Okay, sometimes life doesn't go according to plan. Even the
best laid plans - those that are months in the making - can be scrapped in a
split second. That is the best way to describe what happened during the
ill-fated weekend of November 18-19, 2000.
Everything had been planned out meticulously. John and his father had been
talking about returning to the Highline Trail sometime during the autumn
months to complete the sections of the Highline Trail that they had not been
able to do because of hot weather. These sections (from Tonto Creek to FR 144,
and FR 144 to Washington Park) were those found in the Dude Fire area, which
had not yet grown back (meaning that there was no shade to protect hikers from
the hot sun). They had decided that the best thing to do was to do it as a
camping trip, instead of a backpacking trip, so that they could complete the
hike during cooler weather and camp in the warmth of the motor home. The best
part was that they were going to take us (Erika and me) with them.
Due to time constraints, though, the trip was postponed until November 2000.
After the date was finally picked, we began to plan out the details. We would
be bringing the motor home and a tow vehicle, which we would leave at the FR
144 Trailhead; and we would be camping at Washington Park, which would the
starting point of our hike. We had everything completely planned out - even
the issue of the car seat for Mary!
So on Saturday morning, November 18, at 6:00 a.m., after packing everything
into the motor home, we left for the Mogollon Rim. En route, John explained
that we would be hiking a total of 14.7 miles during the whole weekend: five
miles the first day, and almost nine the second day. He also indicated that it
was good that we would only be hiking five miles the first day, because the
weather forecast was for wind in the high country and a high of about forty
degrees: it was going to be cold!
We really had no idea how cold it was going to be until we reached Payson
around 7:30 in the morning, when we stopped to buy gloves for Erika and
mittens for Mary at Wal-Mart. As soon as we stepped out of the motor home, the
frosty air chilled us. "Brr, it's cold!" I said, walking quickly towards the
entrance. John replied by indicating that we were going to be 1,000 feet
higher than Payson at our campsite, which meant that it would be even colder -
there might even be snow on the ground.
Indeed, that was true. As we drove on the Control Road towards FR 144, where
we were going to leave the car, we found that there was a lot of snow on the
ground. "Look, Mary!" we said. "You get to see snow for the first time!"
Upon reaching FR 144, around 8:30 a.m., we found that we were unable to make
the necessary left turn in the motor home, so we had to unhitch the car and
drive down the road until we found a place where we could turn the motor home
around. (The only way to get onto FR 144 was to merge onto it; it was like a
freeway off-ramp.) That took us a quarter of a mile out of the way. Then, when
we finally made it onto FR 144, we discovered that the road conditions were so
bad that we were afraid that the motor home would get stuck if we went too
far. (As it was, we had to back the motor home off of the road, because there
was no place to turn it around.) The car (which John was driving) didn't make
it too far, either, before John was forced to park it. That was going to
extend our hike by at least a couple of miles, because we weren't going to be
able to park at the trailhead.
With that in mind, we drove back to Washington Park and prepared to go on our
hike. After bundling ourselves and Mary up in as many layers as we could, we
stepped out of the motor home, where it was sunny and windy and thirty-five
...and before we could even begin hiking, little Mary began fussing, as though
she had gas. Simply put, it was just too cold for her, and she let us know
that by crying. John and I returned to the motor home and tried to calm her
down, but even before she settled down, we both had begun to realize just how
nuts it was to try to do this hike with Mary. Even without Mary, it would have
been a bad idea! It was then that we decided that we were just going to have
to postpone the Highline Trail hike for just a little bit longer.
At that point, we still had a few options open. We could camp there overnight
and do some hiking in the morning, or we could drive back into the town and do
the Ballentine Trail on the way, or we could just call it quits and do
something else - maybe a hike in the Superstitions - the next day. In the end,
that was what we decided to do: go home, spend the night in our warm beds, and
hike the Superstitions on Sunday morning.
Before leaving the Mogollon Rim, though, there was one thing that we had to
do: we had to take Mary out into the snow. Clad in her little hiking boots,
corduroy overalls, and fleece jacket, Mary had her picture taken in the snow.
Then, we all dashed back inside - five minutes was all that we could stand!
When we got home, we consulted The Hiker's Guide to the Superstitions to
find a short hike that we could do Sunday morning, which would leave Sunday
afternoon open for another home improvement project. John suggested that we do
the Garden Valley Loop, part of which would be off-trail, or the Second Water
Canyon Loop, which would also take us off-trail. Both loops started from the
First Water Trailhead. The Garden Valley Loop follows the Second Water Trail
#236 to a side trail that cuts through Garden Valley and back through First
Water Creek. The other trail would go to the top of Black Mesa via the
Mesa Trail #241 then cut through the cholla forest and drop into Second Water
Canyon, back into Garden Valley, and finally end up on the Second Water Trail
again. We still hadn't decided which trail to do when we arrived at the First
Water Trailhead at 8:00 that morning.
We ended up doing the Black Mesa Loop instead - the same hike that John and I
had done the weekend before - because it would be the easiest for us to
follow. (That, and I didn't like the idea of bushwhacking with Mary through
the dense forest of chollas on Black Mesa!). Just like the previous Sunday,
the weather was perfect for the hike: it reached seventy degrees that day. In
fact, it was so warm that we were even removed several layers of Mary's
clothes, until she was wearing only her sweater and pants. And Mary did not
fuss much at all during the hike - of course she wasn't being pounded by cold
Ironically, we hiked the same number of miles we had intended to hike on the
Highline Trail on Sunday: almost nine miles!
We took turns hiking with Mary in the Snugli. I insisted on taking her first,
because I knew that the first two miles of the trail would be the easiest and
that I wouldn't have a problem carrying her. (That, and I used my "mother's
prerogative", of course!) I carried her all the way to the top of Black Mesa -
I hadn't intended to carry her that far, but she had fallen asleep and I
didn't want to wake her. Then, Bill took his turn, and he carried her all the
way to the junction with the Dutchman Trail. Finally, John took her and
carried her all the way back to the trailhead. By that time, Bill's hip was
starting to hurt him, so our pace slowed down.
We completed the hike at 2:00 that afternoon - much later than we had
expected. After having an expensive lunch at a saloon in the Old West town of
Goldfield, we drove home and rested.
Okay, so it wasn't quite what we had planned, but at least we had an