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Previous - April 4th, 2008 - Cholla Forest

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Down by the River
(April 5th, 2008 - Low Desert South of the Gila River, Central Arizona)

It surprised me, but after these few weeks of walking, transitions in geography seemed more obvious at my relatively slow pace than they were when speeding across Arizona in an automobile. Perhaps this feeling is simply due to experiencing movement at a speed with which the human brain has evolved to naturally process. I liked it.

The incessant ups and downs of yesterday’s gas line road and the vast cholla forests abruptly gave way this morning to a gently down sloping plateau dominated by yucca, scrub oak, and a few juniper trees. Here and there, a lonely outcrop of granite stone rose above the scrub. This was almost relaxing!

Granite Outcroppings

Granite outcroppings decorate the way

In the afternoon, the terrain again shifted gears as we dropped into Ripsey Wash, which cut deeply into the northern end of the Tortilla Mountains. The trail passed up an opportunity to continue downhill all the way to the Gila River via Ripsey Wash, and instead climbed a steep and rugged ridge complex, which stretched north toward the Gila high above Ripsey Wash.

The wind was howling as we climbed this rugged spine. At times, hard gusts actually made it difficult to catch a breath. Brittle bush and ocotillo shook, and saguaro swayed in this gale. Undeterred, several hawks and ravens surfed and played in the billowing wind-wave above our heads as we marched north.

Ridge Walk

Terry walking the ridge

Off the top of the ridge, we are surprised to meet another thru hiker. He was coming toward us, heading south. His name was Herman and he appeared to be in his mid to late sixties. Herman told us that he was in his first week of a solo hike of the Grand Enchantment Trail. The Grand Enchantment is a 700-mile walking route that runs between Phoenix and Albuquerque. This trail uses about 70 miles of the Arizona Trail, and 45 miles of the Continental Divide Trail along its way. Learn more about the Grand Enchantment here: http://www.simblissity.net/get-about.shtml .

Late in the afternoon, we plodded along the final bit of paved road to the bridge over the Gila River at a place called Kelvin. It was enjoyable to stop and gaze over the side of the bridge at the smooth, brown coils of water flowing down the Gila.

Gila River

The brown waters of the Glia River

My feet were sore! We’ve had another long day, over 26 miles, but a much needed rest day is scheduled in Phoenix tomorrow.

Jim and his Tahoe were waiting for us on the other side of the bridge. After a stop at the Los Hermanos Mexican food restaurant in Superior, we join the line of traffic heading into Phoenix. We’ll be back on the trail the day after tomorrow.

-Dave Baker

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