Day 26: Eastern Four Peaks to Northern Four Peaks
Clean socks equals happy feet. Happy feet makes for happy hiking. That was my problem last night. My socks had gotten pretty dirty. Fortunately, despite climbing up the backside of the Four Peaks, I was still able to crank out a nearly 20 mile day thanks to my happy feet.
I started hiking after doing my morning routine and the trail intersected with some talus slopes, something I didn’t expect to see so soon, or at such a relatively low elevation. Aside from the talus, it was surprisingly easy walking thanks to minimal elevation gain and a cool breeze hanging on despite the sun’s best efforts to make it otherwise.
Two miles in and I found what would have made for a perfect campsite the previous night. Clean your socks. They make your feet happy so you can reach ideal campsites instead of settling for mediocre ones. The site peered down over mazes of canyons from both the Superstition Mountains as well as the Four Peaks, each canyon twisting and winding through the desert rock, only to be broken by the Salt River between the two ranges.
I reached the next available water just as I was starting to crave some. I followed the trail down to the sound of water pouring over rocks and began a lengthy rest and rehydration. I washed my socks, then let them dry as best as they could while I drank two liters, and filtered even more. Though the hiking up to this point had been pleasant, I knew it wouldn’t last forever. After all, the Four Peaks were still in the distance.
I began up the trail again and it began its three mile ascent up a steep climb almost immediately. Tucked away in lower hills of the peaks, the trail was blocked from too many grand views of the surrounding area. Instead, it was a strenuous assault on elevation, testing the most fit hikers and backpackers. And yet, it wasn’t anything new. It wasn’t anything the trail hadn’t thrown at me before. Hydrated and familiar with strenuous climbs now, I made relatively great time during the ascent. Then, it was over. It wasn’t so bad at all. The end of the climb was marked with the Four Peaks peeking out over a ridge where they all of a sudden looked much closer and accessible.
The landscapes below started opening up as the trail made smaller ascents until it finally leveled out, traveling through small canyons and ravines before traversing a hillside. Over and over it continued that pattern. I would have made better time through this section but the vegetation in many places was very overgrown. The cactus had long since been left behind. Instead bushes and trees did their best to reclaim their soil from the trail.
For miles the trail kept wrapping around hillsides until at last the Four Peaks were in plain view ahead. Jagged and massive granite outcroppings rising toward the sky, obscuring nearly 180 degrees, demanding the attention of anyone that passes through.
The trail passed almost directly below them, and just like that, they were now behind me. The same pattern of traversing hillsides resumed through overgrown vegetation, but was broken up a bit more this time.
I reached the next water source where I had actually caught up with Gizmo, who had pushed herself the day before reaching the next available water from Roosevelt, which was about seven miles past my camp. She was wrapping up a long break, so I told her about my longer detour back on the trail, and after a brief catch-up session, she was off to try to camp several miles away. Already well hydrated, I got just a bit more to get me to Pigeon Spring just a couple of miles beyond. With the next good water not for another 13 miles after that, I stocked up on plenty, then moved on.
The trail intersected a dirt road which showed off some spectacular views both east and west as the sun was beginning to set. Though my walking pace was fast, I stopped frequently to capture the fading colorful light in both directions. I ultimately found a campsite with nice views just a mile or two from the spring just off the road.