Got a ride from Kenny to the Peely TH and we headed down to Thicket Springs, were I dropped my overnight gear and we headed towards ravine 7 following behind Steve's streamers. It became quickly apparent that the ravines are the worst way to go due to thick bushwhacking, so after we got sight of Steve working the ridge between 7-8 we crossed over and slowly worked our way up the ridge between 6-7 glancing around and glassing below drops across the canyon. We slowly made our way to the top of 6910 where we ran into Eric on his way down doing about the same route as us. From the peak, the Maricopa County helicopter buzzed the ridgeline and circled us a couple times and were so close we could see their faces and wave to them.
After hanging atop 6910, glassing the area, and searching the northside a bit we eventually headed back down the ridge between 4B-5. Kenny & I thought that if Joe had bailed down this ridge, he would have dropped into ravine 5 and beelined for the trail to the east so that's exactly what we did and again hit some descent bushwhacking before obtaining the trail again.
Made it back to camp at a descent time, setup my tent & such, and when other searchers came by like Joel & his friends we'd swap stories of what we covered. Ken C came back later and spent the night in camp with us.
Woke up to a slightly chilly morning, but quickly got the fire started and started making breakfast. Toughboots, Angela, John, & Kyle (sorry if I got the names wrong
) swung by that morning and we told them that we covered the 5-8 area the day before so they headed for the 2-4 area as did I. I hiked the Thicket Springs trail until I got past peak 5388 and then contoured above drainage 3 on the rightside on a game trail until it became too thick and then I dropped down into 3 until it also became thick.
So I worked up the right side again were it was a little easier traveling until I hit a spot where I decided to cross over 3 again and slowly work my way up that ridge between 2-3. I wasn't sure if I had time or energy to summit Sheep Mt, but I saw five buzzards circling the 3-4 ridge so I decided to push on and descend that ridge. Though to get to that ridge I'd have to make it all the up near the summit to cross over.
So I slowly pushed up though I could feel yesterday's hike, mucho elevation gain, and the altitude slowing me down.
I didn't see the birds again until I was near the summit though this time they were circling me. Do I really look in that bad of shape?
When I reached the summit I met another searcher up there who left a flower on the summit as a memorial to Joe.
He told me how horrible the ridgeline route was, so I talked him into joining me down that 3-4 ridge. We made fairly descent time down it and found evidence that someone or something had been down this ridge recently. In the upper section we saw some definite footprints and broken branches though that could have been SAR since we were still close to Sheep Mt. Further down the ridge, the five buzzards came back and were now circling the 2-3 ridge across from us... On our ridge, I was following at least a game trail though a rockpile below a scramble definetly wasn't left by deer and look manmade.
I wish we had more time for searching but we were getting low on water, daylight, and energy. Somewhere around 5600 feet we hit a thick manzanita forrest and lost the trail and slowly bushwhacked our way down to ravine 4 where we were surprised to find loads of water and ferns lining the creek.
We slowly made our way down canyon while it dried up and got thicker. I noticed we were now paralleling the trail and it was only a half mile to bushwhack over to the it, so left canyon 4 and went into a bushwhack thru Hell to eventually reach the trail.
In hindsight, maybe we should have just stuck to the canyon and followed it south to the trail or tried climbing the ridge to the NE in hopes that the bushwhacking was lighter on top.
Low on energy, water, and daylight, we put on more layers & broke out the headlamps & slowly made our way back to camp where thankfully Steve and a fire going and some extra water to spare.
Slept well that night
and it didn't get too cold in my tent, but woke up around 7am to it hailing.
Ran down to the creek to get some water & back to camp to get packed up since we decided to bail south down the trail and forrest roads back to our cars. By the time I was ready to take my tent down, the snow had started coming down pretty fierce.
Hiking down the snow covered Cornucopia trail was slow going & slippery & did my best to keep from sliding off. The streamers left by SAR helped me stay on trail since it was a little tougher to follow covered in snow.
Eventually made it to FR25A and followed that scenic road out to FR25 and used an old jeep road to connect with the old highway close to where I parked my car 3 days earlier.
Now just healing up from all these scrapes & bruises, though having shin guards, helmet, long pants & shirt, leather gloves, and sunglasses greatly reduced the number of scrapes, bruises, or anything worse...