Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Day 26: The Four Peaks Wilderness

Sunrise! And sunrise was coming earlier and earlier
with each passing day....
May 8: I still hoped I could pull off a series of 25-mile days and reach the small town of Pine one day earlier than I carried food for, so I woke up and started hiking at my earliest start time yet of 5:30 in the morning. It helped that the sun was rising a few minutes earlier each day as well. After 26 days on the trail, I probably had close to an extra hour of daylight in the mornings than when I first started at the Mexican border. (Probably close to another hour at the end of the day as well!)

In my journal, I described today's hiking as "A generally pleasant day. Not hot. Not a tough trail to follow. Rather uneventful, really."

Which is pretty much exactly how I remember it even now. =) I did write a few other notes in my journal to further refresh my memory of the day.

For instance, the day could largely be split into two distinct sections. The first one was hiking along a partly overgrown trail through the Four Peaks Wilderness which had some absolutely spectacular views of those Four Peaks. The trail didn't climb any of those peaks--it just skirted around the base of them. Although the mountains were steep--the trail was pretty well graded and not as strenuous as one might imagine while looking at the mountains. Early in the morning there were a few miles where the trail climbed relatively steeply uphill--which I actually considered a bonus because a high elevation, I knew, was my friend and would keep me cool. The higher the trail went, the happier I would be.

And I was happy. I suspect the temperature maybe hit 80 degrees at the worst, but even that seemed like a reach. It just never seemed to get hot today which was okay by me!

The morning started with a long climb into the
Four Peaks Wilderness.

The second half of the day was on a long gravel road walk. The road walk lasted 10 miles following ridgetops and was certainly one of the longest ones of the trail so far, but it too was a mostly pleasant walk since the roads were nearly empty of people. The entire day I only saw three people, and all three of them were riding ATVs on the road walk. I waved at each of them when they passed--I didn't much care for the noise they made, but they continued on and faded off into the distance and left me alone with my thoughts again.

The most annoying noise didn't come from the three people on ATVs, though. No, the most annoying noise came from the jets flying overhead every five minutes. I wasn't exactly sure where the centerline for the flight path out of Phoenix's Skyharbor Airport was, but I had to be closing in on it because they buzzed overhead constantly. At this point, the trail was largely heading westward as well--closer to Phoenix. Which meant that as the day progressed, the jets were lower and louder when I heard them. It didn't seem like a few miles would make a difference, but it certainly seemed to!

Late in the morning, the trail passed Shake Spring where I filled up at with a heck of a lot of water--planning ahead for a long 20-mile dry stretch. There were water sources before that, but my notes showed that they were largely unreliable and probably dry. So I stocked up with a boat-load of water at Shake Spring and carried a much too heavy pack for the rest of the day.

I could still see Roosevelt Lake behind me at many viewpoints!

Near the Pigeon Spring Trailhead, I had another scare with a rattlesnake. Once again, I didn't see it--I heard it as I passed by and I about jumped out of my shoes when I heard the rattling a few feet away. It sounded like it was coming from under or in a log on the side of the trail and after I got a safe distance away from where I heard the rattle come from, I tried looking for the snake in the shadows. I never did see it, though. I knew it was there--I could hear it! But it was too dark in the shadows to see and I wasn't going to get any closer to search for it. This snake would have to go sight-unseen.

For lunch, I ate snacks as usual, but targeted the most fragile of foods in my pack that I purchased the day before at the Roosevelt Lake Marina: Pop-Tarts, powdered donuts and Red Vines. I also ate stuff that I had a lot of--you don't want to wind up having just one kind of food to eat for 24 hours at the end of your trip! It'll drive you batty if you do! So I ate some beer nuts and M&Ms as well. (The peanut M&Ms were holding up well in current temperatures so they weren't on my 'fragile' list, but if temperatures warmed much more, they would be!)

The road walk had numerous pullouts where makeshift campsites had been set up over the years. None of them were in use as I walked by, and I eventually stopped for the night at one of them near the end of the road walk. I could have reached the end of the road walk and got back on real trail again, but I figured campsites would be more difficult to find there. On the road--heck, I could camp on the road if I really had to! But with all of these wonderful campsite right on the road, I set up in one near the end of the road walk.

I pulled off 23.9 miles for the day according to my maps--it was my best day so far on the trail. But it still fell short of my 25 mile goal. Technically, I knew I could have done the extra mile (and change), so I felt satisfied with my progress for the day. It was a good day. I was starting to think that 25 miles per day to Pine likely wouldn't be fun anyhow.

See the four peaks of the Four Peaks Wilderness in the distance?
I know the peaks on the left look higher in this photo, but that's
only because they're so much closer than the distant peaks
which are actually much taller!

The clouds weren't as scenic today as they were yesterday, but
I still tried to include them in some of the my photos. =)
A couple of the four peaks in the background of this photo.
At these elevations, not only were the temperatures comfortable,
but real trees became common as well!
But I did still see the occasional cactus, even if they weren't
as common up here.

Shake Spring would be the last reliable water source on the trail
for the next 20 miles. Time to fill up! This water didn't look
that great, but the fact I was in a wilderness area and the water
look "okay," I decided to be lazy and not treat this water. =)
Another "cloud" photo.
Let the road walk commence!
My map labeled this an "Electronic Site"--whatever that's supposed to mean!

Flannel bush blooms on the trail
Sunset is approaching! Time to look for a good place to camp!
Yeah, this will do nicely. It was cool enough in the evening
that I even put on my fleece! =)


Mercedes Clemens, RN said...

Interesting link on water treatment. However, there is more to numbers of microbes (here I reference the statement "A 99.99% effectiveness rate might sound good, but a liter of water swarming with 10 million giardia microbes means that 1,000 of them will survive to live on and multiply in your small intestines.").

Infection with a microbe, be it a protozoa, bacteria, or virus is complex and dependent on many factors. The body's immune system is the primary factor. The immune system is smart and highly effective. So a water treatment system does not need to eliminate 100% of potential microbes. It just needs to reduce the numbers to a level that the body's immune system can successfully fight.

Look at it as 2 armies & a super weapon. The invading army of 10,000,000 evil "soldiers" is looming as a threat to the good army. The good army knows it is vastly outnumbered, so it unleashes its superweapon (water treatment) and kills 99.99% of those evil soldiers who were set to invade. Who has the upper hand now?

The same is true with antibiotic treatment of disease. You will never, ever wipe out 100% of the disease-causing bacteria. But the bacteria WILL be knocked down to levels low enough that the body's immune system can kick some serious ass (in most cases, unless the person is immune compromised). So antibiotics are not 100% effective (most things aren't!).

I suspect that you have a wonderfully robust immune system, but not everyone does. Water treatment is cheap & effective. I've known enough people who have contracted Giardia, as well as E. coli to opt to play it safe.

-Mercedes Clemens, RN

Ryan said...

> It just needs to reduce the
> numbers to a level that the
> body's immune system can
> successfully fight.

I agree with that completely, but that was kind of my point.... if you start with good water that has 0 microbes, that's still better than treating bad water and being left with 1,000 microbes.

But there's no harm in treating water with 0 microbes. Good, clean water is always a better choice than bad water (treated or otherwise!)

And.... I've seen a lot of people who've treated their water and still got sick. There's nothing wrong with treating water--but playing it safe means trying to avoid tainted water in the first place. I think a lot of people are lulled into a false sense of security when they treat their water. *shrug*

-- Ryan

Mercedes Clemens, RN said...

"I think a lot of people are lulled into a false sense of security when they treat their water."

True. I had a microbiology professor once who wouldn't let us wear gloves in lab because she said it made students sloppy (we were REALLY careful as a result!).

Plus a variety of careless actions & unfortunate circumstances may result in gastrointestinal illnesses. For example, while water inside a container may be treated, untreated water may be clinging to the outside of the container or the mouthpiece of the bottle may be contaminated (either by tainted water water, or by someone's contaminated hands). People may also be contracting illnesses through other means. We can get E. coli from tainted water, but we can also get it when we share food contaminated by someone's hands that weren't properly sanitized after defecating. We can infect ourselves if we touch our mouths in any way with contaminated hands.

Then there are the unfortunate food-borne illnesses which may be erroneously blamed on tainted water. Most common mild to moderate GI illnesses share the same symptoms & absent testing, it may be impossible to know if someone got sick from E. coli tainted water or contracted Salmonellosis from improperly stored or prepared food.

- Mercedes Clemens, RN