To La Posta Quemada:p.m. 4/5-4/7
From Mexico: 121m
We scoured the Patagonia Market for some bean and cheese burritos and a couple handfuls of Kashi bars and jetted. We left Patagonia, a weird, burnt-out hippie town, and plodded up Temporal Gulch Road which turned out to be a long hot stretch unfavorable to the both of us. We were tired but for different reasons for each of us.
Up into the Santa Rita Mountains we went. The higher up we went the more excited I got. The landscape changed form and large pines now surrounded us as we hiked. We passed crappy water sources until we finally made Walker Spring. Walker Spring is a trailhead to go deeper into the Mt. Wrightson Wilderness Area. The road ends at a cement dam. We hopped up the dam and saw no water. Lint walked up further behind the dam on some smoothed out boulders and found huge potholes. Suddenly, we felt to be in a special place. The potholes hop-scotched up the ravine with each one filled with its own aquarium, for within each pothole floated large water beetles and frogs clung to the rock walls. In fact, in one of the potholes an enormous water beetle latched onto a frog and was eating the frog alive while they both floated on the surface of the water. So unique these sky islands; the scene changes so quickly. From ocotillo, blazing desert floors to lush crystalline pools of mountain spring water, we felt to be in a magical place, for no where else in the world did these organisms exist other than in this pool we were now gazing at.
We dipped our water bottles into the pool and gulped the goodness. I walked away with the irony of how a dam that humans put up is useless and not holding any water. Our past imprints of human foibles are gravely felt in our scarred mountains today.
We camped comfortably on a high saddle and in the morning we were greeted with a peach colored infused with blaze-red sunrise. The view was spectacular from our perch above the desert valleys.
We motored down from the upper reaches of the Santa Ritas and eventually we began following singletrack that ran its course over an old mining water pipe left over from the gold rush sometime in the mid-1800s. At the same time we were blessed with smooth contoured singletrack a strange feeling came over me. I could not help but wonder what the scene was like before the mining operations. Now the hillside was scarred with dams, ravaged with tailing piles and tunnels, and blood-veined with the rusted 8 1/2 mile water pipe. The operation altered water flows in this extremely arid environment. The operation took $200,000 to just get things set up and when all was said and done only a couple thousand dollars worth in gold was all they scrounged up. But not without consequences; the land is ravaged. And, here we are following blessed singletrack along a rusted pipe line and encountering the occasional interpretive sign that glorified the exploits of human ingenuity that ultimately proved to be worth nothing. Could we teach others about the faults and damage it did to the land rather than celebrating human industry? The land ultimately adapted but the ravines and water-flows are no the same.
Once in Kentucky Camp, the mining operation headquarters that is now an historic place, I saw a hydrolic monitor or 'giant.' These monstrosities exerted enough force to 'tear-up the ground with splendid results,' was what one newspaper article reported on their progress.
Scars of the past...how much damage we leave is considered a legacy.
We produced big miles in this rugged terrain. Sometimes the trail felt to be spinning us in a vortex. It pushed our mental stability and we grumbled barbs at the pointless ins and outs. The feeling of 'lost' enveloped us even though we knew we were on the right track. Frustrated but relieved when we were spit out of the twirling, rugged hills, we were treated and rewarded with an earthen water tank the color of cow shit. Once your water bottle was filled the water resembled cow piss. And after guzzling a huge sip the taste and texture of undigested grassy matter lingered in your pallet. The smell: like cow piss.
We slept on trail near a cattle gate. Some night mountain bike riders lumbered through our camp and I felt not so lonesome. I looked west and the lights of Tucson silhouetted the tall, thin tentacles of the ocotillos surrounding us.
In the morning, we me mashed miles through the spring desert. The morning was cool and pleasant to walk through. Under Interstate 10 we went, spotted a Gila Monster, and entered Saguaro country. We hurried on to La Posta Quemada before the Visitor's Center closed. We slugged iced teas and scoured through our food package. At one point, I sat talking on the phone while Lint decided to scrub his nuts and butt crack in front of me with a water hose, his first shower in some days. I leaned against the paint-cracked wall and laughed aloud. Some things you wish to share in person.
On our way to find camp we finally caught the train of horses we had heard about. Supposedly they were going to Canada. And they were via the AZT, then Utah, then by catching the CDT in Wyoming and on up into Montana. We chatted up some young cowboys and they showed us the hide of a Mojave Green rattlesnake they shot. They told us some cowboy Skoal and chaw jokes before we left and also gave us a couple of slabs of pizza and an ice cold can of Budweiser each for the road. The documentary is called 'Branded.' Cool dudes...