Tuesday, April 30, 2013 – 16.7 km
A bland section of trail followed Brush Springs. I kept missing the turns on a set of switchbacks, then running into dense walls of shrubbery and realizing when I backtracked that I had stepped over a lilliputian wall of sticks or stones meant as a sign to stop. I reached LF Ranch around noon, much too early to justify spending the night for a shower, and continued down the trail to the East Verde River, a clear and pretty watercourse nothing like the Gila.
I had been planning to collect water at Polk Spring, but it looked like a stock pond and I wasn’t tempted with other sources nearby, so I continued the climb towards Whiterock Spring. During the ascent I hit a snag. While following a double-track road, the AZT reached a cairn beside a single-track path. I headed down the single-track, but it soon became indistinct and I couldn’t find the trail. I started getting frustrated and worried about water, since the most recent info on Whiterock Spring in the water report described it as a trickle and the report was outdated. The next water source was too far away to access before dark. I started thinking things like ‘If I get to the spring and there’s no water there, I can slackpack 6 km back to the river and then back to my pack’, then I realized the stupidity of that notion. I was still only ~1.5 km from the river, so better to backtrack immediately. I didn’t even slackpack because I thought I might camp at Polk Spring, or even stay at LF Ranch and get an early start tomorrow. Ultimately the heat made the decision for me. The temperature had been excruciating throughout the day but cooled by the time I was done filtering water at the river, and the past few days were so bloody hot that I wanted to take advantage of any cooler conditions. I motored back up the slope to the cairn where I had gotten confused before.
Back on the single-track. It disappeared again, I wandered again. I consulted my map. It looked like the trail followed the double-track. I decided that I would go up the double-track and locate the trail at the top of the slope. So I returned to the cairn… and, when looking up the road, I saw a second cairn. RAGE. Future hikers, ignore the cairn beside the single-track.
More cairns awaited me atop Polles Mesa. I followed a few, then lost them, then saw one that was concealed behind a tree from the NOBO perspective and felt RAGE again, and pulled my Passage 21 strategy of ignoring the AZT and heading in the direction I knew was proper. When next I located the trail, it was carved deeply into the dirt and easy to follow. I had no problems the rest of the way to Whiterock Spring, which was just a trickle in the mud. I hollowed out a pit in order to scoop water out without disturbing the bottom every time. The spring was a nice place to camp, with a flat spot beneath a huge tree graced by a tin of sardines. Best of all, there were no bugs! No tiny flies for the first time in days!