Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day 50: The End is Near!

Sunrise over the burned area.
June 1: Three times on this trail I've come close enough to fires to see plumes of smoke streaking across the sky, but I've lost count of the number of burned areas I've walked through that burned well before my arrival. And today I'd pass through perhaps the largest burn area of them all. At least it sure seemed that way!

I hit the burned area early in the morning and thank goodness for that because it was warming up and without any shade, it was getting uncomfortably hot. The heat in the morning was bad enough--it would have been even worse in the afternoon.

When I first got into the burn area, I didn't really think much of it. I'd seen a lot of them before and it usually doesn't take very long to get through them. Or else the burns are spotty and broken up with unburned areas. I don't know when this fire blew through, but it must have been a devastating fire because it almost looked like the area had been clear-cut as far as the eye could see. Mile after rolling mile, only the skeletal, decaying trunks of trees were left. Brush had started regrowing in the area so I figured the burn was probably a couple of years before. Maybe it happened last year, but certainly the burn couldn't be more than two or three years old at the most. It still looked relatively fresh.

The views, I'll admit, were dramatic. Without the thick canopy of a forest, I could see a heck of a lot further than I'd been able to until now.

A lot of people don't like burned areas because they think it looks ugly. I don't usually mind them--burns are a natural part of the ecosystem, and there's a certain kind of beauty in the desolation it leaves behind. But this burn bothered me. It was far too big and killed almost every tree for miles all in all directions. Natural fires might kill some trees, but they shouldn't kill all of them. This fire left behind a desolate wasteland.

Other than that, I don't have much to report about today. Early in the morning I found another unexpected water cache which had an unopened gallon of water that I was happy to take. It was a lot better than the surface water I'd been drinking!

These water bottles were labeled "June 2014". Considering that today was
June 1st and I found these at around 8:00 in the morning, they
must have been left there only an hour or two earlier! But I never
saw anyone... On the other hand, yesterday was probably more likely.
Yesterday being a weekend (Sunday) and the last day of May is pretty
close to June--maybe technically incorrect but close enough! But I was
curious... who was my mysterious benefactor considering that I was likely
the very last thru-hiker of the season? Did Shane's support group leave
them behind? Questions, questions.... but no answers!
The trail was mostly rolling hills today, and the only person I saw all day was a lone mountain biker who zipped passed me without saying a word.

I knocked off another 25 miles of hiking without even trying hard. By afternoon, I had finally gotten out of the burn area and set up camp in a small clearing in an unburned forest. (Just a matter of time before this too burns, I have little doubt!)

Ho hum, ho hum--the end is near! According to my data book, I was now barely 20 miles away from the Utah border. I should have no trouble reaching it tomorrow.

Tomorrow.... the end of the Arizona Trail tomorrow.... I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The end was near, and I was looking forward to it! =)

Miles and miles of a devastating burn as far as the eye could see....
One good thing about the burn--it cleared this view. I doubt I'd
have been able to see these cliffs if all the trees were still around!

A wildlife trick tank. I went ahead and filled up my 1-liter bottle from
this since it was fairly good water despite still having a gallon of water
in my pack. The gallon of water wouldn't last me long the way
I was drinking it in this heat!
This shrub had what seemed like hundreds of caterpillars on it! I'd
never seen so many caterpillars in one place. I'm not sure
what they're doing here (a group cocoon? A nest for breeding?)
This was the only 'nest' in the shrub, but every branch on the shrub was
filled with caterpillars. They were everywhere!

Just look at all of those caterpillars creeping around!

This little guy struck off on his own. Probably had a case of wanderlust!

This looks like an old quarry or something, but I don't
know what it was for.
Crossing Highway 89A--which I could have taken into Jacob Lake,
but I had enough food and water that I didn't need to go into town.
Let's FINISH this trail!
I realized this afternoon, while pondering the meaning of life, that I
had taken nearly 10,000 photos of the Arizona Trail, but the
Arizona Trail hadn't taken a single photo of me. So I gave my camera to
the trail for a few minutes and it shot this photo of me hiking. =)

Hedgehog cactus--I hadn't seen one of these for quite awhile!
Desert globe mallow
The trail is starting to get back into some desert cactus again, which surprised me
 since the elevation was still about 7,000 feet above sea level.
View from camp--my last camp on the Arizona Trail....
Goodbye, Mr. Sun. I'll see you again in the morning!


Unknown said...

Good thing this day's photos weren't taken on June 21st.

Whirlwind said...

We call those tent data pillars out East. They are usually gypsy moth caterpillars. It looks like AZ has tent canter pillars above 6,000 feet in elevation.