Posts Tagged ‘Lessons learned’

Verde River Trail

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

[Part of our ongoing series of Behind-the-Hike for Day and Overnight Hikes in the Tonto National Forest]

Coming out of the Verde Valley was the closest I came to being in serious trouble in all my guidebook hikes. You know that “example” last post about fltering water from a catrtle pond in a desperate attempt t stave off heat exhaustion? This hike. But we’ll start at the beginning.

Verde Trail #11

“Northern seven-mile section climbs away from the river, and is easy to
travel.”  – USFS

Well, as we shall see, that all depends…

HIKE START: 17 June 2008; 11:40am

HIKE END: 18 June 2008; 5:20pm

COMPANIONS: None

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 26+

This was the last hike of my 10-day run to finish the guidebook, and the next-to-last hike I actually did. With deadline looming, I took my vacation week and plotted out a course that would net me 8 hikes in 10 days – and it almost worked! Most of those hikes are in the central mountains or the Mogollon Rim.

So I woke up that morning in my hammock at the Pine TH, did some laundry at a trailer park in Pine, ate breakfast at the hotel in Strawberry, and rolled on down Fossil Springs Road.

I prodded my poor Buick down 5 miles of FR 194 until I finally ran out of nerve and parked it at the intersection with FR 540, and humped the remaining distance to Twin Buttes TH. I wisely left a couple of gallons of water in my car.

Typical trail conditions on Cedar Bench

Typical trail conditions on Cedar Bench

I love – love – juniper scrub country, but after 7 miles of it, I was actually kinda glad to start seeing chaparral.

My notes declare – in hindsight – that I should have stayed on the dirt path and gone down to the Verde. I did, in fact, take the trace route down to Fossil Creek, where I slapped together a bit of camp, and discovered that one of my wading shoes had fallen from my pack. Undetered, I spent the last hour of remaining daylight splashing about barefoot in the creek, ignoring the voice in my head that warned a foot injury down here becomes a survival scenario.

Coming down towards the Verde River

Coming down towards the Verde River

Finishing my DVR notes, I discovered that machie’s memory was blank. Every DVR note from the past seven hikes had been somehow obliterated! So I spent a few hours that night shooing bugs out of my headlamp as I desperately tried to write down in my pocket notebook every detail I could remember about the previous seven hikes.

I confirmed a principle I had long suspected the truth of: If you can’t remember it without notes, it probably won’t make it under word count anyway.

Also: Transcribe your DVR notes at the first opportunity! Like in the car after the hike.

Also: Don’t take your DVR into the drugstore. I suspect the anti-theft system will wipe out memories. Even in Pine.

I hauled a sleeping bag down for nothing. (In my defense, I had needed it every other night for the past nine days). It didn’t get down below room temperature until well after midnight.

I wasted the cool hours of the following morning in a brutal bushwhack trying to find a route along the shore (or, as it turned out, over a butte, and then over a rocky cliff) to the Verde River trail proper. I foolishly thought such a dircet route would be less annoying than the field of burrs I had originally descended through.

If you ever feel the urge to scramble over boulders in a 40 lb pack – resist it. Stay on the damn trail. GAFDE.

I found the trail, then the Verde River, and spent a good hour flopped out in a little swimming hole there until I knew I had to get going.

[Here is where I’d insert photos of both the banks of Fossil Creek and the bank of the Verde so you could compare and contrast, but I’m out of space again. I do however, have an album on Facebook with more photos.]

On my way back up, I flirted with heat exhaustion.  was too hot to eat more than half an energy bar all the way up, but, as we alluded too, I was thirsty enough to drink almost anything.

Bull Tank is the name of where I spent some time filtering green slime through a handkerchief into a Nalgene bottle. Happily, Auqumira kills everything! That was a long wait to drink chemically-shocked slime, but I was glad to have it.

I was even happier making it back to the car, where the means to make a gallon of warm Gatorade awaited.

The original plan was to camp at that very spot, and finish the run with Fossil Springs the next day, but I was done – and so were my boots.

Other notes:

* The banks of the Verde are known habitat for Southwest Bald Eagles, and officially closed to traffic from December through June. However, I have been told by Ken Jacobsen, who manages the nest-watching program, that the Verde Trail receives so little traffic that hikers are not a concern to the nest-watchers.  Still, if you see a nest, camp somewhere else.

* The Forest Service publishes a Guide to the Verde – mostly for boaters, but with some useful info for every user – and free. The part I described is around River Mile 20. The Verde River below this portion is called the Graveyard of Canoes by local boaters. Just so ya know.

* Your morning temperature at Twin Buttes TH is likely to be your overnight low down by the river.

*Don’t do this hike in June.

* You can fish on the Verde (with an AZ license) but you cannot fish on Fossil Creek.

* I found my other wading shoe on my way back up.

* I will, someday, do the whole Verde Trail – despite my travails on this first attempt. North – south – I got that much right, anyway.

The Palo Verde Trail #512

Friday, January 30th, 2009

[Part of a series of beyond the page info of the hkes covered in Day and Overnight Hikes in the Tonto National Forest.]

The Palo Verde Trail wanders along the shore of Bartlett Lake (though it is actually a reservoir), connecting Rattlesnake Cove with SB Cove. Both coves are fee-use recreation sites. Forest Service information here. Info on Salt River Project in general and Bartlett Dam in particular here.

This easy hike actually took two seperate attempts, where I learned two different lessons about guidebook hiking.

In my first attempt, in early November, I tried to tack this onto a family canoing expedition. But, because of a shortage of able-bodied adults to handle the canoes, I couldn’t break away to hike until I had less than two hours of daylight remaining. A got about a third of the way down the trail, before I had to retreat, following the track by flashlight.

The hike needs to be the primary focus of the trip, otherwise, you’re just costing yourself time and fun.

The second attempt, December 12th 2007, I hiked under rainy conditions, which made it hard to take notes on paper. Alas, I had lost faith in my DVR on a previous adventure, and so, at the time, prided myself that I could get by with the methods of yore.

You bring the notebook to back up the DVR. You bring the DVR to back up the notebook.

This is also why it is best to write a draft of the hike description ASAP following the hike. The DVR and the notebook both back up your brain, but as long as the brain works, you can still describe the hike.

I dubbed the giant saguaro “The Ettin”. That did not come from any published source.

An ettin is, of course, a two-headed giant from British folklore.

I also concluded that a real raincoat is so far superior to any garbage-bag “backpacking poncho” that is is – to me – absolutely worth the extra weight, especially when the skies are grey to begin with.

One last note, Palo Verde is capitalized here because it is a place name. After a few rounds with the copy editor, we concluded the the name of the tree, palo verde (Spanish for “green stick”) does not need capitalization any more than pine or oak.