Great Western Loop: Day 210 - 216 (222): Lake Alamo to Flagstaff
Day 210: Big Sandy River Wash (15miles)
The heat at noon at the Lake Alamo State Park felt extreme. According to the Ranger it was only 85°F (29.5°C), but it felt like much more to me.
I spent about an hour at the General Store and drank as much water as i possibly could.
With another 5.5liters i than left for the Big Sandy River Wash.
For the first few miles i followed the road around the State Park, but than went cross-country straight towards the wash.
Hiking was extremely difficult. The terrain was mostly flat, but the weight of all that water and deep sand slowed me down significantly.
(Big Sandy River wash, extremely wide and filled with soft and deep sand)
I pitched my tent close to the spectacular Artillery Peak and took another look at the route i had planned for the next day.
Day 211: Chris - the lifesaver? (39miles)
The route for today's morning was completely cross-country. I had studied this route on my computer back home in Germany almost a year ago and still felt quite confident about it.
The plan was to leave Big Sandy River just after it turned west. Following a narrow canyon, i would than climb a small hill of roughly 800ft. and drop down into Government Wash on its northern side.
(View of Big Sandy River Wash, after climbing out of it...)
This worked out very well and Government Wash brought me quickly to the Poachie Range, which i crossed on a dirt road.
I than left the dirt road and followed Jones Wash to the Burro Creek Campground, where i would find water.
(Government Wash, lots of cute burros here)
Unfortunately the lower part of Jones Wash was private land. With less than 0.5l of water left i had no choice, but to trespass it to get to my next water source on the fastest possible way.
That's where i started to make a series of smaller mistakes, which would get me into trouble.
Still on private land, i got to Burro Creek and quickly filled up 2.5l for my hike into Bagdad. For some reason i underestimated the distance of ~22miles on this hot day. I felt uncomfortable still being on private land and therefore didn't drink as much water, as i had i.e. at Lake Alamo.
I quickly moved on, left the private land unmolested and arrived at the Campground. Here, however i felt good and saw no need to get more water.
I continued along Highway 99 for a few miles to place called "Nothing" and realized that my water supply was dropping much faster than expected. Luckily, just a mile from reaching Nothing, a car stopped right behind me on the highway and offered me a ride.
I declined the ride, but happily accepted about 1.5l of water, from Chris. An Uber driver from Phoenix. These 1.5l would proove to be more than important to me..
From Nothing i followed the Burro Creek road to Bagdad and i expected an easy hike. The road connected Bagdad and Highway 99 and i expected a proper road and quite some traffic. I was so wrong...
After a few miles on the road i hit a fence - private land. Again. I was utterly frustrated and angry as neither google maps, nor my gaia app showed any indication of that before.
A sign saying "live fire area" (dort wird scharf geschossen...) made me feel really uncomfortable. I left the road and secretly hiked through a nearby wash, parallel to the road i wanted to take. In addition to my false assessment of the overall distance, i now lost even more time, due to more difficult terrain and my water supply was again dropping rapidly, even with the additional water from Chris.
I followed the wash as long as i could, but than had to turn onto the road. I moved quickly to avoid being seen.
At 5pm i was still some 10miles from town and almost out of water. Bagdad was my only hope of getting water and so i had to make it to town. I tried to hike in the most efficient way to avoid sweating too much, but yet making progress towards town. Upon nightfall at 6:30pm i realized how tired i was. I hiked like a zombie along a dark road and yet again tried to keep some moisture in my mouth to avoid coughing and vomitting.
Finally, at 7:30 i saw some lights from the quarry close to Bagdad and the town itself. I entered the town close to a ballpark and almost vomitted out of exhaustion. My body was choking, but there was just nothing i could puke out. I headed straight to the supermarket and bought water and several sodas. With the only restaurant closed, i also ordered some sandwiches at the supermarket and almost fainted, while waiting for those. My legs were shaking and i was about to collapse. I felt to proud to sit down in the middle of the supermarket and so i akwardly held on to the counter of the Deli.
I left the supermarket and pitched my tent in a nearby park. I expected to see the Sheriff later that night, but didn't care. I was too exhausted to move on. It took about an hour until my body finally recovered and allowed me to slowly eat those sandwiches. I than fell asleep, but got up later that night, to look for an outlet on the outside of the supermarket to recharge my electronics.
Day 212: Recovered! (38miles)
I had recovered pretty well over night and got up at 5am and went straight back to the supermarket. My electronics had been fully charged and after buying a few more supplies, i left for the final push towards Flagstaff.
Days ago, i had decided to skip the Grand Canyon, which i have visited several times already. At this pointz i just wanted to finish my hike.
Leaving Bagdad, meant leaving the desert behind and slowly starting into Prescott, Kaibab and Cococino National Forest on higher elevations. I even found several cattle troughs with pretty good water and a few dirty pools from recent rainfall.
For most of the day i followed a solid dirt road and enjoyed amazing mesas and much more comfortable temperatures.
Day 213: Private Land, again! (34miles)
Day 213 would be one of the most frustrating and annoying days of the hike. I started very early, long before sunrise, to get into the small town of Pauldon.
Some 12miles before town, i once again hit a fence and private land. It was still dark and so i decided to jump it, cross the private land and than hike along a railroad track into town. Well...the road next to the railroad was also private, but i made it to town, without any problems.
I bought a few snacks and chatted some 20minutes with the supermarkets staff, who were quite interested in my hike and wished me well.
From Pauldon, i expected to have an easy cruise to Flagstaff. I was wrong again.
Just a few miles after leaving town, the road i planned to take was suddenly blocked and private land again. I found a way around and finally got into Prescott National Forest.
I followed the Old Highway 99 route to the Drake quarry. The quarry was - of course also private land - and included the only road over a canyon. I didn't dare to trespass, as several people were working on site. The detour around the quarry cost me about 1.5hrs and left me utterly frustrated and annoyed.
Day 214: Getting closer...(34miles)
I had enjoyed a wonderful night at a nice campsite watching the stars. The night had been warm and comfortable. Having no reliable information on water sources i left a little bit concerned, but hopeful due to some potential lakes and a waterfall.
(Water at Tank 36, dirty, smelly, but it's water...)
The day had been rather uneventful and i made good progress. These open ranges and pine tree forests of Arizona are one of my preferred sections. I just love these open ranges and nice open forests, with endless amounts of potential campsites.
(My very last water source of the hike - one of the worst i've ever found...)
I pitched my tent 16miles from Flagstaff and decided to get up early.
Day 215: Final countdown (16miles)
I started hiking just before 5am on a freezing day. Since leaving the desert, temperatures had dropped from 70°F (21°C) to 28°F (-2°C).
Throughout the night i had heard several coyotes quite close to my tent and they were still around when i left.
It was quite spooky being followed by a pack of coyotes and their constant howling and barking. I turned around several times, but couldn't see them. Just before sunrise the coyotes had disappeared and i enjoy a few rather relaxing last miles into town.
I arrived in Flagstaff at 11am and went straight for breakfast.
After 222 days and 5 hours (i must have "lost" a few days on this blog, when adding up numbers) and about 6,000 - 6,500miles hiked, i had finally finished my version of the Great Western Loop.
I will wrap this blog up, by posting some final thoughts and a gear review in the upcoming weeks.