Day 44: Babbitt Ranch to Coconino Rim
The Coconino Rim was just over 20 miles away. I had visions of this area being ripe with campsites all along the rim overlooking the eastern edge of the Kaibab Plateau below, as well as the Grand Canyon carving its way toward the area. Surely there had to be one good campsite like that within the first few miles of reaching it. It was certainly worth trying.
Sunrise brought some strong gusty winds with it, many times blowing me right off the trail, which at this time was still dirt roads. As a result, there was quite a bit of blowing dust with the wind. This dust would inevitably work its way through my shoes, get compacted into my socks, and then caked onto my feet. It would also fill every exposed pore on my body, giving me a slightly darker tint until I would be able to shower next.
The first available water for the day came after about 4.4 miles and was reached relatively quickly thanks to the wind being mostly at my back and not much elevation change. That was the good part. The bad part was when I walked within sight of the water, a small metal tank on the ground, I saw about eight cows crowded around it, drinking and slobbering from its perimeter. Of course I always knew cattle shared some of the water with me, but seeing it first-hand gave it a whole new perspective that I wished I could have unseen. I needed water though, and this was all there was for miles in either direction.
They moved off as I approached and I got started getting what I needed, but with intense gusts of wind knocking over many of my belongings, and making the simple job of filtering water rather annoying, I got the minimum of what I needed, and then took a half-liter of unfiltered water to filter later just in case the bare minimum wasn’t enough.
I followed a few more dirt roads, then entered into the Kaibab National Forest. That was it? This enigmatic void of relentless dirt roads was already over? I rather enjoyed quite a bit of it and found it to be much more scenic than I had expected. There were one or two monotonous moments, but it wasn’t bad at all. Moving into the national forest, the miles remained quick and easy to accumulate, but with the trees now growing taller and taller, there was a bit less wind to keep me as cool. High in the treetops, it often sounded like a distant freight train that never quite came in my direction.
The ponderosa pines returned as the forest continued to grow taller and more dense. I reached Russell Tank where I got my last water for the day, then made my big afternoon haul to the Coconino Rim.
By the time I reached the rim, my feet were already tired. They would have been just as happy stopping miles ago. On the plus side, the town of Tusayan was looking like it could be reached the next day, so any more miles I could add on would make that come quicker and then I’d be able to rest my body properly.
I began looking for my ideal campsite, but the forest was thicker than I had anticipated which covered up a lot of the potential views. I kept going. Surely there had to be a good spot soon. Through a bit of elevation change and around eroded bends, I kept looking, growing thirstier. Finally I could feel my body demanding a water break. I stopped, chugged a liter with Nuun, then kept going. Another mile down and still nothing. It had to be here somewhere. Another mile down. All I wanted was a nice view from the Coconino Rim. My biggest fear was stopping to camp with no view, then only going a half mile the next day and finding it. Alas, my feet won out. There was a nice looking campsite tucked away in the trees, and so my feet got what they wanted. If there is a campsite like what I had imagined, I wouldn’t be there tonight.