Day 22: Superior to Whitford Canyon

Geologic Upthrust

Comfort is king. It’s remarkable how just an extra half day of rest can make such an enormous difference. My feet were still hurting this morning, but I knew they’d have some relief with the extra time which would help.

I got up and began my morning errands: breakfast at Los Hermanos (great pancakes and hashbrowns, among many other things), picking up the mail drop at the post office (which almost didn’t happen since she read my license wrong and said there was nothing there), and getting a few new supplies (mainly water bottles since one wasn’t squeezing well anymore and I infected the other with untreated water). Afterward, I was back in my motel room doing nothing but resting comfortably.

This turned out to be boring though. I started going through my pack and my mail drops and began sorting them out. Fortunately, the guy running the place was kind enough to let me stay until 1pm rather than the standard 11am checkout time, which gave me a chance to relax and take my time. I even managed to get some laundry done with a few other things, then it was time to head out.

I tried hitchhiking back to the trail, but with some kind of construction holdup gone wrong, traffic was backed up, and parked even, for miles in both directions. Any cars that did come my way were itching to keep moving. I eventually gave up and just kept walking the three miles or so back to the trail. With a full pack of food and water, I was surprised just how easily I was moving after how painful it had previously been. Once back on the trail, the miles passed much easier than before. My feet were actually comfortable, which made the walking extraordinarily more enjoyable.

I always knew that my shoes should be tight enough so that my feet don’t move around since that causes blisters. What I didn’t realize is that they apparently can also be too tight. I’m thinking this was a big part of my problem in the last stretch. They were so tight that they were bunching in on top, causing extra irritation above my toes. Then, having switched to a weaker and worn pair of socks only reignited all the other blisters. In the end, my feet were in pain by the end of each day and I couldn’t wait to get my shoes off and dreaded putting them back on. Today, there was no pain. I didn’t have to accelerate to a 2mph pace. It felt great, and I felt a renewed sense of eagerness about the trail. Granted, I only did about seven trail miles plus about three road miles, but any pain and soreness was a long way away, even with a loaded pack. Comfortable feet also makes for a comfortable hike. A comfortable hike makes for an enjoyable mindset. An enjoyable mindset gets you to the end without unneeded stress. Comfort is king.

Apache Leap Formation

The entire afternoon was spent in another target area that’s under a mining threat. From Highway 60, it doesn’t look like much. But then nothing ever really does from the highway, fortunate for the oil and gas industry. Heading closer and closer to the base of the iconic Superstition Mountains however, things become a lot more interesting rather quickly.

Bright yellow flowers were bursting from large arrays of prickly pear cactus. Bees eagerly scoured one flower after another, going from one yellow cactus flower to a bold pink cactus flower, to any of the myriad of smaller blue and violet wildflowers that filled in the gaps between the cactus and palo verde trees. Ocotillo were in their prime season, coating hillsides with Jackson Pollack splashes of bright vibrant red against the green of the vegetation, the brown of the dirt below, the strong rusty orange of the rocky cliffs beyond, and the pointillism of all the other wildflowers of various colors dotting the remainder of the landscape. The Superstition Mountains towered over the hills from the northern horizon, rugged cliffs and peaks waiting to be explored. And yet, someone out there wants to take this all away from everyone for mining operations.

I was hoping to camp with a view of all that scenery, to take advantage of both sunset and sunrise, but a decent campsite couldn’t be found. Instead, I kept going into Whitmore Canyon, hoping to find something with a decent view. The canyon itself didn’t disappoint though. There was evidence of obvious geologic forces that thrust up one side of the canyon, leaving walls of orange rocks at an awkward angle. Cottonwood trees shared soil with saguaro cactus, the lush canyon bottom allowing for all kinds of vegetation to grow, down to a healthy diversity even in the grasses. The creek even had an occasional flow to it, sometimes finding an easier route underground, sometimes above.

The canyon eventually opened up to my surprise, where I found a cozy campsite with some nice views. I setup camp, and had a satisfying dinner, capped off with Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, as many different birds all chirped their individual calls before calling it a day. Coyotes howled only 50 yards away as the sun finally set. Night critters slowly began stirring about, examining what changes the day brought with it. And of course, the stars came out overhead, struggling not to be outdone by light pollution from surrounding communities.

Though short, today was a great day because I was comfortable, and comfort is king.

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