To salvage my day after turning around on my Finger Rock backpack, I decided to head to Aravaipa. In part because it was one of the few backpacking trips that was close by that had water. I reached the West TH at 10:30 am and signed in. I was the only permit holder for the 16th at the West entrance, only two other permits for the day had been issued from the East TH and no one had signed in since the weekend.
There is something so freeing about knowing that you are probably the only one in a particular area. It was pretty warm and the canyon was in full sun as I hiked toward my destination across from Horse Camp Canyon. I wanted to go for a float in the "black pool" in Horse Camp Cyn. that I'd floated in on my last trip- three months ago to the day. Each time I've hiked into Aravaipa, it goes a little faster, as I learn where the side trails on the benches are to speed my progress and get around deep, rocky parts of the creek. It was nice and cool in the creekbed, but on the benches, you might as well be walking in Phoenix in midday. I was glad to have my umbrella.
On my hike in, I saw a family of javelina and a zone-tailed hawk. I was so excited as I got to the part where the walls start to steepen, such a difference from this morning when I was dreading every step of carrying my heavy load of water up Finger Rock. Here, I carried a mere liter. I kept my eyes peeled for rattlesnakes in the tall grasses, but only saw a couple of black-necked garter snakes.
I reached Horse Camp Canyon and headed upstream to the pool. Unfortunately, it held a pretty intense population of brownish-green algae. But it's hard to be disappointed when a perennial running creek is such a short distance away. I took a break to eat some lunch by the pool and realized that I was sitting in the midst of the equivalent of a dragonfly and butterfly meat-market singles bar.
I made my camp at the site across the creek from Horse Camp and hung out in the shade, writing in my journal, listening to music, and occasionally going into the creek to cool off. On my last trip I got eaten alive by tiny black bugs and mosquitoes, so this time I was prepared with bug spray, a head net and thin gloves. I still got bit, but not nearly as much. Thankfully I had a respite between when the little black bugs went away before the mosquitoes came out.
I brought along Angels in the Wilderness
by Amy Racina. It was an incredible read- the true story of a woman who was out for a 16-day solo backpacking trip in King's Canyon when she fell 60 ft. and broke both of her legs. Four days passed before she was rescued. It also tells of her rehabilitation and return to backpacking after 9 agonizing months of rehabilitation. Once I started the book, I read it all the way through as my evening's entertainment. She is an engaging writer, and her story was fascinating. Aside from the survival story, she echoed many of the thoughts I'd been having all day about how much I enjoy hiking solo, and how it is a precious thing to be able to be free from all the preconceived notions of how I should look/feel/act and just completely be myself. Here's two quotes from the book:
I drop into different spaces of awareness when I spend these treasured days alone. I become at once less self-conscious and more conscious of myself. I have only myself to please. I no longer judge myself as I appear to others...I feel released from the pressures of human convention.
In the wilderness, there are no demands except those of my own desire. Compromise is unknown. The appeals of propriety of motherhood, of jobs and friendship and the expectation of other people simply do not exist. Whatever I want to do is what I do.
The next morning, I got packed in the dark and started hiking at around 6:30 am. The hike out was lovely, much of the canyon was still in shade and there was a lot of bird and animal activity. I was ducking through some brush and came upon a slowly-moving Black Tailed Rattlesnake, also saw a Great Blue Heron and another Zone-Tailed Hawk. I reached the trailhead by 10 and saw my only other people drive up as I was packing up my car to leave. I had to work in the afternoon, and as I did, I daydreamed about the gorgeous riparian gem that is Aravaipa.