Tuesday Apr 12th 2022, 0620-1820
Oak Creek to Chaves trail, EABO mm 75, Segment 2 mm 25. 22 miles
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 on the way up. It was as if the desert was holding its breath in anticipation. Wildflowers sprang up alongside the trail as it switchbacked the steep canyon walls. This was another finely constructed elevator of decent 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 light layer of rain. I felt privileged to be able to see them in this unusual light. 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 travelled 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 Redrocks 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 entire area that I could have stared at for hours.
The route back up is along a faint old ranchers trail, and I lose it part way up. Back on the Rim, the route joins Chavez Trail, remains of wagon tracks, a trade route during pioneer days.