Day 19: Ripsey Wash Area to Gila River Trailhead

Sunrise over Sonoran Desert

Today felt like a rough day. Not so much physically but more emotionally, a number of factors contributing to that. Firstly, I think I might have brought a bit of preparation stress to the trail with me after the zero day in Phoenix. Secondly, I brought a lightweight tripod to the trail with me, which, given everything I was able to leave behind, should have only added a pound or so, but at the same time, it’s still another pound. Thirdly, the extra weight, as well as the not so great socks I mistakenly wore that first day out, recreated a bunch of old blisters, leaving my feet in a bit a pain. Fourthly, I’m now certain I didn’t bring as much food as i should have for this part of the trail. And finally, the 25 mile day I had yesterday didn’t help out the feet at all. It was a tough situation to bounce back from, even with a fantastic sunrise.

It was the first morning on the entire trip where there were clouds to create a more dynamic sunrise. All the dazzling pastels were thrown around in the sky and reflecting off the nearby vegetation. While shooting, I switched over to my telephoto lens and noticed the image stabilization was producing the opposite of its intended effect. I began to panic wondering what I did to make it act up, then I noticed again the massive power lines directly above. I hoped that that was the cause, and if so, that it didn’t negatively affect anything else. I got my things together and began down the trail, relieved that it soon veered away from the massive structures. Once far enough away, I nervously gave my lens another test. I peered through, and gently squeezed the shutter button, halfway hoping for, and halfway dreading the result. The image stabilization fired up just like normal, which I was greatly relieved to find.

It was some easy flat hiking at first before the desert opened up over Ripsey Wash. Dropping down into what was more of a small scenic canyon than a wash, leaving some disgruntled cattle behind, the air was still and stagnant with a trace of humidity. In one word, bleh. The canyon itself however was quite pleasant. The walls quickly grew around me. Trademark saguaros stretched their limbs skyward while the cholla stretched their limbs outward and into the trail. I found some good, clean water just off of the trail thanks to a note left by someone named Brother Bear. In a poor decision though, noticing the next water was only a mile away, I only got one liter. Though the next water source had plenty, it was father out of the way, swarming with bees, and not quite as clear. In hindsight, I should have just filled up at the first one and just kept going. Fortunately, the bees weren’t an issue and allowed me to drink with them before heading on.

Clouds and Cactus

At the time however, I was growing a little frustrated. The hurting feet, the poor decision, it was starting to add up and I found I had lost the euphoria that I had on the trail when I left for the zero day. Naturally, I let that bother me, and focused more on the stresses of the situation rather than the situation itself: me on the AZT! I calmed myself down, regrouped, and did the only thing I could do in that situation: put one foot in front of the other, and repeat. I also reminded myself that being aware that I wasn’t feeling how I wanted is a good first step to changing that.

Farther down the trail, at the base of a couple of large mountains that had seemed to appear out of nowhere, some clouds began moving in. Then a breeze began to pick up. Then, as the trail began to gain newer and higher vantage points, I found myself lightening up. This came at a perfect time because it was a long and steep climb up a rocky desert mountain. The new views of rugged and wild mountains to the north only got better and showed that very soon, the scenery would be changing.

Then I got to the top, and laid out below was an enormous strip mine where there had once been a mountain range, mountains that took hundreds of millions of years to form, now reduced to a pile of rubble in just a few years. Those mountains will never return. Priceless mountains, happy to give all that nature knows how in such an environment, obliterated to help just a few people gain a temporary profit. No one will ever hike there again. No one will ever mountain bike there. No fresh water will ever come rushing down twisted rocks in canyons, feeding wildlife and plants with precious water. Not that that matters much. The plants and wildlife also have no plans to return.

Sonoran Desert and Desert Mountains

Despite the hideous desecration sprawled out below, I was feeling better. My feet ready for a break, I stopped on my way down the mountain to let them rest. Here, a few thru-hiking lessons were drilled into me. It’s OK to stop and rest rather than trying to push a continuous pace. In fact, I’d highly recommend it. Second, don’t try to maintain a certain pace each day. Every day will be different, so just allow every day to set its own relaxing and enjoyable pace. Emotionally, I was now feeling better. I enjoyed the remainder of the descent, noticing the moisture in the air graying out the distant mountains.

I rounded out my 18 mile day by making an attempt to have a pizza delivered to the trail, but sadly, wasn’t able to get a good enough signal. So I camped nearby and called it an early day so I could get a good night’s sleep, provided the two railroad tracks in the vicinity don’t get too much more traffic.

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