PINE CREEK NARROWS
The short section of Pine Creek that runs roughly parallel to the Canyon Overlook Trail is a very pretty and impressive canyon. It is extremely narrow compared to its depth and has interesting water-carved formations in its walls.
The trip through these narrows is technical and should only be attempted by persons who are competent in rappeling and have the proper equipment. Two 150 foot ropes and rappel gear are needed, and a short handline might be useful. In addition, due to high flashflood danger, the trip should be made only in good weather. It should be done in warm weather since you must get wet and the temperature in the canyon is cool.
From Canyon Overlook Parking Area, at the east end of the long tunnel, it is not practical to enter the streambed immediately, even though you can scramble directly down into it. If you do, you will run into very large potholes in a short distance. The last of these is deep and stagnant and has a long dropoff into it which would require a rappel into the water. In addition, it would be necessary to place bolts for a rappel anchor. These problems can be avoided by rappeling into the canyon a couple of hundred yards downstream, and just beyond the large pothole. Walk west on the Canyon Overlook Trail until you come to the first small drainage that the trail curves around. Continue around the alcove at the bend in the trail to the other side of the drainage. From here you can see the pine tree rappel anchor on the edge of the dropoff into the narrows. It is just upstream from where the small drainage meets the main Pine Creek drainage, and right where the slope turns to grey rock before dropping off into the narrows. An easy rappel from the trail down a patch of light-colored slickrock will take you into the side drainage and you can scramble on down to the second rappel point.
The rappel from the pine tree into the narrows requires two 150 foot ropes and goes for about 30 feet on an angle and about 100 feet free. It is a spectacular rappel, somewhat like descending into a narrow cave, and you can touch the opposite canyon wall in places. You will miss some nice views if you go too fast.
The narrows section is only about a half mile long, so there is no need to rush through it. The first obstacle you come to is a dropoff from a log. It can be climbed down with caution, but a handline or belay might be desired. The next dropoff can be climbed down to the right. This is followed by an obstacle that can be climbed down but, at times, will have a deep pool below it that you must swim across. An alternative is to traverse right and set pitons for a rappel. The last obstacle is a 20 foot dropoff from a large boulder. A rappel can be set up from a rock behind the lip of the dropoff. The rappel rope should not run directly toward the dropoff, but should first run left (looking downstream) then around the side of the boulder. The rappel is awkward and drops you at the edge of a chest-deep pool which must be waded. The last person to rappel has to flip the rope back over the other side of the boulder in order to retrieve it. A chockstone should be placed in the notch to prevent jamming.
There are no other major obstacles now, but you must watch for the correct place to angle left before the dropoff into lower Pine Creek. This is fairly obvious, being at the end of the narrows and just past the boulder jams. A path of use will lead toward the tunnel windows which are now visible. Continue along this path and across moderately exposed ledges where you may want to belay or fix a handline. A short gap at the end of the ledges is bridged by an old board. After crossing it, scramble down into the creek bed and continue downstream in the canyon bottom.
This lower section of Pine Creek is very pretty and fairly shady. There are numerous small pools among the large boulders that are strewn down almost the entire length of the canyon. The canyon can be hiked to where the highway crosses it at Pine Creek Bridge, or it can be climbed out of to the second highway switchback above the bridge. At this point, the highway is only about 100 feet above the stream and is recognized by a rock wall which can be seen from the canyon bottom. The only obstacle of any difficulty in lower Pine Creek is a waterfall between these two exit spots. The water- fall can be bypassed on the left (south) by following a path of use about 100 yards on a traverse and then scrambling down a series of dirt ledges and on down the somewhat exposed edge of a boulder.
The entire trip can be done in three to four hours; most parties will probably want to take five to six hours.
Behunin Canyon - December 28, 1974
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