Tonto Creek: Bear Flats to Hell's Gate
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Kris Sherwood
(Tuskadero) - F

Locale: Washington State
Tonto Creek: Bear Flats to Hell's Gate on 06/16/2011 21:40:44 MDT Print View

Totally and completely sick and tired of the Western Washington cool and wet winter/spring/summer, I headed for brighter skies and flew down to Phoenix to visit a friend and do an overnight canyoneering trip down Tonto Creek.

Arrived in PHNX thursday evening around 7 and headed immediately up towards Payson. After a Trader Joes stop and a dinner stop, we arrived at the Hell's Gate trailhead around 10pm.

The plan was to drop the car there, hike or hitch down the 6 miles to Bear Flats camp, catch some shuteye, wake up and hit the creek early Friday morning. We would then get as far down river as we could Friday, camp, and finish the canyon and make the long, steep slog out of Hell's Gate trail to the car Saturday. Totals were 6 mile to Bear Flats, 7 miles along Tonto Creek and 7 miles out Hell's Gate trail.

We threw on the packs and headlamps and headed towards Bear Flats. About 2 miles in to it we got lucky and were able to flag down a car and hitch the rest of the 4 miles to our first nights camp.

We woke up Friday morning at 6am to absolute clear blue sky (we would not see a cloud the entire trip. With temps near 90 for highs and lows in the mid-50's). We got all our gear organized in to our dry bags and started the brutal 7 mile bushwack/wade/swim/boulder hop/rock climb down Tonto Creek.

Although only 7 miles, this was one of the more physically and mentally grueling trips I have been on. By the time I made it to the car, my legs and arms looked like hamburger. Usually my friend and I are 3 mile an hour hikers, it took us 8.5 hours to get 5 miles to our campsite.

In the end, we had over 40 mandatory swims through a really incredible area.

The hike out to the car on the Hell's Gate trail was a long 7 miles, the first 2 or so gaining around 3000 feet in the dry desert heat.

My camera went pretty much dead 3/4 way through the trip...sorry. But here are the pics I did manage to take. Sorry for the less than stellar quality.

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Edited by Tuskadero on 06/16/2011 22:03:15 MDT.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Tonto Creek: Bear Flats to Hell's Gate on 06/16/2011 21:44:37 MDT Print View

Always bypassed Hell's Gate for the drier Superstitions or the Matzatzal. Nice pics.

Did you use the same footwear in the water and on the desert trails?

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tonto Creek: Bear Flats to Hell's Gate on 06/16/2011 22:22:51 MDT Print View

Great looking trip with tons of photos.

Thanks for taking the time to post them up.

Did you use a dry bag inside your pack to keep all your gear dry?

-Tony

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Tonto Creek: Bear Flats to Hell's Gate on 06/16/2011 22:37:24 MDT Print View

Thanks, Kris, nice trip report. It looks like it was quite the adventure. Funny to leave the rainy NW to get so wet!

Are those pool noodles in your packs? Were those helpful?

Kris Sherwood
(Tuskadero) - F

Locale: Washington State
Thanks guys! on 06/16/2011 22:48:28 MDT Print View

HK- yep, just used my trusty Brooks Adrenaline running shoes the whole time. Didn't have any issues hiking with wet feet

Tony- I can never compare to your trip reports but thought I would give everyone a little canyoneering taste.

Yes, I double dry bagged everything inside my Golite Pursuit. I put 4 grommets at the bottom of the pack for drainage.

Steven- yup regular old pool noodles. They worked great. Just get in to the water and arch your back a bit and you just motor along on your floating pack.