind, so I guess if you are one of those aforementioned inconsiderates, do us a favor and stop reading now. The rest of you, let’s take a look at Fossil Springs, Arizona.

Lying to the west of Strawberry and flowing down to the Verde and towards Campe Verde, FS is an environment all its own. Over 4 springs converge spilling a constant 20,000 gallons of crystal clear water each minute into the dry creek. Highly mineralized, the water throws off a greenish hue as it courses down waterfalls and forming excellent swimming holes. Many of the more popular spots are downstream nearer the Verde because of easy vehicle access. But for those that don’t particularly like unknown camp mates, hiking in is where it’s at.

2 options lie at your disposal that will take you past most of the litter and tire tracks and down to the springs and dam: (1) down the old flume trail or (2) dropping in from almost directly above your destination.

There are many people who enjoy the day trip thing, easy in, easy out, but for those like us who desire the true escape package, we’d rather ditch the schedule and dawn the packs for a few nights of cut-off adventure.

The first year we tried the less travelled Flume Trail (Chris, Steve, Jonathan, Jared, Michael). Besides the confusing route finding scramble up to the old road, the old Jeep trail was pretty even on ups and downs. 4 miles took roughly 2 hrs until the dam was in sight. This go ’round (Jonathan Jared, Michael), we took the more published trailhead and dropped straight in. Not too bad downhill, turning the equal 4 miles into 1.5 hrs, but pushing uphill on the way out with a 3day pack with a 1391ft elevation change really did a number on my knees. Our time out increased to 2 hrs but it was a constant uphill jobby.

Another great thing besides the sparseness of other people, being so close to the sourse of the springs really helps keep the water clear even after summer rains. The main attraction is just below the dam where rope swings, waterfalls, and jumps abound. The water is plenty deep enough should brave souls want to attempt the full height dam jump. We stuck mostly to the swing, underwater tunnel, and the cave-like area behind the falls.

Securing camp can be tricky especially if entering the canyon after dark even with just a few groups staying the night, there aren’t too many spots right on the water. We had the pleasure of nabbing an awesome secluded small spot with 2 rock walls on one side and water on the other. It was deep enough there too to hop in the 72 degree water whenever we wanted. Since guy-trip-camp-law prohibits tents, we brought our trusty two tarp setup; one for the bottom and one for the top if needed. Turns out we only needed for about 30 min Saturday evening. Other than that, the weather was great.

Surrounded by lush vegatation also gave us something else: wild blackberries. We picked a couple bowls and pretty much had them in every meal. Oatmeal with blackberries, granola with blackberries, cheese hotdogs with blackberry chili- you get the picture. Ooo did I mention we also saw fireflies?

Anyway, case in point, it was another very successfull trip. Even three days wasn’t enough time in this great lush wilderness spot. We will definitely go back again and again and will also keep searching for other places to lose ourselves in what I like to call beautiful un-Arizona.

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