The Arizona Trail Day 73: The Falling Piano

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I woke up today, ate granola, looked at my GPS to record my location for journaling purposes, looked at the databook. Looked back at the GPS. Looked back at the databook. Oops.

I wasn’t out of Grand Canyon National Park. Due to the rain and well-built trail I hadn’t been checking my maps or GPS yesterday, and when the AZT reached the gate entrance I simply assumed that camping was fine. In actuality, the trail runs parallel to the boundary for another 4 km, and I had completed ~3.5 km. No wonder those deer were acting so strange – they knew their rights and were probably in the process of procuring a lawyer. I escaped the area in record time.

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The trail wound through pretty meadows surrounded by dense forest. I was happy to find Crystal Spring flowing, since the last person to contribute to the water report for Crystal Spring and many of the other final sources was Rainer, and he passed through a trillion years ago (early May) so I wasn’t sure about any of them. As I was having a snack at the spring, an older man arrived so quietly that I didn’t hear him until he was right behind me. I jumped, then said hi. He said hi and kept walking as if he didn’t want to talk, but stopped ~20 m away and sat down. I figured that he was going to filter water, but he just sat there for awhile and then left. Huh.

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Fantastic views of the canyon. A sign informed me that if I descended the slope to my right, I would enter the Saddle Mountain Wilderness Area. I wanna go, I wanna… but the AZT turned left, joining a road running through a vast open field. The wind had been picking up for awhile, and in the open area it was blowing right into my face and ridiculously strong. I retreated to the edge of the forest for a break, hoping that it would die down quickly. Nope. Returning to the trail, I slogged across the meadow to where the trail re-entered the forest. The trees were swaying furiously. I had been walking for only 20-30 minutes when I heard a crack and a cluster of branches fell right in front of me, the wilderness equivalent of the falling piano almost crushing the oblivious urbanite. Yikes. A burn area is not a good place to be walking in bad wind. I considered returning to the meadow but didn’t, partially because the meadow was unpleasant, partially because I had to walk through the forest at some point and the wind might continue for a week for all I knew.

On through the forest. At 5:30 PM I started thinking about camping, but nowhere looked safe. I considered setting up my tent beside a log so that I wouldn’t be crushed by any falling trees unless they fell at a ridiculously lucky angle, but I couldn’t find any spots I liked, so I kept walking. Eventually the wind died down, camp was made and Esbit lit without too much trouble.

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