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(May 7th - 8th, 2007 - Flagstaff, Arizona)
Water was very much on my mind as I packed up camp in the pre-dawn chill. Behind me was the dark mass of the San Francisco Peaks, and ahead to the north stretched a vast expanse of empty and dry looking country. I had less than a liter of water left. Though the Data Book listed a few tanks on the trail ahead of me, I had found several tanks bone dry the day before. They too, were listed in the Data Book as potential water sources.
My first chance for water was East Cedar Tank, just a mile or two down the trail. On the way to the tank, I was surprised and delighted to run into a herd of antelope, the first time on the trip I had seen these creatures. When startled, elk have had a tendency to run and run and run, until they have either disappeared from sight, or put substantial distance between me and them. These antelope were different. At first they briskly took off across the grassy hills, but it wasn’t long before they got curious about me and came to a stop in full view so they could study my progress along the trail.
When I reached East Cedar Tank, I was very disappointed to find not a drop of water in the giant steel tub. This left me very skeptical that I might find water ahead at the next source, Rabbit Tank. The map indicated that I would pass two ranches. If things got bad, I certainly could ask for water at one of them, but I preferred to be self-sufficient if I could.
No Water Here!
Before leaving East Cedar Tank, I decided to follow the pipe that fed the tank, uphill towards its source, to see if there might be water at a hidden spring site. Maybe the tank was dry merely because the supply pipe was in disrepair.
Though the pipe went underground at first, it was not hard to follow because it was barely covered with soil and was often exposed as it ran uphill above the tank. Within just a few minutes, the ground beneath my feet became muddy and a short distance later I found shallow puddles of water on the muddy surface. Elk, antelope and deer track were everywhere - I certainly wasn’t the first to figure this out.
Just Enough Water for a Much Needed Refill!
Gratefully, I knelt down and went to work collecting 6 liters of water, more than enough for breakfast and the long day ahead. I was not carrying a water filter because of my concern for the weight. Instead, I relied upon chlorine-dioxide tablets to chemically treat the water. Of course, the tablets were very light and compact. I found the taste of these tablets more than acceptable, and had no problems with water borne disease for the entire trip.
I did not have to worry about tomorrow’s water supply, because Jim and I planned to meet in the afternoon about 25 miles north of there at the old Moqui Stage Station for a rest day and resupply.
The rest of the day was spent walking under a really big sky. Yesterday’s steep mountainsides of the San Francisco Peaks were now replaced by an expanse of mostly flat grasslands studded with juniper trees and sage brush. The trail followed deserted two track ranch roads for most of the way. I passed the ranches and never bothered to check for water at the tanks along the way. I had plenty now in my pack. By midmorning, a breeze picked up and by midday the breeze turned into a stiff wind into which I sometimes had to gently lean in order to keep my balance.
Windy, Wide-Open Country
In the afternoon, I stopped to see if Lockwood Tank had water, and it did. The steel tub was seemingly guarded by some of the most belligerent cattle I had yet run across. With plenty of water in my pack, I moved on and was spared the task of facing down the uppity cows.
Late in the day, very tired, I found Jim at the ruins of the Moqui Stage Station. All that remained of the old station were the rock outlines of a small shelter and a fairly large cistern that was used to store water for the horses and stage passengers. The cistern was not fed by a spring though, and is now dry. Separate teams of horses would haul water to the site for the benefit of the stage. The stage line served Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon from 1892 till 1897, when a rail line finally reached the Canyon. The stage was not cheap in its time. A one-way ticket cost $20 for the 12 hour journey.
I threw my pack in Jim’s Tahoe, gratefully accepted the oranges and candy bar he offered, and we drove to Flagstaff for a rest day. I’ll be back on the trail day after tomorrow.