Wednesday, Oct 4th, 2023, 0650-1830
1\2 mile south of Hack Canyon mine to Maroney well
27.5 miles, elevation 5070′
The wind really started to blow overnight, causing my tent to flap annoyingly, so I dropped my center pole and went into bivy mode. I only tried this briefly in the storm 2 nights prior, but it worked pretty well for most of this night, since there was no rain. I was able to position the mesh over my face so I could breathe and the extra layer kept me warm. It got pretty chilly…down into the low 40s. I was in a hurry to get to the extra food, so I left Worm in his cowboy cocoon (how he got his trail name, actually), and walked fast along the road to warm up. The road climbed to the head of the canyon until it was no more…yet another canyon that I walked the length of on this journey. A jeep passed by, but otherwise it was dead quiet.
I came to a large cattle tank, a dead cow, and the cattle guard at the road where Worm had stashed our water underneath. I used my trowel to dig up our food cache. I divided everything equally and filled my water bottles for the whole day once again. There were a few springs and cow tanks listed for the remainder of the road walk across the Arizona strip, but I doubted they would be very good. My 2019 fall Arizona Trail hike trained me the hard way to not trust in such sources. I was glad Worm had been able to place a cache, but at this point I was hurting mostly from lack of food, not water.
We took a short break to devour some food and resumed our solid day of road walking. I had not been looking forward to this stretch but it wasn’t too bad, dare I even say somewhat enjoyable. On paper, it’s a nearly 30 mile stretch of flat nothingness but there were some interesting features along the way. Plus, I enjoyed the unobstructed views of the mountains ahead and the Kaibab plateau behind. The roads were very desolate and quiet, barely ever used by more than an occasional ranch truck, it seemed. For lunch, we actually found a cattle tank full to the brim with decent looking water. I would have filtered it if I needed water. What we really needed was some shade and we found it at this little oasis. A large mesquite tree provided perfect relief. Actually, I became a little chilled lounging in the shade during the break and was glad to go back into the sun. We traveled another 3 miles up into some hills, coming to Yellowstone spring.
I left the road to visit the spring, which was more like a fenced pool with a large pipe flowing into it. The pipe was gushing clear water, so lovely I wondered if it was even necessary to filter. The Grand Canyon had been spewing water everywhere and now, even up here on the strip in the fall, water was flowing in quite a few places. We need not have really cached water, but better safe than sorry. The color, size, and shape of the tank was just too good to resist, so I might have engaged in an activity other than water collection (i.e. a quick dip). It was very refreshing, a nice pick-me-up for the remainder of the afternoon. Too bad Worm was slightly behind me when I turned off for the spring, didn’t notice and walked on by without stopping. I caught up to him an hour later, trying not to rub in how great a pit stop it was.
The road finally became somewhat frequently traveled by ranch trucks. I suppose we could have tried to hitch a ride into town at this point. We could have also put in a really big day to walk to town, but I’m glad we didn’t. There really wasn’t a budget place to stay in Colorado City and I didn’t much want to stay in the town, given some of the weirdness around its past history. If we had been thru-hiking since the beginning of the route and were already over 10 days in the Grand Canyon section, I might have been inclined to hitch to Hurricane for a night in a hotel. But we’d been out less than a week and I was actually feeling perfectly fresh after my dip in the afternoon. An in and out of town the next day would be all I needed. That and a protected place to camp for the night.
Easier said than done in such a desolate place. We’d set our sights on a well at the beginning of the day because the notes indicated that there were trees around the tank, but we found none. A solid corral provided a windbreak, though. There was a really cool historic wind mill pump that was still extracting water, dumping it into 2 tire tanks. The water looked pretty good but when I splashed it on my face, there was a strong taste of iron. The pump was making a rhythmic creaking as it worked and of course I set my tent up right beneath it. I didn’t figure the noise would bother me much, and it didn’t. The wind completely died overnight, so it stopped pumping altogether. This spot was really neat, with a beautiful sunset and amazing view of the sky. I felt safe from the wind and traffic on the road, but not safe from the wet, unfortunately. We’d discover the problem with being so exposed and next to a tank of water later.