Friday Apr 2nd, 2021, 0615-1800
Bonita Creek to Cottonwood Springs Corral, mm 282
I love waking up to dry tent, even when camping near a stream. And did I notice even one mosquito the night before? Not a one. Arizona hiking.
We talked to our fellow GET hikers a little more, since we doubt we’ll get much of a chance again. As such, we were off just a bit later than usual. We started up a side canyon and were shortly in a fabulous box, way cooler than even the day before. Huge chunks of rock had come down to wedge between the tight walls. It was so cool but also terrifying passing beneath.
The box ended all too quickly and then it was a long climb to a saddle, first on a jeep road then a narrow trail. Many rocks ranging from egg size to football size were the feature of this section, on both sides of the saddle. The climb was very steep in a few spots, where all the round and oblong rocks conspired against me. I was also trying to beat the sun from peaking above the ridge so that I could remain in the shade for as long as possible. I could just feel that this was going to be an exceedingly hot day. Luckily we made it to the saddle mostly in the cool of the morning and for great views all the way back to the Pinaleños.
On the way down to the next big canyon, we spooked a bunch cattle along the drainage and up against a fence where they started thrashing at the barbed wire. We had to go off to the far side of the canyon so that they could go back the other way. I hate when they keep running ahead of us to escape, sometimes for over a mile. If they just stood still behind the bushes, we’d pass right by and probably never notice them. Cows are not very smart.
We also disturbed a bird of prey, which sat screaming like a baby animal above on a cliff. I was going crazy trying to figure out what was making such a dreadful noise. I think it was some sort of falcon…it was all gray with yellow legs and a long tail. Later I saw or heard many hawks and maybe even an eagle.
We finally finished the Safford-Morenci Trail and began a 2 mile dirt road walk down to Eagle Creek. It was blazing hot at 11 am on the roads. What perfect timing that we arrived to walk the creek all afternoon. I couldn’t have picked a better time and day for our 50 fords over 9 miles to commence. Our timing for this whole section has been perfect in fact…the 5 mile jump start made all the difference.
Eagle creek was more like a river and more of a treat than I even expected. A 4wd path ran along most of our route, which was a double edged sword. On one hand it made travel along the creek easy but on the other hand it meant that a few quads and side-by-sides passed us during the day. I didn’t mind that so much as all the trash we saw along the path and in the river…mostly beer cans. Come on people, how can anyone see such a naturally beautiful, awe-inspiring canyon and still toss a beer can into said splendor? Ah the humanity.
We had lunch after about a mile in. We filtered water to find that it tasted well, a far cry from the algae-tasting water we drank from Bonita creek. But all the passing vehicles and cows upstream made me wonder. Everything in moderation. We also met 3 more hikers that were GET sectioning. Like the couple before, they were going westbound. We didn’t chat with them for too long because we had met up in the hot sun.
Since lunch, I had regularly been dunking myself in the creek to stay cool. It worked fantastically well and I felt great plunging across the many fords and walking the rocky banks all day. There was a fair amount of shade to provide relief but nothing beats some wet-clothes hiking. This is a strategy I developed from all my hiking in Florida. It also serves to wash off all the sweat and dirt from my body and clothes…a win win.
We ended the day with a last dunking at our departure from the creek and a final few miles up a dry canyon. We could have just stopped at the creek but knew we had a long climb ahead the next morning. Any miles we could get in the pleasant early evening hours were ones we didn’t have to do in the heat the next day. Plus, we needed to air dry our clothes one last time this day. Camp was made in the flat of an old corral with minimal cow dung. There were beautiful rock pinnacles to admire for dinner then off to bed. What a great day in the desert!