Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Day 44: Watering Woes

Sunrise in the morning! And the skies today would be a lot
clearer than before--temperatures would also be hotter as a result!
May 26: Today continued with a lot more walking on gravel roads, and it stayed pretty much flat all day long. This time it wasn't a long, continuous barely perceptible downhill, but an actual flatness that didn't vary much up or down. Still easy to walk, though, even if I didn't get that slight assist from gravity helping out.

Temperatures were also warmer, probably due to both the fact that the elevation had dropped by a few thousand feet the day before (I was now hovering at about 6,000 feet above sea level) and that the rain clouds that shaded the trail for much of the day had left. A handful of cumulus clouds tried to fill in that roll, but there weren't enough of them to make much of a difference.

Although I was long out of the low desert and temperatures had cooled dramatically, water was still something of a challenge because reliable water sources were spread far apart--as in 20+ miles apart. Then you'd get to a dirt stock tank and the water would be incredibly muddy. That was part of the reason I set a goal of doing 25 miles the day before--to reach the next reliable water source. It was only a happy coincidence that I found a gallon of water to take with me. I pushed on for another hour after that, however, because from there it was another 20+ miles to the next reliable water source at Lockwood Tank. I figured getting in a few extra miles at the end the day before meant I'd get to this next water source an hour sooner today.

But the tank looked awful. A tiny puddle of muddy water that had clearly been heavily used (and abused) by cattle. But water was water and beggars can't be choosers! When I approached the water's edge, though, my feet started sinking into the mud. I was having trouble just reaching the water without falling into a deep quicksand!

I found a couple of small boulders nearby--small enough that I could pick them up and move them, but barely--and threw them out to the water's edge hoping it would provide a base for me to stand on without sinking deep into the mud. The boulders sank a couple of inches into the mud, then I stepped up on them--prepared to jump off quickly if they sank much further--but they settled about halfway down into the mud before stopping.

It was a precarious place to filter water, though, balanced carefully on a couple of small, unstable boulders. It would be easier just to fill up my 3-liter bottle with untreated water and treat it later. And, I hoped, maybe further up the trail I'd find an unexpected water cache and be able to throw out this water before I had to drink any of it at all. It was nasty water....

And 1.8 miles further up the trail, at the Kaibab National Forest boundary, I found such a water cache. Several gallons of water were sitting there in the sun, and some of them were fresh, unopened, gallon-sized containers. I was so pleased with the gallon of water I took the day before, I decided to do the same thing all over again. An entire, unopened gallon of water! Again! Score!

I opened up the 3-liter container of muddy water and poured it out with glee, then stuffed a gallon of water into my pack. I was ready! I didn't have to waste time treating the water either which propelled me 25.1 miles for the day.

After I poured out all of the muddy water, I looked around and realized that if anyone arrived in the immediate future and saw all of the wet ground around the water cache, they might think someone had been pouring out the clean water. How annoying would that be, to walk up to an empty water cache to see all sorts of water poured out around it soaking into the ground? But the chances of anyone walking up before it dried was slim--I hadn't seen anyone the entire day. And anyhow, the water cache wasn't even dry--there were still a few gallons of water still available.

I actually stopped early--I was expecting to do about 20 miles per day and had already done over 27 yesterday and over 25 today. I was zooming! Even though I could have done a few more miles, there didn't seem like any need to.

This tank wasn't shown in my data book, but I went over to check it out
just to see if there was water in it--and there was. (Lots of algae growing in it, though.)
It's nice to know that there are water sources sometimes available even
when I don't know about it ahead of time! But why wasn't this
included in my data book? Seems like it should have been!
The only hiccup for the day was that I was zooming so fast, I apparently missed where the trail turned off the gravel road and back onto a real trail. I didn't even realize I had missed a turn until I saw the Arizona Trail crossing the road I was walking on. That quickly led to me pulling out my maps and figuring what the heck had happened. It's not normally possible to intersect a trail that you were already supposed to be on!

But it seems as if I missed a turnoff somewhere near that water cache and had actually been hiking off-trail for about an hour--completely oblivious to the fact. Fortunately, the trail ran parallel to the gravel road I was following and eventually intersected it so I wasn't hiking in the wrong direction--just on the wrong path. I veered off the road and followed the trail into the woods where I was supposed to be after that.

I stopped to set up camp several miles later. The flies and flying beetles that came out that evening were awful! The constant buzzing and getting into my stuff was driving me crazy, but at least they weren't biting. Just annoying as sin until after sunset when the bugs seemed to go to sleep as well.

I liked the small cliff that formed between these two plateaus, but
this picture doesn't really show it well. *sigh*
Lots of grasslands! Punctuated with an occasional tree. =)
Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits!
My! What big ears you have!
The San Francisco Peaks continue to fade off in the distance.

Even though I was out of the sizzling low deserts of Arizona,
water was still quite scarce!
And even when you did find water, it wasn't always good!
Beggars can't be choosers, though! You still have to take whatever
water you can get!
Fortunately for me, 1.8 miles after I picked up the muddy water,
I found this unexpected water cache. I dumped out the muddy water and
replaced it with a gallon of the clean stuff!
If this was supposed to be a waterbar, I think they did it wrong....
An anthill. They're industrious little workers!
Relaxing at the end of a long day. I even stopped early since
I had been making such good time and had already completed
over 25 miles for the day!

This little dust devil just kept on going. I first noticed it about 20 seconds before I started the video and it kept going and going--even after I stopped the video!