Wednesday Apr 20th, 2022, 0550-1900
Cottonwood wash to Hwy 60, then Show Low, EABO mm 280.8, Segment 4 mm 71 5.
We’d passed the halfway mark at only 11 days in, setting a blistering pace. We’d earned an overnight town stop, maybe even a zero. I was sure ready for one. Today’s landscape certainly didn’t leave me wanting for more right away. It was another hot, windy, exposed day in even more scorched lands. The morning started off nice, finishing our walk through the wash with tall pines and a lone elk sighting. But soon we were winding through a lot of scrub and some pretty relentless ups and downs through a number of ridges. We began the first of a series of trails built by the TRACKS organization, a local non-profit in the Show Low area. They’re some prolific trail builders, as we’d be benefiting from their efforts for the next 60 miles.
This first trail had seen very little use however, and was a bit hard to follow. It was fun in a challenging way, as I searched for the next trail marker through the scrub. Metal diamonds with a “White Mountains Trail System” emblem were placed intermittently. At last we came to a creek that was reported to have pools of water. There were none at the crossing, though. After a brief moment of panic (we’d passed a trough with questionable water 4 miles back), reason took over and we followed the creek up a ways to find the nice pools. We had a long break, trying to decide whether to drive hard to make it into town for the night or take it easier, going in the next morning. We opted for the second option but this meant carrying water for the rest of the day and night, since there were only gross cow tanks for the remainder.
My pack felt so heavy with 4 liters of water. And of course the route then went up a huge hill, Juniper Ridge. After laboring for what seemed like hours, we came to the top with a fire tower. It was locked and no one was around. The summit had nice views of the White Mountains, a collection of peaks that were once volcanic. We’d be hiking through them in a few days, including around the base of Mt Baldy, tallest mountain in AZ outside of the San Francisco chain near Flagstaff. So it was nice to get this view of our future…even if the mountains looked very distant.
Coming down from the ridge, we walked through some of the most scorched terrain yet. The wind howled and dust swirled everywhere. I’d had enough but there was nothing to do but keep walking. The afternoon dragged on and I was not looking forward to another night trying to hide from the wind and feeling so crusty. We came to a tank at 5 pm with good enough water for rinsing off, so we decided to call it a day. Just as I was about to set up my tent, I got a text from 925 letting us know he’d taken a shorter route into town and had a hotel room. This changed everything. We were only 1.5 miles from the hwy into town, but would have to walk another 3 miles if we couldn’t get a hitch, making it a 33 mile day. We decided to go for it anyway. I reasoned that it was a lot easier to walk more miles than set up camp. A hot shower definitely beat a wash down in a tank. Too bad I’d carried all the extra water, though. I dumped some of it out, which pained me very much.
We were at the Hwy in no time, with our thumbs out in high hopes. It seemed like a terrible place to hitch, with no place to pull over. But you know what, I still got it! The very first car to come along pulled over! I couldn’t believe our luck. Paul was on his way to Phoenix and even went out his way to drop us off at the Best Western. 925 couldn’t believe we’d already arrived when we knocked on the door. Let me tell you, I was never more motivated for a shower, this 12th day without one. It was of course the first thing I did, practically walking in with all my clothes and shoes on, since they needed a good pre-rinsing too. Red dirt swirled towards the drain for a long time. I didn’t even get around to washing my hair until a second shower later.
There was a Mexican restaurant conveniently located next door. The food was filling but pretty mediocre. I’ll eat anything when hiking, though. The best thing about it was that we got laundry done at the hotel at the same time. It was incredible to be so productive on a day when we also walked over 30 miles. We’re pros. And we definitely earned a zero. I crashed hard knowing that we didn’t have to get up to hike the next morning.
Thursday Apr 21st, 2022
Show Low zero
This day was spent showering and cleaning up some more, catching up on blogs and phone calls, and eating…the usual town stuff. We visited a farm supply store on the way to Safeway, which had a surprising array of items. They carried a good selection of camping stuff… including fuel canisters and jetboil stoves, as well as live chicks! I wasn’t allowed to cuddle them but I gawked at them for a long time. For just $3.50, I could have gotten my own pack chicken. I don’t think it would have liked the cold I was about to hike through.
We walked 3 miles roundtrip to go out for pizza dinner. It was worth it. We got to see a little bit of the town and stretch our legs. I also got to ride the hotel’s mascot: the painted pony. A sign on the road warned of wild horses crossing for the next 3 miles. I was kind of over wild horses by this point. They really tear up the trails with their hooves, leaving a big dusty or muddy mess. I liked the Grayson Highland ponies better…I was able to cuddle those.
That’s about all worth mentioning for this day. Back to the grind again.