Mile 643 to 685. 42 miles.
One month in the Arizona wilderness. Yesterday I thought to myself, tomorrow will be a good day to do the big one. Flat almost all day, I don’t have much food to carry, but I do need to carry a bunch of water. This morning I decided to go for it. I pack up my stuff and eat a good sized breakfast of pastries, Rice Krispies and Cadbury chocolate eggs. I take a swig of my Hawaiian punch and start walking at 6:20.
Sunrise in the flats.
The morning was beautiful as usual and I saw dozens of jackrabbits running around the flats. Also saw one lonely pronghorn. I was down to just that last liter of Hawaiian punch so I was holding back on drinking it until I got to upper Lockwood tank. When I finally got there it was bone dry. First stock tank I’ve seen dry. This worried me a little as almost all the water for the rest the trip is stock tanks. I can hold out until the larger Lockwood stock tank a few miles down the trail. I can see it from almost a half mile away. A big dirt wall, one of the deepest tanks I’ve seen yet. There’s cow patties and hoof prints everywhere, good signs I say to myself. I walk up the dirt wall and look into the tank. Bone dry. Now my heart sank. The next possible water is 14 more miles. I could see still moist cow poop and fresh prints so there had to be water here! I followed a well trodden cow path beyond the high tank and low and behold there is a little cow trough on the other side full of water. A steer is drinking away when he spots me. I rush down there and he walks away. Fresh cold water! Lots of it and it looks very clear! I’ll be good for the day. It takes me about 20 minutes to filter 3 liters since my filter has been clogged with foul water. I eat some food then back to hiking. As soon as a drink some of my newly filtered water I find it was too good to be true. It tastes awful. It tastes like musky cow drool. I guess it makes sense. It’s just one small trough that dozens of cows dip their drooling snotty faces into all day, day after day because there is no other water for miles. It leaves the taste of cow spit in my mouth for a minute or two. I then put crystal light into all these bottles to try and mask the flavor but the cow drool aftertaste remains.
There is supposed to be water here. There it is! The water. I use the sawyer squeeze as a sawyer sit.
I pass the “Russell” tank, a metal tank with Russell painted on it and a ladder up the side. There is also a trough nearby it so I check them out due to curiosity. The trough has about 2 inches of water in it but it also has 5 dead and rotting squirrels in it. They’re also leaking what appears to be blood. Not any water I want to drink. Ever. Apparently they hopped in to get a drink and found it’s much harder to jump out when you’re standing in water so they were trapped and probably died of hypothermia in the night. Next I check the big metal tank. I climb the ladder and look in. Bone dry again. Also if you went down into the tank, you cannot get out, there is no ladder on the inside and the walls are about 15 feet high. You’d be trapped and end up like the squirrels. Don’t go in the tank!
If you’re very very brave, there is some water here.
Later I came up the Russell dirt stock tank and saw someone else there. Another backpacker! The guy’s name is Chris, he’s been working at the Grand Canyon for awhile and saved up money to backpack for a few weeks. He just hiked all over the canyon and decided on a whim to backpack from there to Flagstaff. He also thru hiked the PCT in 2013. Seems like an interesting guy! He is carrying almost 2 gallons of water and I tell him Lockwood had water and he is very relieved, he says he has too much so he gives me a liter of water! Cool! Saves me filtering time and saves him 2 lbs. We chat and eat for about 25 minutes then we part ways. I did also grab a liter from this stock tank which does have water but not very much! It will be dry soon! There are little red shrimp looking things swimming in the muddy water and in my water bottle. Hopefully I won’t need this water.
The rest of the day was walking through ponderosa pine forest that had all been burned recently. For 20 miles or so it’s all been burned, many trees survived however. Even some the plastic AZT signposts have melted into pools of reddish plastic on the ground. Then I get a glimpse of the north rim of the Grand Canyon through the trees. There it is! I can see it! I’ll be there tomorrow!
AZT sign melted in the fire
typical pretty ponderosa forest
I walk until about 6:30 when I decide I’ve accomplished my goal of doing a 40 on the AZT. 42 miles in fact! Just over 12 hours of walking. My feet are sore but that’s about it! The recipe for big days is just walk as long as there is sunlight and have a light pack. That’s about it! Oh and lots of junk food. I set up my tarp and I realize somehow one of the guy lines has snapped off and I can’t find it anywhere. I try using dental floss as a guy line but it’s not quite strong enough. Oh well, I can still set up the tarp, it just won’t be as roomy. I’m 7 miles from Tusayan where I hear there is fast food! I’ll be there for breakfast! Will be a relaxing day tomorrow! Just 13 miles to the south rim.