Reaping the Rewards of an Arizona Hurricane -
By Matt Marine
Finding Alien Life Forms
Mike, Angel, Cammie and I were hiking down from Carr Canyon Falls after hurricane Odile dumped four inches of rain there the night before. We were wet and thirsty, which seems oddly contradictory, but we'd left our water back in our vehicles. The only one who didn't seem thirsty was Cammie. She had enjoyed several long drinks from the clear water coming over the falls.
The climb down was more akin to being in an Amazon rainforest, than what you may think of as the Sonoran Desert. The mountains were intermittently hidden by thick mist and clouds, the air was heavy and damp with moisture and the vegetation was green, lush and overgrown. Even with ribbons that were helping to mark the trail, we had trouble staying on it.
At one point, Angel and I were climbing down a steep slope and Angel went to grab a tree branch for support, then said, “What the hell are those?”
I looked at the branch she was pointing to. Dozens of small amber colored capsules lined the underside of the branch, and many of the surrounding ones. The first thing that came to mind was the discarded egg-like cocoons from the movie Aliens after they hatched. Rain water dripped from the casings making it appear as though the creatures had just emerged from their eggs and were hunting for a host.
“I have no freakin’ idea,” I said back.
We took a closer look.
Although the imaginative part of my brain was screaming “Alien life form. Get the hell out of here before they jump on my face,” the logical side of me thought they were some sort of insect cocoon.
We also saw small gray beetles crawling around and wondered if they had come out of the cocoons. After a few minutes examining them, we took some pictures to document our find (either to verify we had finally discovered alien life or to help identify the insect they had come from) and moved on.
After returning home, I posted pictures of the strange capsules to the Weird Stuff You See Around Tucson Facebook page and some smart people told me they were Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Here’s a interesting video showing one molting.
Video: Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Molting
The Top of the Falls
At least we made it back to the Jeeps without becoming infected by alien life forms, or at least that we know of, I don’t remember what the incubation period is for aliens. Jennifer and Priscilla were gone and we decided to keep heading up the mountain to have lunch at the top of the falls, which was still hidden behind thick clouds.
It was at this point I began to wonder why we had not seen anyone else. Not a single person or vehicle. I would have thought others would have had the same idea as we had. Maybe the flooded stream had turned all the others around and they weren’t as bold as we had been.
"I am now thumping my chest as if I were Tarzan because I was so brave."
Or maybe they would be coming later and we’d just beat the crowds. Whatever the reason, it was nice having the place to ourselves. The road became a little rougher after this point, but I believe any high clearance 2WD vehicle could have made the ascent. The road began to switchback up the mountain and although fairly wide, I was somewhat relieved that all I could see were clouds and not the huge drop off that I knew was out there.
We parked at a small parking area at the top of the falls and walked down to the stream. The Forest Service has erected a tall chain link and barbed wire fence across the top of the falls. The sign stated this was due to many people losing their lives from getting too close to the edge. Although I would have liked to see it without the fence, for someone afraid of heights, it made me feel safer. Since we really couldn’t see much through the clouds, I don’t think it would have mattered anyway.
"Here's your sign."
- Bill Engvall
The spot wasn’t that great for eating lunch, so we decided to head up to the camping areas to eat. Not that far from the top of the falls, the road stops its all out climb and you wind your way up and down some small hills and valleys with Carr Canyon off to one side. It was breathtaking up there. Little streams and rockslides were around every corner and red, purple, yellow and orange flowers lined the road. Which, by the way, we still had all to ourselves.
Lunch at the Reef Town Site
We stopped at the Reef town site for lunch. No one was there. A wonderful clear stream cascaded through the area. We ate listening to a nearby stream cascade over rocks and squirrels fluff up their wet fur.
After lunch we went to the end of the road. Once again, the views were incredible. And once again, no one was there. Hmmmm. Seemed strange. We did a little more exploring, then began to head back down the mountain. At one spot next to the canyon, I found the clouds being pushed up and out of the canyon. I’d never seen that happen before. Very cool.
Video: Clouds rising from Carr Canyon
When we got down to the bridge near the bottom of the falls, I finally spotted the first vehicle since we’d crossed the flooded stream in the morning. It was a Forest Service truck. I stopped to take some pictures of the falls (most of the clouds had cleared, giving me an unobstructed view of the falls) and the guy in the truck walked up to my window.
“How did you get here?” he asked, more inquisitive than in accusation.
“We drove up the road,” I said.
“Didn’t you see the signs?”
“The road closed signs?” he said.
I shook my head. I had no idea what he was talking about.
"What's your sign?"
- Matt, if I was a smart ass
“ADOT put up road closed signs at the first crossing, right in the middle of the road,” he said.
“We didn’t see any signs,” I said truthfully. They were not there when we had been there. I also told him about the Forest Service vehicle which we had seen earlier and that they hadn’t said anything about the road being closed.
“What time did you come through?” he asked.
“About eight thirty,” I said.
He nodded. “They closed the road right after you came through.”
I told him that I had been wondering why we were the only ones up there the entire day.
He said, “No problem. You can make it back, right?”
“We made it through okay this morning.”
He grinned and wished us luck.
When we got to the second crossing, I was really surprised. They had taken a front end loader and cleared away all the debris and rock. It was just water flowing over the road. Very easy compared to the morning crossing. Same with the first crossing. We were able to go through these a little faster this time through.
As we exited the first crossing, we found the road closed sign across the road that the Forest Service person was talking about. There were also a line of cars and trucks turning around. They all looked at us with jealousy in their eyes, and I can’t blame them. If we would have arrived at the crossing five minutes later, we’d have turned around with the rest of them and missed one of the best days exploring ever.
It just goes to show that the old proverb, the early bird gets the worm - or waterfalls in this case - can come true.
Full-Sized Pictures From the Trip
Strange things on the bottom of the branches
Alien breeding ground?
Where butterflies come from...
Into the clouds
Watching the clouds rise out of Carr Canyon
Large beds of yellow flowers lining the road
Line of Clouds above Sierra Vista
Stream by the Reef Town Site
Stream by the Reef Town Site
Crossing the creek on the way out
Water crossing fun
Stream by the Reef Town Site
Info on Reef Town Site
Upstream from the top of the falls
Water about to go over the falls
Looking over the fence at the top of the falls
This wasn't the case the day we went!
Angel walking down from the falls
The sign at the top of the falls
Wet dog taking a break from the rain
"I'm cold and ready for my puppy nap."
Cat-dog napping on the way home
Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here.
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