4 reasons you’ll want to hike the Seco Creek Canyon Trail
The Seco Creek Canyon Trail at Ted Turner Reserves’ Ladder property is my favorite hike, hands down, bar none. Most recently, I hiked the trail in late Spring with my husband and son. The point-to-point, 2.2-mile hike begins with a gentle descent through an unassuming high desert. It’s likely to reach 90 degrees on this day in mid-May, and I feel the sun’s rays warming my skin. (The word seco means dry in Spanish, but the thing I love about Seco Creek is the water and the verdant green canyon, but more about that later.) We pick our way through scrubby prickly bushes, along a faint trail. And then, as the ground levels out, things start to change.
1: Phenomenal Trees and Multiple Microclimates
We’re not 10 minutes into the hike when vibrant green bushes begin to line the trail and towering ancient Arizona Alders and cottonwoods whisper windy secrets they’ve learned over decades of life in this valley. I gaze up at a tree whose trunk is bigger than a compact car and wonder what other creatures it’s witnessed on this trail and how it’s seen this place change over hundreds of years of time. As we venture further into the canyon, the tall canyon walls shade the trail and the foliage gets more and more lush. In some places, we scramble over or under a fallen tree or find our way around a blockage caused by a flash flood. The power of nature is manifest on the trail itself, reminding me of the importance of living in harmony with wild things and wild places.
2: It’s just us, and the trail.
Pictographs, petroglyphs, pit houses, bits of pottery, and rudimentary rock tools are everywhere on Ladder, so I know other humans have walked this path, but the chances of me encountering a person outside of our group are zero. I’ve marveled at the stunning scenery in Zion National Park and icy rushing waterfall hikes in Glacier, views for days from fourteeners in Colorado, and marbled slot canyons in Utah and Arizona. They’re gorgeous. Each bend in the trail calls to me and I can’t wait to see what beauty lies ahead – but sometimes on popular trails, it’s more like waiting in line than connecting with nature. Even in the more remote locations, passing other hikers along the route is common, and while a friendly hello from a fellow human is always welcome, what I love most about hiking on Ted Turner Reserves is the solitude. Here, it’s just me, my family, and our guide, who has become like one of the family. When it’s just us, the hike is filled with moments to stop, take a deep breath, notice the veins on a leaf, the variety of chirps and cheeps and wails from different birds, and the feeling of fresh clean air filling my lungs, moments of awe when I feel my soul reminding me that I am a tiny part of the wonder of the natural world.
We watched this Harris’s Hawk for about 15 minutes. It was like he was talking to us.
3: A really cool cave
We continue to drop gradually into the canyon and the walls surrounding us get higher and higher as the temperature gets cooler and the air more humid. I look up to find the sky and see a dark hole in the rocks above. Further investigation reveals a cave that tells me, I am not as alone as I think. Our guide goes first to make sure the cave is mostly unoccupied. She points out rock art at the opening of the cave and we muse about what the drawings might mean. Peering deeper into the dark reaches of the cave, I see a few bats streaking here and there. Dried scat and crusty mini-corn cobs ensure that we are not the first to explore this cave, and others, whether animal or human and likely both, have sheltered here for a time.
4: Wading in the creek, between towering rock walls
I saved the best for last. During most of the year, there is no way to do Seco Creek, without at least getting your feet wet. In the beginning, everyone tries to stay dry, but creek crossings are frequent and eventually, everyone gives up and just walks in the water. It makes me feel like a kid again. And it gets better. A bit more than halfway through the canyon, there is a place called Water Pockets where the water stretches from wall to wall in the canyon. During high-water times of the year, there are pools and waterfalls. The water is cool and refreshing, not frigid, and wading and splashing about on a warm day is a true delight. There are huge rocks perfect for photo ops or snack breaks while watching and listening to the water rushing to the Rio Grande. An alternate to hiking Seco from top to bottom is to start at the bottom and hike into the Water Pockets and back out. That way it’s a little shorter, 1.2 miles. Either way, Seco Creek Canyon, like so many places on Ted Turner Reserves offers the opportunity to leave the cares of everyday life behind and take time to reconnect with the rhythms of nature and the wilderness within.