Tuesday Apr 19th 2022, 0610-1900
Lower Black Canyon to Cottonwood wash, EABO mm 250, Segment 4 mm 41.
Oh boy, what a day. There was more big hiking, Big Sun and Big Wind. The morning started off so very pleasant and peaceful. I wasn’t too cold overnight for the first time in a week. A few random wind gusts did take out my centerpole stake… nothing like your house crashing down on you in the middle of the night. So I had to get up to re-adjust. We had a chipper start in the morning. I made a comment about not seeing much sign of bears and minutes later, spotted fresh bear tracks in the sand. We came upon a horse herd within an hour and “chased” them up the canyon. They kept running ahead of where we needed to go until finally we turned a corner to head up a ridge. The stallion looked back victoriously. Ahha! We fooled them!
We came to our first water “guzzler” a few hours in. These are man-made rainwater catchment systems, sporting a wide panel of metal or concrete, which drain into a ground level metal tank. The water inside was quite nice. The next one was another 12 miles and similar in nature to the first, except that the water had a lot more algae and other floaties. It filtered very clean and tasted great. It sure beats any of the stock tanks, which so far we’d purposely avoided. This meant we had to carry water for the remainder of the day (15 miles), plus overnight, plus 12 more miles in the morning. I carried 3.5 liters, plus drank several while at the guzzler.
We hit the General Crook trail for some more dirt road walking the rest of the afternoon. There were more wild horses too. The wind really picked up and I marveled at all the lenticular clouds in the sky. High winds aloft. They made for a really stark background in the wide open spaces we passed through. Not so good for a fire that had started near Flagstaff. The winds and drought conditions were already spawning wildfires in NM, AZ, and CO…and it was only April!
We were certainly feeling the effects of the climate change this day. This section had been more of the mosaic fire affected area, switching from stands of beautiful ponderosa pine forest to juniper and manzanita to even some patches of barren red earth. A 2002 fire, the state’s largest in history at the time, had impacted the entire area between Forest Lakes and Show Low. The tread was very dry, sandy, and dusty all day. Gusts of wind pelted us with dust. I kept my face covered with my buff all day, both for the sun and dust. I really wanted to put up my umbrella. We both tried for a little bit but the exposed areas led to too much wind…just when we needed the shade the most.
Several tanks that were reported to hold water in the spring were all dry. We were glad we carried water so far, otherwise we would have had to go to the highway to beg water or hitch to a nearby settlement. Some tank water would have been nice to wash the dust off at least. My feet were caked with dirt. I couldn’t bring myself to sleep this way, so I used some precious water to wipe off the mess, along with a wetwipe. Camp was made in a somewhat exposed wide pine canyon, but it could have been a lot worse. I took an advil pm and put earplugs in to drown out the noise of the wind. I cringed to think what might happen to my tent every time a gust came through, but not if I couldn’t hear. Dead to the world, I got a much needed restful night of sleep. It was a long, hot, exposed day. Such conditions really take your energy.