Monday, August 4, 2014

Day 22: Skip Superior, let's go to Phoenix!

I don't know if this landmark had a name (my map didn't
show one), but I started calling it Chimney Peak in my head.
And it was among the first land feature to be lit
by the morning sun given it's prominent peak.
May 4: It would be another scorching day. I woke up early to beat the heat and started walking. The walk was largely uneventful. Halfway through the morning I tried to find water to restock my dwindling supply and my notes showed a "seep in far NE corner of section 8." It was a strange entry. What, exactly, was "section 8"? I had no idea. I assumed that meant there were sections 1 through 7, but nothing on my maps showed anything about sections at all which left me scratching my head about its meaning. Would I even recognize section 8 when I saw it?

But my maps did show a water source, precisely pinpointed in a wash--and even showed a small pool of water just to the left the trail. That must be it. I could find it!

When I got to the wash, I didn't see any pools of water off the left and started following the wash off-trail and upstream. If there was a seep, it seemed most likely to be on or near the otherwise dry riverbed. I followed it a short ways and found nothing. It shouldn't have been very far from the trail.

Annoyed, I gave up. This mysterious section 8 was as mysterious and inaccessible as Area 51 as far as I was concerned. I followed what must have been a recent reroute of the trail (a sign marked it as such!) and as the trail climbed out of the wash, I turned back and saw the tale-tell sign of disturbed dirt and what clearly looked like a man-made stock tank. My viewpoint was too low to see into the stock tank to see if there was any water, but it wasn't far behind me so I backtracked to the other side of the wash, off trail and found the stock tank. Why didn't they just call it a stock tank? It didn't even look like a seep! It had water, but not much. A dark and muddy pool--perhaps the muddiest I had seen thus far. Yuck. That would clog my filter in minutes if not seconds!

I looked at the water, despair in my eyes, then looked at the glass as half full. At least I didn't see any dead animals in it! =) The thought did occur that maybe it did have dead animals that I couldn't see because the water was so muddy and it was under the surface, but I discounted that possibility. The water was so low, only the tiniest of dead animals could possibly be lurking under the surface.

I still had a couple of liters of water with me so I wasn't desperate for water--not yet, at least--but as hot as it was, I wasn't sure if it was enough to get me to the Picketpost trailhead. I should take some water with me. So I filled up my empty one-liter water bottle with the muddy water. I didn't treat it--I hoped I would stumble across an unofficial water cache or some other (better) water source and I could just dump out this terrible water before I actually had to drink any of it.

Close-up of a saguaro. I just love this cactus. Close up or far away,
it pulls me in! Magnificent!

Three miles later, where the trail crossed Forest Service road 4, I found a couple of gallons of bottled water on the side of the trail. Beautiful! I took a photo of the muddy water I carried next to one of the clear water bottles. That will really get people's attention!

I dumped out the muddy water and replaced it with the good stuff. Well, to be fair, "good" is relative. It wasn't muddy, but it tasted bitterly of plastic. I don't know when the water had been left behind, but it was long enough that the water tasted more like liquified plastic. And 90+ degree water never tasted good anyhow. It still seemed like an improvement over the muddy water, though.

The rest of the hike was uneventful but beautiful. The trail approached then passed Picketpost Mountain, a gorgeous mountain that towered over everything around it and was completely flat at the top. More like Picketpost Plateau if you ask me! I probably took a hundred photos of the mountain and figured there must have been a trail to the top--there certainly should be one to the top--but I didn't have time for off-trailing. I had Amanda to meet at the Picketpost trailhead!

I arrived a little after noon and Amanda was already there waiting for me with cold drinks. Oh, thank goodness for the cold drinks. The plastic water could now be dumped out!

The quickest way back to civilization was the town of Superior, about 5 miles to the east, but we decided to head west towards Phoenix instead. There would be a lot more to do in the Phoenix area. Filled with large shopping malls and theaters and restaurants.... There was just a lot more to do in Phoenix.

We found ourselves a Super 8 in Mesa and called up some local letterboxers we knew (Romana, Heart Writer and Doctor) to see if they had plans for the evening or if they'd like to join us for dinner. They didn't have plans (or if they did, they canceled those plans and made new ones!) and we met them at the Olive Garden for dinner.

None of the locals seemed to think temperatures were particularly hot out. "It didn't even break 100 degrees!" We're from Seattle, though. It's hot! =)

And that's about all we did for the rest of the day. While I was off hiking the last two days, Amanda had acquired a replacement camera for me--a shiny, new Nikon Coolpix L30 from Target. Along with a 2-year warranty for an extra $20 or so.

"Good!" I told her. "There's a better than average chance I might be needing that!" It's not that I'm deliberately trying to destroy my camera, but let's face it--backpacking hundreds of miles through the desert can be tough on a camera. Dirt and dust can get into it, I could trip and drop the camera. Insects might get into it. And within the next two years, I'd probably be hiking on other trails as well where it might rain, or get muddy, or who knows what all. And I take a lot of photos for Walking 4 Fun. Just the regular wear and tear of taking so many photos might even break it. At the rate I was going, I figured I would take about 10,000 photos along the Arizona Trail--and I hadn't even reached the halfway mark yet!

So $20 for a 2-year warranty seemed like a wise investment. =) I transferred the memory card and batteries from my backup camera to the new camera and my backup camera became that again--a mere backup. The broken camera Amanda would take home for me to deal with after I had completed the trail.

Then we headed back to the air-conditioned hotel room and relaxed for the rest of the night. Life was good! Especially when it included air-conditioning! =)

The views from up high were spectacular! If you look closely,
you can see the Arizona Trail behind us in the middle on the right side of the photo.
I had set up camp near the valley bottom just out of view from here.

Of course, the higher the sun got, the more harsh the light became.
The golden glow of sunrise (in the previous photos) turned into the
dull browns by the time I took this photo. But the views were still incredible!

This unofficial water cache was dry... no water for me here!
I do wish people who emptied these bottles would carry them out, though.
Now it's just trash and I blame the people who left the bottles behind!
Now here's some water! Some exceedingly unpleasant and muddy water....
But beggars can't be choosers and I took a liter anyhow. =)
Yucca down! Yucca down!

The mountain just behind the one in the foreground is Picketpost Mountain--
and near the trailhead where I'd be getting off. The light at the end
of the tunnel is near! (Kind of.)

My liter of muddy water on the left, and the gallon of clean water I found
on the right. Yeah, I dumped out the muddy stuff and replaced it with the
bottled water! (Of course, the bottled water didn't actually taste as good
as it looked since it had a very strong plastic taste to it and was warmed
to air temperature which exceeded 90 degrees.)
Picketpost Mountain, straight ahead!
I took a lot of photos of Pickpost Mountain. *nodding*
Have you seen enough of it yet? =)
More, you say? You want more? Sheesh! Okay, here you go! =)
This trail intersection didn't show up on my maps, but I strongly
suspected it led directly to the base (and possibly to the top)
of Picketpost Mountain. I wasn't sucked in by the arrow, though,
and continued straight across the trail. (The AZT isn't actually
in this photo at all since I was on the trail and looking off to the east.)
I think we have nothing to worry about at the moment....
Just 499 miles left to the Utah border! =)

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