Twig Adventures

MRT Day 10: Wildlife

Monday Apr 18th, 2022, 0610-1900
Rim Top to Lower Black Canyon, EABO mm 220, Segment 4 mm 11.
22 miles.

There was another town stop today, except it wasn’t much of a town. We dropped off food resupply packages at a general store a few weeks ago, as we were passing by. The store wasn’t even yet open for the season, but we were lucky to run into the manager. The Rim Resort sits right along the main highway and our route, so it was very convenient to leave food there, lessening how much we had to carry from Pine. It was another 75-80 miles to the next trail town, Show Low.

We had 11 more miles to walk before the store, which went by really fast. The walking was mostly on nice forest roads, with some cross country through the open ponderosa forest. It’s such a joy to walk through such terrain. The morning wasn’t too cold from where we started, but quickly we entered some pockets where it was down to freezing, with frost on the grass. I still haven’t quite figured out these differences, especially since the terrain was mostly flat.

We did go past a few lakes, which definitely explains the condensation and colder temps. The larger lake, Willow springs, was man-made with a boat ramp and several boats already out fishing. A pit toilet got our attention, but we found it to be trashed beyond use. Serval of these along the way had the same problem, with toilet paper and bags of trash strewn all about. I can confidently say, it’s not backpackers doing this but rather people with vehicles, who have the easiest means to properly dispose of their trash elsewhere. If I can carry mine for hundreds of miles on my back, motorists can toss theirs in the vehicle to wait just a bit longer for a gas station trash can.

Our spirits were uplifted by the nice presentation of cabins throughout Forest Lakes Estate. All of them seemed well cared for and we even saw several people outside doing yard work. It takes a lot to minimize the threat of fires, so people were cleaning pine duff and tending gardens. It seemed like a nice community, albeit largely comprised of summer houses for those with the means to have several residences. Must be nice. We noticed a theme in which most cabins had brown siding (logs or at least made to look like wood) with green roofs. Everything blended into the forest really well. Even the town cell tower was disguised as a tree.

Our stop at the general store lasted about 4 hours. We charged, packed our food, and ate stuff from the store like frozen burritos and ice cream. 925 caught up again, as has been his theme whenever we make it to a town. It was a nice stop but I was very much looking forward to a shower in Show Low. I’d be setting a new record for time without a shower…going on 10 days and counting. We set off in the mid afternoon, shooting for another 10 miles or so of hiking.

My first wild horse sighting

For the next couple hundred miles, we’d be staying well north of the Rim proper. Water sources and towns helped determine the route, but also Apache native land boundaries. We’d be following the General Crook Trail, which is really just dirt road for a good portion of its length. The trail is marked with metal chevrons nailed to trees. Before we reached this trail, we did some cross country and lovely hiking down Black Canyon to Black Canyon Lake.

In this canyon, we saw turkey, elk and finally our first wild horses. They are very (too) plentiful in the area. I had expected them to be very scared of humans but they all mostly ignored us. In fact, one small herd stood defiantly in the trail, daring us to move them. I had to yell Hi Yah! and wave my arms and poles around to convince them to give way. They were cool to watch, especially when it comes to their social hierarchy. Stallions really stand out, but so too do the suitors and young bachelors. They use poop communication to express themselves, resulting in huge piles of poop everywhere.

We continued down a wide, shallow canyon from the lake, hoping for a final water source at a spring. All we found was a small, muddy pool, which we left alone. We set up in some nice pines, hopefully out of the paths of the wild horses.

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