Samaniego ridge three day backpacking adventure - day 2 part 3 - Samaniego Peak to past Mule Ears
After not sleeping except for about 4 hours due to worry over the water supply situation, I was a little punchy in the morning. Although I didn't sleep except for about 4 hours, I did rest, for quite a few hours, and often rest is almost as good as sleep, not quite though. We both woke up about a little after sunrise, perhaps 7:45AM or so before the sun came over Mount Lemmon and lit up our tents.
We still weren't hungry, and so didn't eat. I told Jason that I had found the spring on the map, and that I was going to go to the spring and filter water. I told him that if I didn't come right back that I found the spring and was filtering water.
I filtered about half a gallon by 10:30, and decided to go back to where Jason was at the campsite, and let him know I found the spring and provide him with the water I filtered to resore his water stores.
He was beginning to worry, so my instincts were good to go back and let him know what was happenning. We took down our tents and packed up our packs and hiked down the trail to the spring and continued filtering water. It had taken me more than one hour to filter half a gallon. My process was to take a liter bottle and squeeze it through the 0.02micron filter. Jason offered to take over for a while, and was more creative with using his weight rather than muscle strength to push the water through the filter, which sped up the process. By 1:15PM, 2.5 hours later, Jason had purified 3 gallons, which was nearly twice as fast as my process.
The reason that we purified so much water is that we decided that since the ridge is mostly dry that we should go ahead and filter extra water. I thought we should filter 2 gallons extra, and he thought just one gallon. We compromised on 1.5 gallons extra. That meant that our packs were going to weigh about 46 pounds instead of 40 pounds.
Jason has this habit of drinking a lot before physical exertion, which seems like a good idea, so he had drunk more than a liter before we headed down the trail from Walnut spring, lightening his load.
He had 6 pounds extra water weight, and I had 6 pounds extra initially. we continued to drink, but at about 3/4's a mile down the trail, I realized that it was too much weight for me. Jason said that the extra weight wasn't bothering him, so he offered to carry my, now half a gallon extra weight. We continued to top off our bottles, and soon Jason's extra weight was down to closer to 47 pounds, while my pack was about 40 pounds.
It was a good thing that we continued to move water from the gallong milk jugs to our thicker drinking bottles, because further down the trail, the Cat's claw poked a hole in one of the gallon jugs, and spilled out about half a liter before we transferred it to the other jug.
Our original plan was to get clear down past Charouleau gap 2 or 3 miles by 6PM on the second day. But by taking half the day to filter the water, we weren't able to start down the trail from Walnut spring until 1:15PM, reducing our hiking time by more than 5 hours on the second day. On the first day, just before we reached the campsite, we noticed that the thorny bushes had overgrown the trail pretty badly. We assumed that the over grown nature of that section of the trail was an isolated section, but that the rest of the trail would be reasonably maintained, like the earlier section toward Mount Lemmon was maintained.
Unfortunately, instead of being the exception, that overgrown aspect became the rule on the trail starting just before our campsite, and continued for more than 4 miles. It became so badly overgrown soon after we left Walnut spring, that we found that it was necessary to nearly continuously consult the GPS to figure out where the trail should be. This greatly slowed our progress, and at the end of the day, we only made about 2.8 miles of progress since we started at 1:15PM.
What happened was the bushes have grown together, and the trail was pretty much lost for most of the 4 miles where it's really badly overgrown. The fact that it's a "ridge" trail, suggests that it should be easy to find the ridge, but unfortunately for much of it's length, the ridge is wide enough that it's really easy to lose the trail. Some of the sections are more narrow, and in a few spots it's not too hard to figure out where the trail was/is, but those sections are less than 20% of the 4 miles.
After we had hiked for a little more than one mile, we reached the cliff over the "corkscrew of death". We scooted / slid, poled down the west side of the cliff down to the area below the cliff wall until we could find a simblance of a trail leading to the right under the cliff. We followed what seemed like it might be a trail, over in the ONLY possible way the trail could go in order to continue on to the ridgetop, and stumbled onto the "corkscrew of death" rope lower end. Jason was leading us at this point and did a very nice job of trail finding. For more information about the corkscrew of death, here's Serina's description....on the HAZ website..... https://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=13301
Jason was nonplussed by the danger of the rope traverse of the cliff, so with his poles in one hand and the rope in the other, he started up the cliff. Before he could get more than one step, I asked him to come back down and let me secure his poles on the back of his pack, so he could use both hands to hang onto the rope over this chasm. He came back and we attached his poles securely, and he moved up the cliff quickly and at the top he didn't see the other rope at the end, so he scrambled the last step or two, where it flattened out somewhat. He then saw the other rope, and told me about it, and suggested a footing strategy.
I took his suggestion, as far as footing went, and when I was near the top, he took his poles off his pack and scrambled on a less steep section on up to the ledge where he took off his pack to rest. I followed suit on up to the ledge, and rested and was pleased that I was still alive and in one piece. I was on a adrenelin rush, and sat and allowed my breathing to be slowed down to normal.
We continued down the trail from the ledge toward the next ridge, which was just before the rock formation known as Mule ears. This ridge was especially overgrown and difficult to follow, so we were continuously using the GPS to figure out where we were. We found ourselves backtracking and going over boulders trying to find the trail, so it was very slow going, and it was tiring and not very much fun.
We picked our way over the ridge, and when we were just a bit past Mule Ears, we found a spot that seemed conducive to being a campsite, where the trail flattened out in a couple of spots. So Jason suggested that we pitch our tents here, and we were just about out of sunlight, so I agreed, and we stopped for the night and to make camp.
After we pitched our tents, and laid out our cushions and sleeping bags, and had stowed our gear in our respective tents, Jason pointed out that we didn't eat supper the prior night, nor did we have breakfast that morning. In fact, we'd only had snack food and water for sustainance since breakfast the previous day.
So, Jason suggested that we have dinner, and I was hard pressed to argue. We set up the campstove and picked one of the dehydrated trail meals to heat up, and boiled enough water to rehydrate our meal. We split it up and devoured our food. It filled me up, but Jason said he was going to snack some more to mitigate his hunger.
We turned in afterward, and unlike the prior night, I didn't have any worries that night, so I slept very soundly and woke up very rested and refreshed in the morning.
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Last Update: March 29, 2017
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