Tuesday Apr 12th 2022, 0620-1820
Oak Creek to Chaves trail, EABO mm 75, Segment 2 mm 25.
The forecast called for rain in the morning and sun by the afternoon, so I wasn’t too concerned about getting wet. Even if it poured, I’d dry by the end of the day. I started up a trail to the top of the rim once again, and I could feel it getting colder as I went. But there was a peaceful calm produced by the overcast skies. It was as if the desert was holding its breath in anticipation. Wildflowers sprang up alongside the trail as it switch-backed the steep canyon walls. This was a finely constructed elevator of good grade.
All hell seemed to break loose when I reached the top. It started as a light pitter-patter but I could see very dark clouds moving in. I walked through mixed juniper prairie with little cover as the wind picked up. The hail began as a gentle spatter but quickly turned into a pelting from all directions. Suddenly I felt like I was inside a snowbowl, being shaken. Luckily I had already donned my rain jacket and the umbrella went up quickly after that. Stellar helped me fish out my rain skirt about 30 minutes into it, which by then was more for the cold than the precipitation. It had gone from the mid 50s in the canyon to 36 degrees in the hail storm…this makes sense seeing as how we were surrounded by a layer of ice quite suddenly.
All the while, we could see clear skies on the horizon and there were grand views down into the valley. The red rocks glistened from the layer of rain. I felt privileged to be able to see them in this unusual context. The hail and rain stopped altogether after about 45 minutes, but it seemed to take forever for the sun to come out. I was feeling very chilled, as all I was wearing was my skirt, sun shirt, and rain jacket. We walked jeep roads for a few miles, so I picked up the pace trying to warm myself. Still the sun was obscured by clouds.
The route plunged down the Hot Loop Trail, which was seemingly wrongly named this day. But I could see how it could be so, given how exposed it was. We walked for many miles, gradually warming as we went lower in elevation. We traveled along a bench above Woods Canyon, which makes a deep cut into the Rim. To get around, we had to come all the way south to the entrance of the canyon, then go back up the other side. Such was the way of passage throughout this whole section.
At the bottom, we stopped at the USFS Redrock Visitors Center. This was mainly to get water and use the bathrooms, but it was nice to view the displays. They had large 3D maps of the area that I could have stared at for hours. Unfortunately the center was only open until 3 pm, which left us with just half an hour. After closing, we hung out at the entrance, charging electronics. I noticed that my phone battery had died rather quickly, so I figured it must have gotten a little wet again. It happened to me on the AT, when I thought I might have to get a new phone. After about a week it dried out and started holding a charge again. In this dry climate, it was sure to be ok again soon. Still, I needed to be more careful.
We left 925 at the visitors center in the late afternoon, still trying to see if any place might deliver a pizza. I had too much food to bother. We passed quite a few water holes in the nearby creek, where we briefly considered camping. But our mileage this day was pretty low and we figured we could at least make it back up on top the rim for camp. I knew this meant that it would be quite a bit colder…on a night that already promised to be getting into the low 30’s. It also meant that the wind was likely to be hitting us. But we forged on anyways.
The route up was along a faint old ranchers trail, very scratchy and hard to follow. I lost it for a bit and we had to do some rock scrambling to find it again. Back on the Rim, we needed to walk cross country for about a quarter mile to join the Chavez Trail, the remains of an old wagon track and trade route during the pioneer days. Upon finding the trail, there were some pretty good flat campsites but also not a lot of protection from the wind. We searched around for a bit and it kept getting rockier. Finally we settled for some spots behind juniper clusters, hoping for the best. I battened-down all my hatches in the tent to keep out the wind and cold. I even stuffed spare belongings along the mesh. It was already cold as I ate my dinner.