Mile 485, General Springs Canyon

Another chilly night, with extensive frost, punctuated by coyote howls and yips.

For the first time since Flagstaff I encountered relief — topographic relief. There were actual hills and canyons and even an occasional view out of this endless forest.

It was a low water day. I grabbed a liter of not-bad water at the first tank I encountered, thinking to get more at the next one a few miles further on. That one had water, but it was scummy. Worse, I couldn’t get to it. The cow mud surrounding it was so deep and so soft I would have sunk up to my knees. I tried building a causeway of rocks but they just sank. Next water was 13 miles. I had half a liter, so it was no emergency, but not really enough to stave off thirst. And of course you can never really be sure that the water you are counting on will actually be there.

Six miles on I heard voices as I descended into the (dry) canyon of E Clear Creek. They belonged to three section hikers having lunch. It was a chance to yogi some water.

After exchanging greetings they asked if I was thru-hiking.

“Yes”

And then I asked

“Do you know how far it is to the next water?” knowing perfectly well how far it was.

“Yeah, it’s another 8 miles to General Springs Canyon. Why, are you low?”

“Yeah, the last tank didn’t work out”

“We have plenty extra — take this whole bottle, I don’t need it”

“You sure? I can probably make it”

“You’d be doing me a favor “

So I got the water and some pleasant lunchtime companions and some fresh veggies they had brought. A good exchange all around. Well, a good exchange for me anyway, I don’t think they really got anything out of it.

I saw what was either a very large coyote or a wolf between Blue Ridge CG and Clear Creek. I had stopped for a few moments to fiddle with something on my pack. When I looked up I saw it about 50 yards off, ranging away at an oblique angle. If it saw me, it gave no notice. It was a good 60 pounds, maybe 80, with a prominent ruff of light fur round its neck. But more than size or markings, what most made me think it might be a wolf was its bearing. Its gait was relaxed and confident, bordering on regal. I’ve seen many coyotes, and they always look nervous in some degree; most slink. There was no hint of slink in this canine.

Whatever it was, it was very beautiful and wild. Worth a long day’s walk I say.