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(April 7th, 2008 - Low Desert North of the Gila River, Central Arizona)
Yesterday’s rest at Jim’s house was fantastic. There was much food, a nap, and an evening gathering of friends and family. Jim returned us to the trail this morning, with a much later start than usual. We did not start walking till after 10:00 in the morning.
I looked forward to that day, as we planned on camping at an artesian well in a place called Walnut Canyon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artesian well, and the pictures I’ve seen of Walnut indicate that it is an impressive and beautiful place.
I took the opportunity in Phoenix to ditch the trail shoes which have given me so much grief with my heel pad blisters, and strapped on a pair of light leather hiking boots instead. That morning I was delighted with my pain free stride, and was confident that the blisters were a problem of the past.
This trail in this segment had not been completely established, but as we walked the desert hills above the north bank of the Gila River, we discovered that Arizona Trail Association volunteers had been hard at work recently, flagging the route and building new trail. It maked route finding and walking a lot easier.
Walking new trail
Nonetheless, Terry and I felt sheepish early in the afternoon when I stopped to announce, “Hey, we were here about 15 minutes ago, we’ve walked in a circle!” Sure enough, a check of the GPS confirmed that we had somehow messed up and walked back upon our route. I hasten to add that we were never “lost”, just temporarily “confused”. (“Lost” is when you don’t ever come back!)
Later, the route turned firmly north away from the Gila and headed into more rugged and steep country featuring deep canyons and steep buff cliffs ringing the mountaintops above. Walnut Canyon was stunning indeed. The canyon bottom had a good flow of water supporting cottonwood and sycamore trees. The cliffs above the canyon were spectacular too. By the time we found camp, turkey vultures were making their last circles of the day in the sky before finding their roosting spots up on the cliffs.
It got dark before we found the artesian well, but we took plenty of clear water from the nearby creek. We walked about 15 miles that day.
Sharing the Trail with a local Desert Tortoise