Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 6: Rain!

I woke up with this little guy crawling passed me.
April 18: When I woke up in the morning, ugly storm clouds filled the sky. This came as somewhat of a surprise to me because of all the tasks I thought to do while I was in Patagonia the day before, checking the weather forecast wasn't one of them. It had been pretty regular so far. Cold at night, warm in the afternoons. Never a hint of rain. Until now....

I wondered if Arizonians even had a word for rain. Or maybe they just called such events 'miracles.' I imagined the local television weatherman, "sunny every day for the next week, except Friday when there's a 30% chance of a miracle."

I should have guessed that it might rain now that I've mailed my tent stakes home, but that didn't leave me unprepared. Just in case, I packed all of my important gear that needed to stay dry in plastic trash bags which, until now, had gone unused. Camp clothes went into one bag. Food went into another one. All my journals, maps and other paperwork went into a gallon-sized ZipLock, and I pulled out a couple of quart-sized ZipLocks for my camera and the map I was currently using in case the rain started, but I wouldn't put those in the ZipLocks until it was absolutely necessary.

A couple of hours later, I met a hiker walking southbound on the trail. He was an older gentleman whose name I didn't get, but this was kind of an exciting moment for me. A hiker! On the trail! I hadn't seen a whole lot of those. A few backpackers that first day, but technically they weren't even on the Arizona Trail when I saw them. A couple of suspected border patrol agents, but they were clearly out for more than just enjoying a walk through the wilds of Arizona. They were men with a mission. This was a hiker!

We only chatted for a few minutes, and I enjoyed every second of it. Loneliness had been creeping in and, I knew, would continue to do so along the entire length of the trail. I also asked if he had heard a recent weather forecast, and he told me that there was a 20% chance of rain in the afternoon.

"You know what that means?" I said. "It means it'll rain for 20% of the afternoon. Just wait--you'll see." It's amazing how much more accurate I've found rain predictions to be when I use the percentage of rain as a gauge of how much rain I'll see rather than if I'll see rain at all.

He also told me that Arizona was in a severe drought and that everyone was hoping for rain. I'll admit, everything I saw so far of Arizona looked like it was in a severe drought, but I thought that's what Arizona was supposed to look like.

Later in the afternoon, five people on horseback also passed me in the opposite direction, but they didn't stop to chat. The trail today was just hopping with people!

At Bear Spring--the second of at least 5 springs named this in my databook--an ever so light sprinkle had started. It was a good time for me to take a lunch break, so I up my tarp between a couple of trees to protect myself from the rain, and as soon as I did, the rain stopped. Of course!

I filled up with water and snacks, and relaxed reading a book on my Kindle for awhile. About an hour later, I decided it was time to continue on and I started taking down the tarp at which point the rain immediately started again. Yeah, I may as well hang out for another half hour or so. My book was that good!

So I fixed up the tarp again and got back under it just as the rain stopped. The rain was clearly toying with me. I waited around for a half hour or so, but the rain stayed away and I moved to break down the tarp again. Just as I finished, the rain started up again. Enough was enough! I headed out, rain or no rain.

The sprinkle fizzled on and off, but it never grew heavy enough for me to pull out my umbrella. The trail meandered through some steep mountains, but at a remarkably flat grade. I'd be out of the mountains soon, and I figured the chance of rain was probably a lot higher among the mountains than it would be in the flat plains that surrounded it.

Then I heard thunder. Boom! If there's one thing that will turn a light sprinkle into a drenching downpour, it's lightning! It's almost as if the booming noise scares the water out of the clouds. I pulled the umbrella from my pack, ready to open it at a moment's notice. Then I followed the contours of a mountain around a curve when the trail went directly into a cave. Except that it wasn't really a cave--it was more of a tunnel through the rock. I've seen tunnels blasted through solid rock before, but this actually looked like a natural tunnel. Maybe 10 or 15 feet from end to end--not exactly a long tunnel, but enough to provide a roof over my head from the rain.

Another stock tank, but because I filled up with 9 liters of
water in Patagonia, I didn't need to stop for any here!
I decided to take a short break there and eat more snacks. Almost immediately upon stopping, the light sprinkle turned into a heavy rain. I could see the thick rain blowing down from the mountain tops, a massive dark cloud headed right towards me. Out in the distance, towards the flat plains ahead, I could still see sunlight lighting the ground. Dark and foreboding behind me, clear and happy ahead.

Thunder boomed closer than before and the wind picked up a bit. I shifted under my thin, rock tunnel--wind was blowing rain onto me despite the roof--so I shifted further away from the side it was blowing into.

I waited about a half hour at which point the rain started letting up and I continued hiking in a light sprinkle--so light that I didn't even bother to use my umbrella.

Late in the afternoon, I had reached Tunnel Spring where I decided to stop for the night. Just ahead, the trail would merge with a dirt road and I figured I'd get more privacy from vehicles on the trail than I would along the road.

The spring is named for a tunnel--no surprise there! Nearby was the entrance of a 1,000-foot man-made tunnel through the hillside next to the trail. It was built nearly a hundred years earlier to pipe water from Bear Spring to gold fields in an adjacent canyon. The tunnel was long since abandoned and no longer in use.

I know all of this because the powers-that-be installed an information sign about the tunnel and its history. What they may not have realized, however, was that I would use that sign to prop up one side of my tarp. By dusk, the sun was starting to poke through the clouds and rain no longer looked imminent, but I figured it would be prudent to set up my tarp overnight anyhow. It's not like I'd see many stars during the night either way.

Be careful not to fall into a cattle guard!

Death on the trail! I can't even tell what this animal used to be!

The adult cattle seemed more than little leery of me when they had calves around.
(See the little guy on the left?)

My map showed me passing an old mine called Amanda Mine.
I think this might be it! Amanda has her own mine! =)
Anaconda Spring


Into the mountains!

Water cache at Walker Basin Trailhead!

An old dam that now seems to hold back more dirt than water.

Horses on the trail!

Bear Spring. If you look closely, you can tell it's sprinkling
when I took this photo because you can see the drops hitting the water
in the spring.

Since I had mailed my tent stakes home, I used trees to set up my tarp
and get out of the rain during my lunch break.

The trail runs right through this "tunnel."

So I used it as protection from the rain during a snack break.
The only time it really rained rather hard, I was here. And it was
from where I listened to the thunder echoing around the mountains.


I love informational posts like this. Means I don't have to carry a guidebook
to tell me what I'm seeing. =) And I can use it to prop up one side of my tarp!

See the sign, holding up the back end of my tarp as the Arizona Trail
snakes around the front of it? I had to push that large rock to secure the front
and smaller rocks held down all of the corners.
(Remember, I mailed my tent stakes home, so I had to use
tools from the land to make my shelter!)

The 1,000-foot tunnel that was built to divert water to the gold fields
and that Tunnel Spring is named after.

Tunnel Spring looks awfully... green....

By sunset, the rain clouds had moved on....


westmetromommy said...

I like your meteorological method. I think I'll start thinking of forecasts that way too!

Ryan said...

I swear--it really works! =) Although maybe not in the northwest. In Portland and Seattle, I'll sometimes see something like 80% chance of rain then it rains for 10 minutes. So the northwest doesn't seem to follow this rule....

-- Ryan

Karolina said...

The "on" and "off" sprinkle resembles weather patterns of the Netherlands... Nice hike, btw! =)