My family loves to find good swimmin' holes near us in Arizona. The best ones are in designated Wilderness areas, and the best way to enjoy them is to follow a hot hike with a quick plunge from a cliff.
Now, I've never been one to leap casually into space. I'm not fond of the falling sensation, so every roller coaster and similar plunging ride I've taken has been with my eyes closed, screaming. Other family members describe the feeling as a "rush," but to me the weakness in my abdomen and legs is something to be endured so as not to be the only one who didn't participate. In other words - the chicken.
In the same vein, I don't plan to try skydiving. A crashing airplane I would swiftly exit with a parachute, but why jump from a perfectly good one?
Back to the subject at hand, which is Beaver Creek in Wet Beaver Creek Canyon. We hiked Bell Trail No. 13, then veered off on one of many "social trails" as the Forest Service terms them, to a spot we've termed "Boulder Pool." Though the boulders are probably only about 10 feet above the deep pools in Beaver Creek, it looks like a long way when you stand there looking down. Still, the rejuvenating cold water makes it worthwhile.
Cooled off, we ate lunch, hung our rope hammocks, and relaxed. When we got too toasty, we plunged in again. We spent a long while there before packing up and moving to our ultimate destination - "The Crack."
It seems everyone who hikes the Bell Trail with the intention of swimming has heard of The Crack. It's about four miles in, with cliffs from about 12 to 30 feet in height. You drop into deep dark pools and don't touch bottom. My son jumped from the 30-foot spot, but the rest of us did not. I would have to be drugged, dragged to the top, then pushed off, in order to do that.
Because The Crack is a popular spot, despite the length of the hike to get there, we waited until late in the afternoon to go, when the crowd had thinned out. We almost waited too long, because it was almost fully dark by the time we got back to the parking lot. And you do have to go back, because no camping is allowed.
Although very tired at its end, we enjoyed a great day.
The Bell Trail meanders through the smallest of four main canyons in the Coconino National Forest's red rock rim country along the southern rim of the Colorado Plateau.
Charles Bell built the trail in 1932 to move cattle up and down the Mogollon Rim.
Be sure and take lots of water (or a filter) and sunscreen, and be aware early portions of the Bell Trail pass through private property, so there's no camping or picnicking allowed along there. Signs posted all along the way clearly state that.
Also motorized vehicles and bicycles aren't permitted in the Wilderness. Horseback riding is OK.
On Interstate 17, take the Exit 298 for Hwy 179 to Sedona, but turn east instead of west. Drive 4 miles on the paved road, FR 618, turn left at the sign for Bell Trail and go ¼ mile down the dirt road to the parking lot. For horse trailers, turn left at the sign 1/8 mile right before the Bell Trail sign and park, then take the ½-mile Bruce Brockett Trail until it intersects with Bell.
For more information, call the Red Rock Ranger District, 928-282-4119, or visit www.fs.fed.us/coconino.