Mile 526, still on the Coconino Plateau

You know it’s chilly when sliding into your sleeping bag is one of the highlights of your day.

The wind started picking up about 3 am and by mid morning it was a full-on gale. It was warm enough when the sun was out, but got downright brisk at sunset — which is 6pm.

More forest walking, with much of it along old lumber rail beds.

Other then a herd of pronghorns grazing in a meadow with Humphries Peak in the background, there were no arresting sights today.

Pronghorns on the Plateau

The trail skirted around Mormon Lake, but only a few views filtered by the trees were to be had. Although it was named Lakeview Trail, I viewed very little lake.

Mid afternoon a good sized mule deer went flying across the trail at top speed. Not just bounding away, as they do when they spot you. Flying. Nothing that I could see was pursuing it, although given the shadowy forest a lion could have been 30 yards from me and I would not have seen it.

Not much later I began to smell smoke and see a faint haze through the trees to the west. Was it a prescribed burn? Given the wind and the dryness, this seemed implausible. A big fire? There certainly have been plenty of those in Arizona in recent years. Was I walking right into it? No way to know. I seemed to be walking perpendicular to the smoke and might outflank it. Or I could walk right into another section of it. I had no phone service, so no way of getting any information other than through my own senses. But the main highway was not too far ahead – I figured if I got there and there were no fire vehicles screaming up and down, then things were OK. And if not, the highway would be my best option for bugging out. I picked up my pace and seemed to leave the smoke behind.

Fire is certainly a concern with this wind, but it’s been several miles since I detected any, and I am near the main highway and not hearing any sirens, so I think it’s ok.