Outsiders picture Arizona as nothing but a hot, dry desert, completely devoid of water, life, and relief from the oppressive, omnipresent sun. Being early August, most people around Phoenix would be inclined to agree with this statement.

But if you stop for a minute, and take a look – by which I mean actually go out and explore Arizona – you might be surprised what you find. There are stunning mountains, valleys, rivers, and if you look in the right place, these green things called plants. They’re pretty cool. Last fall, I stumbled upon my own Arizona oasis tucked away in the hills near Payson. It’s called Christopher Creek.

Christopher Creek actually isn’t all that hidden or secret. It’s actually an extremely popular destination for families all around central Arizona. It offers the sun-scorched residents of Phoenix a chance to splash around in crystal-clear pools while enjoying the cooler air of the Mogollon Rim.

A downside to the creek’s popularity is that the entrance is littered with plastic bottles, beer cans and an assortment of other trash. But a long, rambling complaint about the pollution and degradation of Arizona’s wilderness is a sad story for another day. I’m sure what you, the reader, really want to hear about is what kind of exciting, fun things you can do at Christopher Creek.

During my trip to Christopher Creek (or C2, as how I will refer to it for the rest of this post), I was lucky enough to go with my friend Brent, who just so happens to be an expert canyoneerer[1]. Canyoneering the act of traversing through canyons – often by whatever means necessary. This includes everything from hiking, scrambling, climbing, jumping and most famously rappelling. (During my various adventures with Brent, I have rappelled down cliffs as high as 300 ft.[2]). Accompanying us on our trip was my proud, Chicano amigo Rene[3], and my other friend Star, a first time canyoneererer.

C2 is an amazing place for canyoneering. The water is clear and cold; so even on a pretty warm day you have to wear a wetsuit. Over hundreds, or possibly thousands, of years, the flowing water of the creek has etched into the rock, creating all kinds of cool formations and markings that I could tell you about if I knew anything about geology.

All sorts of green trees, shrubs and cacti grow from the edge of the creek up the canyon walls. Once you pass the point of the first technical rappel, its unlikely that you’ll see another person from outside your group. Being down there makes you feel cut-off and isolated, but in an incredibly exciting and uplifting way. It’s like you’re an explorer venturing off in to uncharted territory, or an astronaut who’s just discovered a new world. It’s a feeling that all outdoorsmen[4] strive to experience.

Christopher Creek is one of my favorite canyoneering spots in Arizona. It has so many climbs, jumps, slides and swims that you feel like you are in a water park. Only, you know, without all the urine.

Everyone was having a great time, especially Star, who was being converted to avid canyoneerererer.

After a few hours of swimming and hiking we were nearing the end of the creek. At the last waterfall, our guide Brent announced that we had the option of jumping, rather than rappelling down. The fall would be about 30 feet.  Being the cavalier, young thrill-seeker that I am, I shouted, “Lets do it!”

Without consulting the other members our group, Brent picked up the rope and the rest of the gear and chucked over the edge.  Now, we had no other option but to jump.

Brent was the first one over the edge; grizzled and experienced, he showed no hesitation in leaping into the water below. So as not to appear less manly, I quickly followed suit. Next up was Star, but she didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for falling from high places like Brent and I did. It was a team effort trying to get her to jump.

Standing behind her, Rene attempted to reassure Star and calm her fears, while Brent and I teased her from the water below. Finally, after what seemed like half and hour, Star was able to summon the courage and go for it. She backed up, and then started sprinting towards the edge of the cliff.

Canyoneering at Christopher Creek

Unfortunately, Star seemed to use up most of her courage during the run. At the very last second, she tried to stop. But it was too late; momentum and gravity had won. What resulted was either a terrifying fall, or the worst looking dive I have ever seen. Star tripped, rolled down a steep incline, and then fell 30 feet into the water below – landing on what appeared to be her face. Terrified, Brent and I rushed back in to get her; I thought she was knocked out.

Luckily, Star turned out to be okay. Everyone was tremendously relieved that she wasn’t hurt. Well, to be honest, I thought the whole thing was hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing for about 10 straight minutes[5]. Still, Brent said it was the closest anyone has come to dying on one of his trips.

I have great memories from Christopher Creek.



[1] Yes, I know that’s a lot of er’s

[2] It’s actually not as hard or as dangerous as it sounds.  You just need to make sure you tie your knots correctly.  Also, don’t let go of the rope.

[3] I’ve actually never heard him use the word “Chicano”.  But I like the way it sounds so I’m going to use it.

[4] And outdoorswomen! This isn’t a sexist blog!

[5] But only after I knew she wasn’t hurt.  I’m not a monster.  So don’t judge me; if you had seen it you’d be cracking up too.