Sunday Apr 11th, 2021, 0700-1900
MeOwn complex to CDT mile 250, segment 25, mm 454.4
It turned out to be really warm overnight, despite the forecast. It was good that we camped where we did because a few miles down the trail, we descended 500′ into South Diamond Creek, where there was still frost on everything. Even parts of the creek were frozen and snow lingered in many places. Parts of this valley still felt like fall, with leaves littering the ground and even clinging colorfully to the trees. But as the sun began to filter past the high canyon walls and through the trees, a distinct air of spring permeated the valley.
This quickly became the most joyful creekside walk I’ve ever experienced. Everything about the scene exuded peace, solitude, and tranquility. The trail was nice, if a bit faint at times, which gave it just the perfect ambiance. It was like it was there to facilitate our travel in this magical valley but not be too much of a reminder of our harsh impact on the world. Much of the time we were walking over over a bed of grass, which I reframed in my mind as a cradle of happiness. The colors, bird songs, seasons, textures, leaves and pine needles, creek trickles, all woven together in a kaleidoscope of senses. I had a double-rainbow morning and like that guy, I swear it was not aided by any mind-altering substance. Nature is powerful enough and here I discovered a new happy place.
Oh the conifers in this valley! I wish I knew my botany better but there were firs and spruce and some round shaggy deep green ones I could barely begin to describe. I laid my hand on a giant spruce while I stopped to have a snack. It shared its wisdom: Scamper on little one, as yours is a fleeting life and you have much of the world left to see. Come back some day and I shall still be here. Mine is a life with the luxury to wait for the world to come to me.
Talking trees aside, the valley bliss had to come to an end. We came to our junction with another drainage we were supposed to take called Burnt Canyon. We noted that the trail we had been following continued up South Diamond creek and wondered why would we ever abandon such a precious gem for something burnt… and it was where a fire had gone through. So we made a spontaneous decision just to stay on the trail. It worked out pretty well too. There was only one bad spot that was chocked by deadfall and we cut off a few miles, which wasn’t even a primary intention. I just wanted more of this canyon.
After a final steep climb from the drainage, we gained a ridge and the CDT. This was all new trail for me, since I took the Gila alt in 2019. I’d say that 99% of CDT hikers do the same. The Black range is notoriously dry, with some pretty long stretches between water sources. We were facing a 27 mile stretch the next day but for today, we planned to end at a water tank. The area has also suffered from a lot of fires but new trees were growing back quite well. One area looked like a Christmas tree farm while other areas had dense strands of aspen, which must be nice to see in the fall.
When deadfall happens, grow around.
Our alternate had us just missing the top of Diamond Peak but we enjoyed good views regardless. I could see all the way west to Mogollon Baldy, which was hard to believe we had just been on top it only 3 days ago. I could also make out Wahoo Peak all the way to the north of the Blank range…the point where we would depart the CDT after over 40 miles. For today we just enjoyed the nice trail tread. There were some small patches of snow and deadfall but overall pretty easy. We found some pools of water in Chloride creek and then a weird fiberglass water tank that functions by collecting rainfall.
After collecting water from the tank, we had a hard time locating a flat spot that was also protected from the wind. We finally settled on a saddle area and hunkered down for the night. It seemed like it might be another cold one so I activated one of my hand warmers..a luxury item I’ve been experimenting with this trip. They last all night and it was nice to have one.