Mile 466, under the Mogollon Rim

Another bitter cold start to the day from my camp in General Springs Canyon.

The trail soon reached the Mogollon Rim, and thus the end of my hike in the plateau domain of northern Arizona. It’s been 300 miles of walking in mostly flat (with one Grand exception) terrain, all between 7000 and 9000 feet, nearly all covered with ponderosa forests. And lacking in good water.

In those 300 trail miles I encountered flowing water twice (once was Bright Angel Creek/the Colorado ) and two natural springs. All other water sources were cow tanks and lakes, which ranged in quality from not-terrible to truly disgusting. I drank it all; I had no choice.

The break in the Rim that formed my route soon began to sprout small springs, and these coalesced to form the head of the East Verde river. The canyon was topped with tall pines underlain with alders and maples in full color and filled with brackens and ferns. Best of all was the water itself, sweet and pure and innocent of cow shit. I could hold my bottle under a spring and drink water that actually tasted good.

The trail cut under the vertical cliffs of the Rim and followed its “skirt” for many miles. This is the Highline Trail which connected many old ranches under the Rim. None of which still exist as this terrain is completely unsuitable for ranching or any form of agriculture.

The pioneers were not only bad at picking homesteads, they were terrible road builders. The trail makes no allowance for drainage, and is thus a succession of gullies and loose rocks, making for hard travel.

This is the norm in the central Arizona mountains, and I am worried that I have not given myself enough time to get through the Mazatzal Mountains. The distances are not long , but the trails will be bad and the days are short. I had a very hard time making 19 miles today.

Another fire scare as a very dense cloud of smoke appeared above the Rim not long after I had dropped below it. The smoke dissipated by afternoon so it must have been a controlled burn. But I had no way of knowing that. I’m out here on my own, no one is going to come get me if there’s a threatening fire. Like any addiction hiking has its scary parts.

Unlike most addictions, hiking also has many moments that are sublime. Watching the night creep up on the Rim behind and the Mazatzals ahead was one of them.