Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Day 29: A leisurely walk though the wilderness

May 11: Today would be a largely leisurely walk--ever since I decided not to rush to Pine, I only had to average about 15 to 20 miles per day. I could do that without even trying very hard! So I slept in late (which, late for me was maybe 6:30 in the morning) and took my time hiking.

The first half of the day left me with one minor annoyance--my topo map and data book didn't seem to match up with what I was seeing on the trail. I was supposed to pass a junction for the Brody Seep Trail, but I never saw it. Then I was supposed to pass another trail junction for the Sandy Saddle Trail, and I didn't see that either. I knew I had to have passed them based on my mileage, but it seemed incredulous that I could walk past a name, marked trail and not even realize it.

The next landmark was for Horse Camp Seep. I needed water and was holding out for Horse Camp Seep which apparently was more reliable than other places, and it was the last somewhat reliable water for 18 miles. I really needed to get water there--I couldn't go walking past it without realizing it! My notes didn't say anything about the water being on a side trail so presumably it would have been right on the trail (or just off to the side of it).

I did see a trail junction, which looked like it led down to a small campsite--maybe, I guess. I wasn't looking for trail junctions, though, and figured it was a social trail that wasn't even labeled on my maps. I kept walking past it. About a minute later, though, I was looking down the slope where the other trail led and saw a distinct campsite--quite a sizable one and it occurred to me that this campsite could have been large enough to host horses. I was so busy focusing on the Horse Camp Seep that I missed the first two words about Horse Camp. If this was Horse Camp, then Horse Camp Seep ought to be near it!

I backtracked the minute to the trail junction and followed it down to the campsite. I didn't see any water immediately around, but it looked like a creekbed could have been on the other side of the campsite so I went over there to look and found several decent pools of water in the hard rock. It wasn't a seep, but water was water and this looked pretty good even if it was stagnant. It looked as if it was a fast-running creek during times of rain so the water probably hadn't been stagnant for months or years on end which made it better than the stuff in stock ponds, and given the fact that it was resting on solid rock, mud was nowhere to be seen. The water looked very clean. I'll take that!

But it still irked me that I almost walked right by without even realizing it. I actually did walk by without even realizing it. Fortunately, I had caught my mistake after less than a minute. It could have been a lot worse. The irksome part was that my maps and data book didn't seem to agree much with what I was seeing on the ground. And even the so-called seep wasn't even a seep, although I'll give them the benefit of a doubt on that. There could have been a seep nearby that I didn't find because I stopped looking after I found the pools of water.

The views were still quite scenic, despite all of the dust in the air.

After that near-miss, I did miss Hopi Spring, but I half expected to miss that since it was off trail and probably dry. I mostly followed my progress on the map by trying to keep track of turns on the trail and matching them up with what I was seeing. Although the landmarks seemed remarkably easy to overlook, at least the turns in the trail seemed accurately represented on the maps.

It wasn't until I reached a "rocky ridge" as it was described in my data book that I could definitively place my position. It was a very prominent ridge, a very rocky one, with a fantastic viewpoint off the side. At least it would have been fantastic if it wasn't for all of the dust in the air. It didn't feel very windy, but the dust was really bad. Maybe it wasn't dust at all--maybe it was smoke from a nearby fire? It didn't smell like smoke, though. I didn't get the slightest scent of that campfire smell. It was probably just dust blown up by wind from somewhere. Despite the dust, however, the views were still pretty darned nice. =)

As I crossed over another ridge later in the day, I saw a long plateau towering above the valley between us. "That," I thought, "must be the Mogollon Rim!" Once I reached the top of that rim, I'd be above 5,000 feet in elevation for the rest of the trip--the one exception being the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It would be a safe-haven from the severe heat of the low deserts. It was getting close now!

Later in the afternoon, the dust in the air seemed to settle and I got a distant glimpse, barely visible, of some very large mountains that looked like they had a hint of snow. Those, I figured, could only be the San Francisco Peaks--among the tallest mountains in Arizona. They overlooked Flagstaff and must have been at least 100 miles away as the bird flies. As the duck walks--at least a duck following the Arizona Trail--it was still another 200+ miles away. Those mountain peaks were probably halfway between me and the Utah border.

After barely covering 15 miles for the day--I really pulled back now that I wasn't rushing to Pine--I set up camp near Brush Springs. I hadn't seen a single living person the entire day. Just a nice, leisurely walk through the wilderness. =)

These are the pools I found near Horse Camp.

I took this selfie of myself on the "rocky ridge." Unfortunately, I couldn't
find a way to get the camera high enough to actually see the view
that spreads out behind me.
The trail led through a lot of old burn areas today.
Quick! What is it?!
It's a hummingbird in flight! It was resting like this when I
tried to take a photo and happen to fly off just as I was taking the photo.
Basically, I got totally lucky getting a photo of the humming bird in flight!
Here's a neat trick you can do if your clothes are really, really dirty.
They act like they've been starched. I sat down for a snack break, with my knees
bent, and when I stood up again, my pants held their shape from when I was sitting!
Eventually, as I walked some, it loosened up and stopped showing my knees.
Looking up the inside of a burned tree.
See that long plateau off in the distance? Towering thousands of feet above
the valley below? I was pretty certain that was the Mogollon Rim. One last
descent into the hot, lowland deserts then I'd be relatively safe from hot weather
at the top of the Mogollon Rim.
Like I said... the trail went through a lot of old burned areas today.

Camp for the night!

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