Twig Adventures

AZT Day 2: Walking the Highlands of Arizona

October 8th, 2019

Orderville Trailhead mm 27 to mm 60.1

Distance in miles: 33.1


We get on the trail super early and walk by the light of our headlamps for a bit. Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time so we have to take advantage of the daylight in the morning. That’s fine by me, since I usually like getting an early start.

Except that this morning is very cold and I can’t seem to warm up as I walk. I start out wearing all my layers, including my puffy and mitts. We walk uphill in a small valley which acts to trap the cold air. The first rays of sun don’t hit us until 8 am. Once they do, it becomes very pleasant. I think my poor body is just tired of being so cold. I lost any body fat a long time ago, so I have no insulation save for what I’m wearing.

We come to a trailhead where there’s another water cache. I take only half a liter since I have quite a bit still left. We enter a burn area, paralleling the road that goes to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Small aspen have grown in, which makes it one of the most beautiful burn areas I’ve ever seen. I was too early for the aspen turning in Colorado but here in Arizona, they are bright gold and red.

We meet 5 NOBOs in this stretch. Many are just doing section hikes, which is amazing to me since they’re carrying so much on their backs. I wonder what can even be in their packs. We come to another water cache just in time for lunch. I’m getting spoiled with all this water that I don’t even have to filter.

Some hikers stash their own water, bringing extra for public use. Trail angels also stock the caches. So far, we’ve only had to use tank or trough water once. The troughs are all mostly rain-water collectors, as there are few natural sources out here. Later in the afternoon, we pass the first couple ponds. They don’t look too bad but I don’t need water.

The trail leaves the burn area and weaves in and out of some small hills. We’ve left the ponderosa forests for spruce mixed with aspen. There are wide open meadows too and it feels like northern New Mexico. We’ll be high, between 8000 and 9000 feet, until we go down into the Grand Canyon. It’s such an unexpected landscape for Arizona.

We reach a vantage point described as the “East Rim” late in the afternoon. The plateau we’re on drops down into a series of canyons to the desert floor thousands of feet below. The views are a little hazy since there’s a fire burning somewhere west. We’re alone save for one couple on an atv. A few miles later, we come to Crystal spring, our water source for the evening. It’s just a cement box with scum-topped water but it’s cool and clear under the surface.

We gather water and continue on a short ways. The spruce are nowhere near as nice as ponderosa in providing good campsites but we find places that will do. A hunter on an atv, headlights already on, passes by so we make sure to get away from the jeep road/trail a bit.

For the last few hours of the day, I feel a bit queasy and low-energy. At camp, I start to feel even worse. My stomach hurts and I feel like throwing up. I can’t even eat my dinner so I put it away for later and go to sleep around 7:30 pm. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but a little sleep usually cures everything.

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