Friday, June 11
The latest section of the Four Corners Loop took me from Escalante Utah, through Boulder then on to Capitol Reef National Park. It took me a total duration of eight long minutes to get a ride to the town of Bicknell Utah for my resupply. I’m hoping the return trip back to Capitol Reef will be just as fast. This is the closest town to Capitol Reef that had a post office I could send a package to, so I’m glad I sent my food here because there isn’t even a grocery store.
I’m going to make this report a little bit shorter than the others because I’m tired. I hiked 17.9 miles today all before 12:30 PM. I started hiking at five in the morning and pushed myself really hard so I could have plenty of time to get a ride before the post office closed.
The entire 90 mile section absolutely blew me away. I think I have taken more photos on this section than any other section so far. There was definitely less Facebook videos because I was in canyons and did not have cell service. I hiked through Escalante canyon, Death Hollow, Paradise canyon and the Grand Wash. My route took me through splendid wind sculpted sand stone sculptures of nature. The ground also harbored many interesting round igneous black rocks, and flat iron rich black plates. Not only was I in many canyons, but I also crested 10,000 feet on the side of Boulder Mountain in lush Aspen forests.
So pictures are worth a thousand words, I recommend visiting the Four Corners Loop Facebook page for more photos. You will see canyon after canyon after canyon. Sculpted sandstones, beautiful colors in the rock, blue sky, sunshine, wind (ok you won’t see this), heat, and lots of smiles and wow coming out of my mouth. I think I have a sore neck from looking up so much since I was in so many deep canyons with high vertical walls.
Tomorrow when I leave, I will head up Spring Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park this is a canyon with vertical walls that runs over 25 miles. I’m really looking forward to this canyon. With this said I would like to say good night thanks for reading and I need to get a good nights rest so I can have energy to continue on tomorrow.
Saturday, June 5
“Nero Day” reflections from the town of Escalante Utah.
Yesterday my legs propelled me forward for 19.8 miles most of which was in the heat of the day. I strolled through the desert with general is ease, trusting my foot placement so I could allow my eyes the freedom to gaze up and wander like a young child. Speaking of children and slowing down, how do you slow down a young boy? The obvious answer is a creek and rocks will work. Yes, I acted out my childhood this past section playing in Henrieville Creek in a futile attempt to stop the flow using creek bed rocks. I am an open book, and I admit I created three hours of memories playing in the creek at 45 years young. My whole body was immersed in the life giving desert elixir, clear flowing sun warmed water. My face smiled as I lay in the water watching the shadows changing along the cliffs above.
The trail is getting hot, so frequently I take a siesta during the hottest portion of the day. During my siesta I’m thinking, does the Four Corners Loop have the scenery necessary to make it worthy of a National Scenic Trails designation. I see some amazing things, but are these amazing things separated by long stretches of sandy arroyos, or long stretches of Pinyon Pine or Junipers. There are so many junipers the Gin industry should never have a flavoring shortage. May be it is not for me to decide, or is a decision on this even necessary because each person who may follow me will experience trail life through their eyes.
For me “trail life” is an experience in “living in the now”. Over the past three days the moment of “now” can be summed up as spontaneous generosity coupled with quality conservation and awe.
The NOW this past few days in the order of occurrence is as follows:
Post Office conservations
A cold bottle of water.
A large bag of home made jerky, cheese, a banana and oranges.
Birthday suit swimming in my first lake (irrigation pond).
Listening to my mom’s brass bell jingle with each step.
Swatting slow moving biting flies, satisfaction guaranteed.
Creek dam building like a 14 year would enjoy.
Sipping white wine on ice with western Massachusetts trail angles.
Talking “through hiking” with Moonwalker who reminded me of the talkative one from the movie Mall Rats.
Talking with two groups from Raleigh North Carolina at dinner.
The locals recommendation to hike Death Hollow.
Enjoying a Pilsner in the heat.
You reading this, I thank you.
Speaking of now after two Pilsners my bladder is full so now I must go. Thanks for the time you spent reading this.
The Animal, FCL 21
Wednesday, June 2
After being at home in Denver Colorado for 13 days, being with my mom during her passing away, I was needing to get back on trail. Trail time would allow me to collect my thoughts about the loss of my mother. My mom also clearly told me she wanted me to get back on trail. If you have been reading this blog you’ve read many posts about how I cherish my mom. To continue with the excitement of the Four Corners Loop, I’m going to transition back into describing my experiences of my walk.
I’m resting in Cannonville Utah in the only hotel in town, a town that does not even have a diner. So for dinner I had canned Raviolis and Vienna sausages, microwaved to a hot tasty perfection Gordon Ramsay would be proud of. On top of this I added cheese curds, but they were not the squeaky cheese curds that makes poutine such a delicious dish. I am in this town because the town I mailed my resupply to 3 miles down the road has no services only a post office. My dust laden body desperately needed a shower.
I hiked to total of 70.6 miles since getting back on trail. I started at wire pass which is a very popular entrance into Buckskin Gulch. Wire pass and Buckskin Gulch were truly amazing. I see why this area is so popular it was amazing being in the worlds longest slot canyon. There were a few thunder clouds to the north so I chose to take the short route out of the slot canyon and travel upstream. This allowed me to travel up and over some sandstone features that were very similar to The Wave. I managed to hike all the way to the Paria Contact station in the first day.
On my second day out I was fully laden with 11 L of water. I needed this much water because the Paria river looked somewhat salty because there was salt encrusted earth everywhere and I really did not want to drink salt water for dinner. The beginning of the Paria river was a broad wide canyon with blocky red sandstone features all around. The bottom of the river was full of cottonwood trees and it was a very nice place to hike. During the warm parts of the day, or I should say hot parts of the day I took siestas generally from one to almost 5 PM to allow the atmosphere to cool so it becomes more of a manageable hiking temperature. One of the siesta points I was under an overhang rock near the jeep road. People kept pulling up asking if I needed any help one of the cars even offered a PBR which I took them up on, and as they drove off a root beer must’ve fallen out of their car they did not see on the ground. So was awesome to get trail magic in the form of a PBR, a root beer, and they also gave me an orange. It was worth packing the empty aluminum cans through the rest of the river drainage.
The third day going up the Pari River I entered part of the canyon that was more narrow and then I entered a part they got wider where I ran into some people and I looked up and the guy that gave me a ride all the way from Kanab to Wire Pass was standing in front of me, I can’t believe a person that pick me up hitchhiking was the same person I ran into in the middle of nowhere. Small world.
The fourth day continued up the prior river where I saw petroglyphs and steep red sandstone walls with the bottom of the river covered in cottonwood trees. I enjoyed hiking through the water the entire day and I also had to spend my time avoiding quicksand. This day the red stonewalls giveaway to even larger white sand stone walls and I saw more petroglyphs as I traveled.
If you’re near Cannonville Utah stopping by Kodachrome State Park is worth your time. I entered this part because it was a good known water source and I was amazed at the beautiful colors in the sandstone sculptures if you want to see something amazing without the crowds then I recommend Kodachrome State Park in Utah.
From from Kodachrome State Park I did an up and over / cross country route and I came off the highlands using a key route that I spotted via satellite photographs. I’m giving myself some kudos here for nailing the only possible route down through some cliff bands using nothing but satellite imigery information. I really do have a six cents in route finding. As I’m walking, i can say to myself I remember looking at this from the satellite there’s even individual bushes I remember from looking at the satellite imagery in the section.
Tomorrow my resupply package should be in Henrieville and I will continue on hiking to the town of Escalante Utah. I’m looking forward to the awesome organic grocery store in Escalante. Their sandwiches were amazing when I drove through there last year.
I’d like to sum up this section with some thoughts about my mother. When my mother was passing away I played her a song On Eagles Wings. Wow was this this song as the British say an “earworm” for the last five days. Now I just need to give somebody a “tune coodi” because I do need another song to be stuck in my head so please somebody get On Eagles Wings stuck in your head so I can get a new song stuck in my head. I also carried a brass bell from my moms house with me, it was nice to hear the bell jingle, but I determined the bell jingle does not scare away rattlesnakes.
Friday, May 28
Twelve days of rest, off trail from the Four Corners Loop was worth remembering 45 years of life my mother gave me. An amazing 19 years of my life was spent with my mother Margaret. She gave birth to me, a kid with a very large head so I was a struggle from the beginning. She reminded me I was a pain in the butt but then said I turned out all right. This is due to her values she instilled in me, values that range from hard work, to telling the truth, to loving, to appreciating others, to good communication and my favorite of all how to make a good graph chart and tabulation of data. I remember she always had a ruler and a pencil making custom tables for her to put information into. This continued up until her passing away. This past 12 days I was looking around the house she had a list of information everywhere she even had a daily list taped to the bathroom mirror reminding her of when to take a shower went to wash her hair and then went to take a shower and then went to wash her hair. It gave me a smile my organizational structure that I have within me, I definitely got from my mother.
She did not stifle my freedom to roam. Allowing me the freedom to roam Denver on my bicycle, exploring every bike path. This allowed me to not to have a fear of the unknown but instead to have a drive or just a longing for what was not known. This is what allows me today to walk into the desert with very little knowledge of what lies ahead. So, the freedom she gave me allowed me to grow into the explore I am today. Thank you mom for this freedom.
Gardening: People who visit our house say to me wow you have a green thumb. I’m going to thank my mom for this also. She was an expert gardener when we were young, growing everything from giant carrots to giant pumpkins, the whole time allowing me to play in the dirt like a child should. She even allowed me to dig what I might embellish as a 15 foot deep hole out by the railroad tracks. There was no fear of lawsuits but when my dad came home from his weekly travels selling slaughter machines, he worried that somebody would fall in this hole and sue, so he made me fill my hole with yard debris. So you may have seen in the past year how I dug a 5 foot deep hole/trench to bury The power cable from my garage to my house. I think people wonder why I did not hire this labor intensive job out. The reason why I dug this massive trench this past year at home, was because it reminded me of digging holes in the ground when I was a child and this reminded me of my mom and the freedom she gave me to dig. Washington Trails Association gave me the nickname “The Mole”. Thank you mom for giving me the freedom to dig.
Spelling: If you have read this, you may have come across an incorrect spelling of a word or maybe even some bad punctuation. My mom gave me the freedom to spell as i chose, and the freedom to punctuate as I wanted to. A story she tells when I would say “ mom you are not my teacher”. I was a very resistant boy who did not want mom instructing me. In fact you’ve probably told me something and maybe I was resistant to it, so I thank my mom for giving me the freedom to spell as I choose, to punctuate as I choose, to do as I choose. I hope you’re laughing about this. I don’t think I was an easy kid to raise and I am the way I am because my mom just kind of gave up on me in a loving way because I think she knew everything would work out. Thank you mom for the freedom of bad spelling. (Note - I am making efforts to actually try to approve my bad spelling habits.)
With my mom‘s passing I cannot conjure up a memory of anything negative. Yes myself and my sister did get grounded for nine months for leaving a message on somebody’s answering machine asking them to pose for Playboy when we were like 10 years old. This memory today actually makes me laugh, I think it’s funny how we received “friends visiting hours” after six months. To embellish on the story more, because I forgot the details, this past week my sister reminded me, it was me who asked her to leave the message on the answering machine because I was mad at a friend. So it was my sister who left a message requesting somebody’s mom pose for Playboy. I did not remember this and I looked at my sister and said Kelli I’m sorry and apologized to her. She excepted my apology. I will always remember my nine month grounding from my mother in a good positive way.
Margaret was an excellent mother she did everything one has to do to raise two awesome kids. She was an excellent seamstress the amount of an amazing Halloween costumes she custom sewed for Kelli and I was out of this world. One year I was the Michelin Man for Halloween, people that know me know I never get cold and I just don’t need to put on extra clothing to keep warm. Can you imagine me as the Michelin Man with about 6 to 8 inches of tubular white stuffing surrounding my entire body. I have never sweated so much in my life. On Halloween it rained and this thick layer of stark white polyester tubing surrounding every inch of my torso, my legs and my arms absorbed the rain and I was dripping in heavy wetness and yes I was warm. I was also expected to carry a black tire with me all day long. The stuffing in the polyester tubes was so dense I remember I can barely sit in my tiny chair at school.
I got so much from my mom, I could go on and on with story after story. I will now stop here with my beautiful view of the red rocks, I will kick back relax at the café, and look at the view with a crying smile because right now I feel my mom is omnipresent within everything around me and I choose to relish this moment and this feeling I am having with her.
Today I am flying back to Cedar City Utah to get back on the trail on the Four Corners Loop. My mother Margaret is currently passing into the hands of God in Heaven. I had an amazing time loving her while in Denver. I will write more thoughts as they mature in my mind. Please keep Margaret in your prayers.
Monday, May 17
My Mother Margaret
May 15th I needed to hike 27.7 miles to reach the Grand Canyon. This was not because I needed to make a permit day, it was because my mother Margaret was admitted to the ICU in Colorado. I did reach the canyon edge right at sunset, causing happy memories of my mom to flourish in my mind.
Eric my sisters husband rushed up from Phoenix, and we arrived back in Phoenix at midnight ready for a flight the next morning to Denver. The flight brought me right over the Four Corners, and over the Sandre De Cristso Mountains. The sight of these locations from the plane conjured up memories of planing the Four Corners Loop.
Many tears have been shed by me, my sister Kelli, and my father David. As I write this and wait my mother is in a procedure to help reduce the buildup of blood and fluid in her lungs. Send your thoughts and prayers.
During my hike I was and still am full of grateful thoughts that exude the love deep within me for my mom. She created two amazing people Kelli and me. I smile when I realize she gave me free will to do as I choose, while also guiding me down the bowling lane so I could get a strike in life. I have bowled a perfect 300 in life, and the guidance from mom and the freedom she provided me has allowed me to say thank you mom, I am thankful, when I smile it is my experiences you gave me the freedom to have that generates my glow for life. I love you.
Right now my experience I am cherishing while also very sad, is being here for my mom’s comfort. I cried today when the priest came in as I held my mom’s hand along with Kelli’s for a blessing. It was nice to hear that Gods hands will be guiding the doctors hands today. My mom is on a very fragile state and I am grateful I am here for her.
People have asked if the Four Corners Hike will continue. The answer is a definite yes. My hike gives so many joy. My dad flourishes on it and he needs this now. If my mother’s condition worsens and she passes she will flourish on it in heaven. I also know you reading this need me to continue hiking. Where I get back on trail will need to restart north of the Grand Canyon for my heat management and my safety. Yes I gave up a hard to get permit, but the Grand Canyon is not going anywhere soon, and it is my mother’s life that is fragile.
The hike from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon was spectacular. I spend the first day hiking 19 miles climbing all day, reaching the top of Humphries Peak 12,634 ft. It was a long day with 6,000 feet of elevation gain, so sleeping right on top was a must. The sunset and sunrise with the characteristic atmospheric mountain triangular shadow cast as the sun set, and as the sun rose was a phenomenon of nature one must see.
The second day was downhill all day. The third day from Flagstaff was the hottest day of the trip. I met a AZT hiker named “Bobby O”. I was so happy to have someone to talk with because hiking and crying at the same time is a challenge. It was comforting to have a caring person with me.
The fourth day from Flagstaff was when the doctor said to my sister that mom’s condition was not good and if this was his mom he would be at her side. I was in an area with good cell service and was in communication with my family. Kelli was flying out the next morning and Eric was more than willing to retrieve his bearded brother in law from the outdoors. At this time I had already hiked 19 miles for the day. Adrenaline gave me the energy I needed to hike 8.7 more for the 27.7 mile day. I am thankful I am The Animal and my body is capable of such a distance.
My mom is wakings up from a procedure where they removed air passage clotting and flushed in a solution that is used in trauma operation rooms that to stop bleeding. I am thankful the doctor spent his time after work doing research on this procedure.
To my mother Margaret - I love you, your grateful son Kevin
Tuesday, May 11
I finished hiking the section of the Four Corners Loop that travels from Forest Lakes Arizona to Flagstaff Arizona. It’s total distance of 147 miles. The number 147 surprises me because for the first three days West of Forest Lakes I was basically following a trail called the Highline Trail. The Highline Trail was a circuitous trail that winds it all over the place and had no intent in guiding me in a straight forward direction. I was wondering if I was ever going to make the Arizona Trail because this trail just wound all over the place. At least there was plenty of water. This would be an absolutely fun trail for a mountain bike rider who wanted to zoom left and zoom right, but for somebody who eventually wants to make it back to Santa Fe New Mexico I was thinking, I really did not map the details such as curves and switchbacks for this trail enough granularity. Instead of what I thought would be 145 miles of walking from town to town, I thought I was going to end up walking 170 miles it felt. So, I’m surprised that my measure distance of 147 miles is only 2 miles greater than my measured distance on the SARTopo mapping software I used. For distance measurement I am using my iPhone pedometer this summer. It’s the only tool I have so it’s the data that I’m accepting. I always feel that the iPhone distance measurements are a little bit short so maybe this explains why my iPhone says I only walked 147 miles and maybe I actually did walk more.
The Highline Trail was truly special, the trail did fall apart in the middle due to a fire called the Dude fire that burned in 1990. The trail was severely affected and the topsoil has worn away leaving nothing but ankle twisting stones. After miles of stone hopping I eventually arrived at the Arizona trail below the Mongollon Rim where a beautiful stream flowed with fresh chlorophyll filled leaves filtered the light from above. The long rest replenish weary body from three days of winding. I was watered, my stomach was full with food, then proceeded to climb up in the heat of the day under the cover of Ponderosa Pine trees to reach the high leading edge of the Mogollon in Rim again.
Later in the day I encountered volunteers installing a sign for the Arizona Trail. They said there was a female hiker in front of me who went by the trail name “Snot Rocket”. This seems like a typical trail name quickly given after watching one action, but I never did meet snot rocket or any of the other reported hikers in front of me.
My sister Kelli her husband Eric join me from Phoenix for on-again, off-again hiking along the Arizona Trail. For four days we hiked between 14 to 21 miles each day as one-off them shuttled their vehicle to the next meeting point, taking turns hiking with me. It was very nice having them along for the hike, enjoyed the company. This was a dry section and their assistance it made it quite easy because the car was stocked with water limiting the amount of water carried along with trail. It felt like slack packing although I would not let them take any of my other gear even though they offered.
At one of the breaks we encountered two southbound Arizona Trail hikers we had some friendly chats then I found out they were both nuclear engineers. They worked at a nuclear plant in Nebraska. This really drove the conversation and hyperdrive because I am a nuclear engineer for the Navy. It turns out they were both Navy nukes on nuclear cruisers which were cut up at Puget Sound Ship Yard. We traded stories they even knew the colloquial term “Four balls manual”. I won’t explain this, but any coworkers reading this blog might get a quick chuckle. I would say to date, from other hikers I’ve met the most lively conversation I had was this one with these fellow nuclear engineers. I accused them of being Bart Simpson and then accuse me of being Bart Simpson.
Eric and I continued on our way and we basically were walking through a beautiful Ponderosa Pine forest, and the open meadows had Irises that were about 3 to 4 days away from blooming. I think Eric was wishing the Irises are blooming at that time. I think when I leave Flagstaff I think I’m going see a lot Irises higher in the mountains.
I made it to Flagstaff Arizona on Monday, May 10. I couldn’t check into my hotel till 4 PM so I spent the day walking around town being a tourist getting my fuel resupply, and learning every awesome place I could eat. There are more places to eat this town in more places to buy beer, and more places to drink coffee than you can imagine. I guess this is a sign of a thriving college town, beer and coffee. Monday evening my friend Forrest Fanara who hiked with me on the prior section join me for a pizza, beer and good conversations.
For my day off instead of actually resting what I ended up doing was renting a mountain bike. My mountain biking, killed two stones! I enjoyed the change of pace and I needed to get way out of town to the post office to pick up my resupply located at the main post office way out of the downtown core. I thoroughly enjoy the mountain biking when I get done with Four Corners Loop I think this is a new toy that will be in my future.
After leaving Flagstaff I plan on climbing Humphries peak which is 12,637 feet. I think I should be able to climb it the first day after leaving town which will give me about 6,000 feet of elevation gain. Tomorrow’s theme is just go up!
I am excited to be hiking towards the Grand Canyon tomorrow, and excited for the rest the trip.
Thank you for reading my blog.
Sunday, May 2
I’m in Forest Lakes Arizona. This is time to rest my leg because the post office was not open on Sunday. I am sitting at a café which is the only place to eat in town, the Smoking Gun Café. Yesterday I had a chorizo omelette with mushrooms, it was very good, and today I had the breakfast burrito which is also very good. I’m glad the only place to eat in town has tasty food. There’s only one hotel in town, which I don’t recommend because it is dirty, but in an effort to keep this blog positive I won’t say anymore. With this said, future hikers should use this town as a postal drop because it just makes sense to shorten the distance to Flagstaff, but do make an effort to not get stuck in this town on a weekend with your food re-supply trapped in the post office. If you do not send a resupply package here the café stop. The burritos will make your stomach quite happy.
My trip mileage total is 602 miles at this point, I walked 77 dry miles from Pinetop. My friend Forrest Fanara drove down from Flagstaff and joined me just outside of Pinetop for a day of hiking. He join me on a day it was snowing and cold. But we enjoyed our 10 mile hike together into the woods, we talked all day and into the night. Forrest surprised me by packing in four beers, two for him and two for me. Having a beer in the middle of the woods in Arizona was quite a treat. I’m very appreciative for his company along the trail.
Arizona is not always dry the first day out of Pinetop it snowed. I’ve quickly learned that when it snows in Arizona the earth turns to mud, this is not just your every day simple mud it is your classic sticky mud. Mud the clumps up and causes you to walk in high heels with five to ten pounds added to each foot. Combine this mud with Ponderosa Pine needles and what happens is you get an extra wide platform under each foot. And then the whole mud pine needle conglomeration decides to detach and live a life of its own behind you through an abrupt separation. This causes the lighter now shorter foot to drop lower than the other foot that still has a thick layer of sticky mud. Ample time is spent walking lop-cited looking for the next downed tree or rock just scrape your feet on, knowing you’ll have an equal amount of mud built back up in about 15 steps. I was quite surprised by my mud fest day mileage, I managed to hike 18 miles, an accomplishment. As the day wore on conditions dried, but then a thunder shower would come through or a new snow shower adding more moisture to the earth returning it back to its level of prior muddiness.
With all the moisture in the mud one would hope to find water but none existed all the water was occupied by clay particles. There was no free water for one to find. I was down to 2 L of water and I knew I didn’t have enough water for continuing on so I chose to go north to the town of Pinedale to obtain some water. Pinedale was quiet at 5:30 PM. I walked the streets nobody was out in front of their house. The fire department was closed down, I’m assuming it was I volunteer fire department otherwise I would’ve asked them. The Forrest Service compound looked close down for the day. So since I still had 2 L on me I thought I’d walk out to US 260 and find a general store. I did see one person pulling into his driveway he unlocked his gate pulled his truck through, got out of his truck to lock up his gate again when I approached him for some water. Honestly I think I surprised him and maybe he was having a bad day because he quickly said no. This did not disturb me because I still had water on me and he did inform me of a general store about 2 miles down the road. So I spent the night sleeping on forest service land. My plan for the morning was to walk down the road to the general store and buy water, but I found it closed. So I chose to go north on another road to an RV campground where I was greeted by two awesome people who said I could have all the water I could carry. At this time I could carry 10 1/2 L and I filled all my bottles up to full capacity. My backpack just got very heavy.
I continued on the westbound road going back to US 260, when I saw a pickup truck abruptly stop and the guy jumped out and ran across the road. I was thinking, wow does that guy have to go to the bathroom and he’s going to the bathroom right where I want to walk. Then I crested the ridge and I saw there was two other people putting out a small fire on the other side of the road started by tire debris. One of the man who is driving a sewage truck and he was thinking he should start spraying sewage on the fire. But another person stopped pulled out a fire extinguisher and this was the trick that got the fire out. I thought I’d have to start taking my pack apart to get the 10 1/2 L out I just put in to start putting out the fire. The police arrived then the fire department arrived, scene secure. I thanked the men for stopping the fire because the winds were blowing in the direction I wanted to walk and it’s really hard to walk through a burning forest. I walked on fully laden with 22 pounds of water, and this would successfully get me to Forest Lakes.
The rest of the day and all the way to Forest Lakes I was on a Arizona state historical trail called the General Cook Trail. When I looked up the history of this trail it basically celebrates how general Cook was responsible for containing the Apache Indians to their reservation. Something in my mind questions this history and thinks it is only from the white settler’s point of view. There are a few signs along the way teaching the
history, but nowhere in history lesson does it include that Native American Apache Indians were forced from their historical hunting and gathering in grounds and how it affected them.
The temperatures are comfortable 72 in this town but I am shivering with the wind, I think I’ve lost a lot of fat on my body I’m excited to find a scale at some point to see what I’ve lost. Some of my muscles are becoming more defined, and my arm muscles seem to be getting smaller along with my chest muscles because I’m not using them. The back of my hands have tanned up quite nicely along with my neck “V” tan that is not covered by my shirt. I’ve been wearing long sleeve shirt and long pants so I have to use less sunscreen. My left foot which hurts every now and then is appreciating this rest in Forest Lakes, but I’m looking forward to getting on with my hike tomorrow morning at 9 AM when the post office opens.
The next section comprising of the Highland Trail and the Arizona Trail, these trails should have many hikers and I’m looking forward to the camaraderie and sharing stories with other people doing the same activity as myself.
Oh, I forgot to mention, one day I saw two herds of elk, some deer, wild horses, antelope and a coyote all within a short period of each other. I really enjoyed watching wild horses on the section.
Signing off from Forest Lakes
Monday, April 26
Today I entered Pinetop Arizona my 5th resupply town. It is a nice town surrounded by Ponderosa Pine trees. The distance from Alpine Arizona to Pinetop was approximately 77 miles, and took me five days to hike. My High Point was at 9,500 feet, and can be described as open countryside edged with forest, which included Spruces, large Aspen trees, Ponderosa Pine trees. Within the trees were snow patches were blown into drifts by the winter winds. The melting snow created a fresh feeling in the air. The clear prairie like settings were free of snow. Due to the snow recently melting I had plenty of water sources.
A big portion of the last section was following the Apache Railroad Trail. This was a railroad in the early 1900s that was put in for logging the area and getting the large Ponderosa Pines trees to the mill. The Apache Railroad Trail is a 21 mile long bike path that is mostly red lava rock and was pleasant to walk along. I think it would be a lovely place to ride a bike. It was nice that the Forest Service had underpasses where it went under a road that had very little traffic.
During the section I had my first snafu, I stopped to take a break and realized I was missing my solar panel. I determined I left it 4 miles behind at my prior break location, so I was planning on leaving it behind, but then I decided this is not what The Animal does, he turns around, goes back and gets his stuff. Plus by the time I retrieve it, my battery will be fully charged. So on April 24 I had the pleasure of hiking 22 1/2 miles for the day but only had forward progress of 14 miles. It even gave me the opportunity to cross the high point of the day three times. Personally I actually enjoyed going back for my stuff it was a good way to make all of you laugh.
April 25, I was quite tired because I don’t think my body likes doing 22 mile days, it prefers 17 to 19 mile days. Hiking along the route I was sluggish and slow moving, one way to get the body moving is pancakes on the side of the trail. Yes you read the word right, “pancakes”. Included was an apple, a banana, juice, and water. What does all this mean it means I received trail magic. Ronda and Jeff Johnson who were camping in their RVs by the side of the trail with their children, they we’re wondering what a strange bearded man was doing walking down the jeep road, so she came up and said what are you doing? This turned into a lovely discussion with her and her family and resulted in a pancake breakfast. So here’s a cheers to Ronda and John for providing awesome unexpected trail magic along the way. It gave me the energy and pep I needed to get to my next adventure, which was a prescribed fire.
Yes, this is correct a prescribed fire. There was no sign when I started hiking down a trail that said hey there’s gonna be a fire ahead. Archers upon archer of burnt land I passed, so as I hiked on the land started to smolder and I thought it looked like a prescribed fire. As I hiked further I encountered more smoke, and then there was 10 to 12 foot flames on the side of the trail when it torched one small tree. At this point I thought there should be people tending to this fire so I did call 911 to let them know there was a fire. It was creeping up the hill, torching small bushes, I wasn’t sure what it would do when it got to the other side of the pass. After the 911 call I continued hiking to get away, when I got to the other side of the pass it was already burnt, so I knew the fire I saw a really wouldn’t spread anywhere. It was quite toasty walking by the fire, and I’m sure a lot of you saw it on the Facebook page.
Later that day walking through some lovely trees I ran into the owner of the Pinetop Brewery, mountain biking with his two daughters. He was quite proud of them because they were on the mountain bike team. We had a lovely talk and upon reaching Pinetop I decided to go to his restaurant and have dinner for the evening. Somebody from the northwest who likes IPAs would not have been disappointed. Inside the brewery I met a man who thinks I should write my own book about my adventure. He was a writer named Les Roger and his book is titled “Rollovers, Rattlesnakes and UFOs: ... and Other Wild West Adventures”. We had a very meaningful conservation and he was sure that me being who I am and not living in fear is brining joy to many people. I agree!
Here is the written description of his book, sounds interesting.
Rollovers, Rattlesnakes & UFOs is a fascinating spiritual memoir depicting the power of trust and how to stay positive through life’s trying and extraordinary experiences. This modern day “Wild West” adventure has a take on life’s occurrences that give deeper meaning to our existence than what meets the physical eye. The eight compelling true-life stories are a breath of fresh air, even when they leave you breathless. You will rediscover your soul all over again
Tomorrow I meet up with my friend Forrest Fanara who just moved down to Flagstaff, he’s going to hike out with me spend the night, and he will hike back to his car I will continue on to Forest Lakes which is about 79 miles away. I’m looking forward to continuing my hike through the worlds largest Ponderosa Pine forest, and there is snow in the forecast.
Thanks for reading
Wednesday, April 21
The section of the Four Corners Loop from Pie Town an New Mexico to Alpine Arizona was filled with joyful memories about the Continental Divide Trail from the start, then shifted into learning and observing the unknown after leaving my prior stomping grounds of the Continental Divide Trail. A lot has changed in this area, I discovered a random shower built in the middle of nowhere for CDT hikers. This made me laugh and smile. I had to take a shower, it was hot and amazing.
This section also rewarded me with a test of “water management endurance” due to the dry conditions on trail. Ultimately, I walked 58 miles between water supplies. I left a newly developed well water source, and did not know it would be 58 miles until I reached another cow watering tank. The goodness of people, and pure luck in the section did provide me two unknown sources of water.
My water was supplemented by two I Mexican Spotted owl biologists who gave me three liters of water at dusk in a random infrequently used jeep road. This was pure luck for me. I thought about turning them down because I thought I had a good source the next day, but they were going to hoot for owls, then head out for town and had 14 gallons in the back of their truck, so I accepted the “Trail Magic”. My water was also supplemented by a snowstorm where I hard-packed my empty bottles full of snow because I was unsure where and when the next water would be.
The serious lack of water ended when I approached a cow trough I was sure would be full of water. My confidence came from looking at it on the satellite many times at many different times of the year. I could tell this was a new cow trough, well-managed and I just had a feeling it would have the elixir of life contained within it. I loaded up with 9 L of water about 18 pounds added to my pack. I knew this would get me to Alpine Arizona. I have the capacity to carry 12 L of water on me during this hike.
Right after I entered Arizona I saw my first stream on the Four Corners Loop and then another and then another. So far a total of four streams have seen in Arizona. The only flowing stream I saw in New Mexico was the Rio Grande River. Most of Arizona is currently in an exceptional class five drought. The highest severity of drought levels. I am going to use the same caution I did on the last section, and choose to carry the weight in water, because keeping my body hydrated is important for good function and continuation of this amazing journey.
What about the scenery. As I traveled from East to West, the trail gained more and more elevation. There was a high 9600 foot lookout I went over, Mangas Mountain 9,691’. The elevations around 8000 feet were predominately Ponderosa Pine forest. When you gain in elevation you begin to see Aspen trees, Douglas Firs, Blue Spruce, and Engelmann Spruce trees. The higher elevations, there was a coolness in the air.
The travel was easy, with a mixture of high-quality dirt roads, some jeep roads, and a very large portion of cross country travel. I’m finding cross country travel in New Mexico and Arizona is very easy. Especially with the Ponderosa pine trees, they leave a soft cushion of needles for your feet to enjoy. When in the woods all you have to do was walk and enjoy the mighty large, old, gnarly trees, while following elk paths. These were punctuated by open expanses. One cool brisk morning while walking in the open, I was paralleled by a wolf. I would watch the wolf, the wolf would watch me, I would stop, the wolf would stop. We were both spending our time watching each other, wondering if the gap between us would increase or decrease. Then before I knew it the wolf was gone never to be seen again, prompting me to take a lunch break and relish in the shared moment.
Similar to prior sections I saw several herds of elk in this section I have a feeling the sighting of elk will continue for miles to come. When I entered Arizona my emotions were high. This was a glowing experience for me, and remember when I glow you glow. I was greeted by a horny toad lizard basking on a road in the sun I thought it was a great sign to welcome me to Arizona with a lizard, thank you earth!
As mentioned above there was a lack of water. The general cool temperatures for the six days really helped manage my water consumption as I continue on tomorrow I will continue to have cool temperatures. One day it was quite snowy, ending with a sunshine window, I got up at 1 PM packed up was able to move 8.1 miles before it begin to snow again, so the short duration day acted as if it was almost a rest day. There was another day where I took about two hours eating lunch just sitting up looking into the branches of a mighty Ponderosa Pine tree.
I encountered some loggers doing forest treatment clearings To reduce the risk of catastrophic wild fire. I had a good conversation with them, and yes they shared their contentions with the Forest Service and how they were only allowed to cut the smaller trees. The cut trees were sent for the mill to make wood-stove pellets. I enjoyed this conversation because during the snowstorm I listen to several podcasts by Oregon Public Broadcasting called Timber Wars, which I recommend.
The town of Alpine is small, there is only one place to eat food, and the grocery store doesn’t have much. I am very glad I sent myself the food I need to get to Pinetop Arizona about 80 miles away. Tomorrow when I leave it appears I gain some more in elevation so I’m expecting to hike with aspen trees, with open areas of grassland.
Thank you for reading,