Arizona Trail – Day 20 (33 miles)
A change of scenery as I climbed from the lowland desert up the Mogollon Rim onto the Colorado Plateau today. I left behind the cactuses and other prickly bushes and replaced them with open plains and the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the US. I will also be at 7,000-12,000ft (2100m-3600m) for the remainder of the trail, except for a ditch known as the Grand Canyon.
I left the Pine Trailhead and started the climb up the Rim. It is a beautiful climb and such a stark contrast to what has been presented to date. The pine trees start to grow large, and all I can see from the lookout areas is a valley of green. It also has the best thing in the desert, running water. Not only running creeks but also flowing springs straight out of the ground. I have to say I took a long break and enjoyed the best water on the trail.
The Rim also had another interesting quirk. I climbed onto the plateau along the source of the East Verde River. This high the river is multiple springs gushing out of the side of the rock faces, but I happened to cross this river a few days ago when it was 20ft wide and full of cow shit. How things change in just 20 miles!
Once on the plateau, it became easy walking. Maybe too easy as I only have 2 climbs left for the last 350ish miles of trail, and the rest is basically dead flat. It does mean that I can move fast and easy without really feeling fatigued throughout the day. The downside is it is a bit monotonous and I get a little bored.
I wandered through the forest for the rest of the afternoon. I could not believe the number of elk that I saw. After a while, I started to notice their pattern, one of the herd would hear me and look around, see me and then run off. This would panic the others, but they would not know what from. They would be ready to run but not sure what direction, so they would stop and pivot, see me, freak out and bolt. It was hilarious.
Eventually, it was bedtime. This is the best thing of the plateau, with a huge abundance of camping options on soft and warm pine needles.