October 20th, 2019
Pine Trailhead mm 327.5 to East Verde River mm 350.2
Distance in miles: 22.7
I wake to the sound of the rooster crowing. It’s a good reminder that I have yet to mess with the chickens. I sneak out into the yard and coop. It’s still early so I pick one of the hens off the roost. She’s very sweet and seems to enjoy the warmth of my arms, falling asleep. She’s a fantail, similar to my favorite chicken I had growing up. They are tiny, about the size of a pigeon.
About this time, Calypso the cattle dog notices my transgressions and is freaking out outside the coop. He’s a working-class breed, highly focused on doing a job, and the chickens are his self-appointed charge. He wouldn’t let me anywhere near them the day before but I’ve caught him a little off-guard today. I catch Tiny, the rooster, next and Calypso looks like he’s about to loose it. I want to show Stellar my prize but I’m afraid Calypso is going to go Cujo on me once I leave the protection of the coop. Eventually Stellar comes out and is able to calm the dog down. I let go of the rooster and come out hands free, where Calypso does a full inspection to make sure I’m not sneaking any chickens in my pockets. It’s such a funny animal interaction.
By this time, Ray is up and invites us in for coffee and biscuits and gravy with elk meat…no doubt from one of the unsuspecting town elk. It’s such a delicious breakfast. Then we have to be on our way. We pass more town elk as we depart, going by so close that I can smell them. They smell like horse to me. Or maybe biscuits and gravy.
We walk through town and hit the trail at 9 am. We’re in for an up and down day, climbing to the top of a ridge several times. We catch up to a woman going southbound, Atom. She’s wearing a skirt but is all covered up elsewhere. We could be twins. We walk with her for a couple of hours, talking trail. It’s nice to see a new face.
She confirms what we suspected about a fire reroute a few days ago. There was a sign posted on the old section of trail where we haphazardly walked the new trail. The 10 hikers ahead of us walked the road reroute while we walked through the fire area. Oops. Supposedly there has also been a little lack of communication between the fire managers and the trail association. But we’re all good now.
We descend into the Verde River valley in the late afternoon. The trail has become very rocky in places, as I was warned it would. It’s hard to find a good place to land my feet. The trail is also hard to follow in places…it’s overgrown or faint as it passes through washes. It’s starting to feel more like the CDT.
We come to the river and decide to take our shoes off to cross, preserving our enduring dry shoes. There’s that much water flowing…but still only shin-high. I hear this river can be a tough crossing in the spring. We hear rustling in the bushes and see about 8 javalinas. They are native wild pigs in the the desert southwest. People warn about how dangerous they are but like any wild animal, we stop to give them space and they move off unperturbed.
I was hoping to be able to go a little further past the river but it’s taken us longer than expected to get here. It’s all uphill for awhile, so we decide just to camp by the river. The LF Ranch is nearby and unfortunately I can hear a generator and dogs barking. I go to sleep with earplugs in, which is a shame in such an otherwise peaceful setting.