Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
- Jun 7, 2012
***Samuel (Dipodomys microps) wakes up after a third prodding from his mother. You have to get up. Uhhh, its not even late mom. She looks down at her son and pushes her nose into him again. She’s not messing around. He rubs his eyes and begins to rise, his sagging belly droops across the floor. He follows her out of the borough and they trot along a long worn path. They criss-cross through a parking lot. A star filled sky is blazing overhead, but they keep whiskers down, feeling out the situation. An older male flies past. He catches a scent and stops, starts hammering his right hind leg as if attempting to start a motorcycle. Mom prances ahead quickly, turns her head slightly behind. When she looks back, Sam knows to hide. As he darts to the blackbrush nearby, Sam grumbles that he knows how to handle himself, as he begins munching away at Coleogyne ramosissima. I’m sick of this brush, he mutters quietly to himself out loud. The grumbling in his stomach upstages this spoiled thought. This chisel-toothed rodent has tasted the good stuff.
We decided to meet at Don’s house. It happened to be the most centrally located, and convenient for all of us. We’d been planning this adventure for 2 months, and it was finally here. @NateGeesaman and I pulled up, later than we had planned, and quickly started shuffling things in the back of Arts truck while loading our own. We yelled a few times, but you know those old guys, they don’t hear too well. As we were finalizing the load @langutah and Don appeared through the garage, “Hey! There you two are,” Art declared. We greet one another enthusiastically. We all knew what was ahead. The Canyon.
On the long drive down south we caught up since the last time we were all out together. As we took turns driving, we shared stories from current, past, and future stories. Even with good music and conversation, the 7 hours in the dark is tedious. We fill the tank a final time in Fredonia. “Just not Sinclair,” Art instructs Don, “that guy is an asshole.” Back on the road and we start gazing at the stars peeking between thin cirrus clouds. We find a suitable location. I unload the firewood, and swing the maul a few times. Don brought a good bottle of Scotch, and we’ve got a few beers. The fire is started. We chug a few cold ones and sip some of that good stuff. We stare up. Orion, Betelgeuse, Procyon, Castor, and Pollux I lash out. I’d been studying. We throw down tarps and blow up mattresses. I had a new quilt to try out, and it was feeling chilly. The embers melt off the log. As is the norm, I hit the sack first.
The night was frigid. I never shed a layer, and awoke cold several times. At first light I was up, grateful to be rid of the night.
Three more nights. It will be warmer. I pace rapidly and warm up quick. I get water boiling. I have plenty of good coffee. I make the first batch and deliver the customary first cup to Art. I noticed the thick layer of frost across his tarp and bag. He raises his coffee cup very graciously, but I can tell it’s still too early. I pour a big serving for myself, and put off boiling more water for others. They had a later night than I. The sun had risen, and I began walking along the dirt road we pulled in on. I tried to search past the thick Ponderosa pine forest, but that would have taken a longer walk. I’ll have to get my views in later.
I mosey down a fork less traveled. It doesn’t appear to go anywhere, but there is plenty of evidence from the local heard. I dig a hole and do my business. It will be in good company.
As I return I can hear Don rustling about in his bag. It is now time for coffee. I put some water on, and wash out the press. I pour a bit for me, and a full cup for Don. Damn, it was cold last night, he states. Forecast said 37 up here on the ridge, but it was in the 20’s for sure, I reply. I pour a bit more for Art now that he’s a bit more with it. Thank you, thank you thank you, thank you, he chants as I pour the black gold into his cup. I walk over to Nate. I call his name a few times, and he doesn’t answer. I raise my voice with a slight nudge of the foot. His head pokes out slowly with one eye slightly open. Get up. It was hella cold last night man, he grumbles and slowly enters reality. I pour him some, and start managing my pack.
We drape our frost covered things around a few short Ponderosas. The sun pokes over the hills to the west. We soak it in. I stuff too many things into a small pack, and worry about it being as cold as it was last night. I clean up the coffee, and scarf handfuls of granola. I haven’t the patience for oatmeal, yet. Nate and Art are packed up, and we circle around Don in attempts to speed along the process.
We load up the truck and pull back onto pavement. Art assures us the trail isn’t far from here, we did good to get this far last night. We pull off pavement, and are back on dirt. Entering this side of the canyon is misleading. You are headed to a desert. A hard walking, dry, crumbling, multiple layered, sharp, cactus-filled chasm. What we were driving through is in sharp contrast to that reality. Ponderosa is my favorite Pine, Nate states as he stares out the window. Art quickly agrees, but I naturally object.
This forest is alive. A bushy-tailed squirrel darts across the way. I describe it, and Art informs me I’ve seen the Kaibab Squirrel (Sciurus kaibabensis). We are soaring past a Forest Ranger station when we see a large predator dip down from above. Although we don’t identify any particular markings, the actions are calm, dignified, and easy. We drive a bit further. Art begins speaking of the small amount of fauna generally found on the floor of a Ponderosa forest, when we see a Coyote pause on the mountain side. We find another turn, and a pack of Muleys rush past. We begin discussing how much wildlife we’ve seen when 5 wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) make their way south.
My last experience with this big ditch involved a lot of looking into it, teasing me with its siren song. It was months ago, but still haunted me. I was calm, but eager. The trailhead came, and we could only see a few layers. We’d have to work a bit harder if we were going to see more. I hear a slight rustling in the bushes, but quickly forget.
Clip it on by slc_dan, on Flickr
The packs are strapped on. Nate asks how much water I’m bringing. 2 Liters to start, I guess in reply. He nods in agreement. We clip in and start walking. No paper in the register, I shrug and continue on.
There it is.
Get in there by slc_dan, on Flickr
The walk down Hermit Shale is a slide of sharp white gravel. The view makes it hard to look down, yet each step requires focus. The space between walls is grand. Every smaller scratch is full of mystery, and reward. We’ve got 4 days down here. Luxury.
Just Go Down by slc_dan, on Flickr
Comparing it to other plateau walking I’ve done. The first difference immediately noticed on the walk down to the Esplanade (supai formation), is the variety of flora.
Budding by slc_dan, on Flickr
Just Go Down (Rice Grass) by slc_dan, on Flickr
We stop at the first bunch of neon Cottonwoods. The superior shade creates a fine lunch before we head back out.
First Cottonwoods by slc_dan, on Flickr
We walk over the smooth esplanade towards Fishtail Mesa, and into Ojojojo Canyon. Ojojojo. Three jo’s. There are several small downpours, but always easy navigation around them.
Into Ojojojo by slc_dan, on Flickr
Ojojojo Art Reflection by slc_dan, on Flickr
There is plenty of water. It is always a great burden to consider when you will find water, and our minds were eased as we found it. The small springs formed into a small steady stream. The stream dropped quietly over an edge, and fell delicately below. I stood near the edge and looked below. Each small drop floats through space, before being rudely interrupted by gravity, to come crashing below.
Ojojojo Spring Waterfall by slc_dan, on Flickr
This became the intersection of Ojojojo, and Indian Hollow. The water quickly dried up, and we set to walk on polished bowling balls. This is that difficult walking I’ve read about.
Tough Walking Indian Hollow by slc_dan, on Flickr
We passed a few bends, and decided it was about time to camp. Don walked ahead, while Art and Nate scouted the immediate area. I walked in between. Art called ahead that there was good spot, so I went ahead to catch up with Don. I came upon his pack before him, and waited there. As he returned I raised an eyebrow as if to ask what he found. He shook his head and threw his pack back on. I told him of the others find, and we marched back. It was a good spot.
Camp Grotto by slc_dan, on Flickr
Camp Don by slc_dan, on Flickr
Under Camp Grotto by slc_dan, on Flickr
We discussed important topics and drank whiskey. The old guys had Scotch. Nate and I brought bourbon. I attempted to lower my pack weight by pushing my reserves on them. I was outmatched, they were ready and kept to their own.
https://flic.kr/p/mPL46V] Camp Scene[/url] by https://www.flickr.com/people/56565126@N06/]NateGeesaman[/url], on Flickr
The night fell and the stars peaked through the veil.
camp stack 1 by slc_dan, on Flickr
1st night stax 2 by slc_dan, on Flickr
I slept warm. I fit the quilt to my pad better, and it was a much more pleasant evening. Feeling great, I rolled over started boiling water immediately. I walked over to Art with the first cup. He upped the ante today with, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. It must be a habit with his wife. I sipped a bit myself, and poured Don a cup. I emptied the grounds into an empty meal pouch, and made some more. I devoured bites of granola, dried bananas, and peanuts while waiting the few moments it took to come to a boil. Nate stirred, and began packing. We were up, gulped our coffee, and packed. Art set up his tent, and we threw everything we weren’t day hiking with into it. Light on our feet, we were ready.
Off to Climb the Knoll by slc_dan, on Flickr
The upper reaches of Indian Hollow left us in awe. Small streams carved through massive layers of stone.
Don Upper Indian Hollow by slc_dan, on Flickr
There appeared a few small obstacles, that we stubbornly made more difficult.
Short Slot Obstacle by slc_dan, on Flickr
Out of Drainage, onto Esplanade by slc_dan, on Flickr
We exited Indian Hollow through a small drainage, and found that smooth walking Esplanade. The crimson rounded pyramid was close. We're coming for you Knoll.
Yucca Bloom Pointing Towards the Knoll by slc_dan, on Flickr
Part 2 coming soon..ish. HERE
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