Even an uneventful day on the Arizona Trail is still an incredible day by any standards.
There were no critters in the meadow this morning as I had hoped. It was pretty, but nothing to keep me from moving ahead.
Heading down the trail it was an extremely pleasant morning with cool air and late golden light filtering through the endless evergreens as I soon found myself at something of an overlook, though partially obstructed from trees. In the distance was my first clear glimpse of the San Francisco Peaks. At their base was Flagstaff, where my next planned zero day would be to resupply for the remainder of the trail. Though I’m sure there must have been views of the peaks prior to this, they were nowhere to be found due to the heavy amounts of rain and weather that had come through on my way down the Mazatzals. Incredibly, it looked like they had more snow on them now than when I had driven by in late February.
The nice view wouldn’t last though as I began to make my way down toward the (official) Blue Ridge Campground, which was still closed for the season. On my way down though, I was able to spot a cow elk before she heard me, something not easy to do since elk seem to have remarkable hearing. I snuck in a bit closer, the dirt on the trail hiding my steps. Yet somehow, she still heard me. Behind a large ponderosa pine, her head was up, listening. She peeked from behind it and spotted me snapping a few photos of her. She felt I had gotten enough, and then trotted off casually with a friend that I hadn’t noticed.
I passed through the vacant Blue Ridge Campground and on the other side, was both startled and amazed to see a brilliant royal blue sapphire color flying out of a tree only 15 feet in front of me. It was a slow motion moment as one of the bluest birds I have ever seen seemed to glow practically florescent blue, streaking through the air within what seemed like reaching distance from my face. I tried to follow him back for a shot, but he had gone too far and wasn’t interested in being a photo subject. Just a memory.
Mile after easy mile added up quickly, through a small canyon with a dry creek and back out through a partially burned area. Then I found myself reluctantly heading toward a stock tank for water. All along the trail these were the last resorts for getting more water. And yet, this one was clean looking. Cattle hadn’t come up for the season yet and done their seasonal bruising on the landscape, nor turned the clear water a murky shade of gray and brown. Instead, it just looked like a nice clean pond.
Not far from refilling my water at the stock tank, I caught back up with Gizmo who was now joined by her younger brother. He was getting his first backpacking experience and seemed to be adapting well. They were having lunch, and since I was ready to eat, joined in. I learned later in the day though not to eat one-third of a jar of Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter in one sitting. But they’re such tasty calories!
As we were preparing to leave, One Gallon came up the trail and met up with us. Gizmo and her brother, Tice, were still packing up, so he and I began up the trail to the next water source where the other two caught up with us. After refilling more water, One Gallon and I started up the trail again and cranked out miles thanks to a lot of good conversation. We didn’t stop for another five miles or so when we reached the next water, when, naturally, Gizmo and Tice caught up with us once again.
Remember what I said about the chocolate hazelnut butter? It caught up with me then as we left the water, where Gizmo and Tice were going to camp. I let One Gallon go ahead, then took care of myself. I hiked another mile and a half or so, then decided it was time to camp after 21 miles, the after effects of binge eating too much chocolate hazelnut butter still making me feel a little off. I wasn’t as pressured to get to Mormon Lake so quickly anymore after learning from the AZT app that the post office was in fact open on Saturday morning. It was then time to get another good night’s sleep in the forest, hoping the wind would die down.