Funny how an easy day turns into a 20 mile day. I was looking forward to relaxing in the afternoon and doing some laundry, but I didn’t have quite as much time as I was hoping thanks to an error in my assumptions about the trail.
I was up and on the trail by 7am, a bit earlier than in previous days. Just a mile down the trail I caught up with Gizmo who nearly had her camp packed up. I liked my campsite, but hers was pretty sweet too. She, however, was reminded just how close Phoenix actually was when the sun never actually did set for her. Knowing she’d catch up at some point, I went ahead.
Most thru-hikers aren’t fond of road walking, yet this road was the exception to the rule. The landscapes stretched deep into their eastern and western horizons, the road feeling like a saddle on top of the earth. Past one turn for a look down into the heart of Phoenix and well beyond. Past another turn where Roosevelt Lake could be seen reflecting the early morning light as the Sierra Ancha Mountains terraced above massive plateaus behind it. Each twist and turn of the road revealed a subtle new angle and thus a brand new vantage point. How had I missed this road during all my time in Phoenix?
The grand views were eventually hidden behind a thick forest of oak trees where I stopped to get a bit more water and check on a sore spot on my foot. As I was getting up to leave, Gizmo caught up and we began to hike together. We carried on great conversations throughout the morning as the road teased a new view in a different direction, as well as a vivid view of the Mogollon Rim ahead, a significant turning point in the trail itself.
Deep in conversation, the trail finally left the road and headed down into a canyon via a proper trail. This ultimately led to Boulder Creek where we each took a long and much needed rest, especially since we had made fantastic time down there. This was also the first water source for the day, some 12 miles in, so we each felt we were due for a break.
After more good conversation, I loaded up and got ready to head out. She was only going as far as Sycamore Creek four miles ahead, but I needed to get to the highway another two miles from there. That was where I was to meet my friend Bruce who was going to start with me along the next stretch.
I made good time down and was looking forward to rinsing off some clothes, as well as myself, and drying them in the afternoon sun. I had been to the area last year after leaving the trail and remembered the access point being right next to the creek. The only problem was that that was the access point, not the trail. I came to a fork in the trail that pointed to the access point to the right and the trail to the left. Surely there’d be access on the other side of the highway, so I headed up a mile or so, but couldn’t find any. The trail just kept heading farther into the Mazatzal Mountains. I grudgingly turned around and backtracked back to the creek, the sun by this time now much lower. I passed the fork where I left a note for Gizmo since I had now misinformed her about water, then proceeded down to the creek and closer to the access point.
I was able to take advantage of the creek to rinse a couple of things off, but the afternoon sun was now low on the horizon behind some high clouds. At the same time, Bruce had just pulled up so I went up to go meet him and pick up my new food.
We headed back down by the creek to camp where a flurry of new noises sang me to sleep.