I scouted Forest Road 401A for 4 of the 6+ miles just four days before and although it was VERY rough with many boulders in the road I figured if I left early enough I would have time to drive out to Cane Spring TH, hike to Hell's Hip Pocket Ridge and back with plenty of time to spare before dark. Although I used up all that spare time
thankfully I still made it out to the Beeline before dark.
Here's the timeline for the day:
- Left the house in Mesa
- Turned off 87 onto Four Peaks Road
- Started the slow and very rough drive on 401A toward the TH
- Six miles and 80 minutes later I arrived at the Cane Spring TH
I spent (wasted) close to half an hour checking out a corrugated tin shack near the trail head when I should have been hiking.
Another 10 minutes getting everything in my pack, including a 64 oz bottle of Gatorade to cache on the trail (I knew I'd need it but didn't want to lug it for 75-80% of the trip)
- Hit the trail for Hell's Hip Pocket Ridge. (Barely 74 degrees)
- Arrived at the end of Hank & Joe B's GPS track. (86 degrees)
- Began a VERY steep 400' climb from a wasted side trip up to my Gatorade cache (98 degrees)
- Completed the grueling climb back to the cache - 50 minutes to climb 400'/.3 mile (99 degrees)
- Began the relatively
easier 400' climb up to Peak 3777 where it would all be downhill from there
- Arrived back at the TH (96 degrees)
Close to another half-hour getting everything secured for the rough ride back. (To keep a little cooler I had taken the doors off about .5 mile on 401A on the way out and cached them for the return)
- Left the TH for the drive home.
- Reached the end of FR 401A
- Pulled into the driveway just 14 hours and 15 minutes after my start.
And all that for probably the remotest hike within 30 miles as-the-crow-flies from home. But what a blast... as much trouble as I encountered I'll be heading back for more as soon as I can find someone else willing to take the beating on the "road" to the TH. (I guess I should add someone willing to go when it's still hot
Based on Hank and Joe's triplogs in late '08 I wore heavy khaki pants and long sleeve shirt to guard against the cats-claw. The pants handled the brush very well and although I didn't go through cats-claw high enough to need it, the light shirt helped ward off the heat. Of course reliable Teva's were my choice in foot gear.
Barely 13 minutes from the TH and I almost stepped on a Gila Monster on the trail. I was so surprised by its beauty (coral pink contrasting with shiny black) I almost forgot to take a picture before it started heading off, which meant it wasn't a great photo. But with the help of my snake hook I was able to coax him back out for a video:
Just under a mile out I turned right at a cairn and headed up the 400' climb up Peak 3777. Once at the top the views were awesome. The 400' climb down to the beginning of the ridge led to a nice level area where I decided to cache my extra fluid. Now began a long and winding steady climb along the ridge. Every time I came to a high point and thought my destination was the next high point, I'd get to the next one and see another farther out. Due to the huge amounts of low thorny brush and uneven/loose rocks, even though I was being extra careful with every step, somewhere along here I managed to step into a dead pincushion cactus hidden by some low grass.
It was a wake-up call for added vigilance, but once I got used to the pain I was no longer bothered by the continual small scratches to my feet with almost every step.
I stopped just a moment to pick out the best route for the last mile when I heard a rock fall not far away. I looked over to a small outcrop and saw six Big Horn Sheep moving away. If I had been looking that direction I would have had a closer opportunity for photos and video. I shot a video at high zoom but it was too fuzzy but I did get a few decent photos.
The Big Horn photos are about halfway through the 135 photos in the link at the end of the triplog.
I followed Joe's track pretty much along the top of the ridge to the end point. But since that area was devoid of game trails, I returned via a shelf along the river side below the ridge which was not only much easier with no low brush to deal with, it was more scenic as well. Once the shelf ended and I had to climb back up I crossed over to the west side and dropped down to a shelf on that side, following some nice game trails again. When I got to the point just over the ridge from where I saw the sheep earlier I hoped to pop over the ridge and get more photos. Unfortunately I underestimated how far back I had traveled and was well past the outcrop.
No matter, I had another side trip planned for below the ridge later.
By this time I was getting so tired of lifting my feet up so high to step over the 4-12" clumps of cats-claw that it was becoming a chore. And on one particularly high step over a dead Century Plant the rock I was stepping from slid out. I didn't fall but I should have as I strained my left thigh while avoiding the fall, and I found now I couldn't raise my left foot more than a few inches without a shooting pain.
So now I had step my right foot first over any obstacle, then kind of drag my left along it. But this just caused my right leg to cramp up and with almost 3 miles back to the trail head the pain was great enough I could no longer walk.
I sat down in the shade of a large boulder and spent 10 minutes massaging both legs. But I wasn't getting any closer to the fluid ache or the trail head so I got up and started moving making sure not to step too far at a time, which meant baby-steps.
Already a significant distance below the ridge I thought I'd drop down to check out what seemed to be more than just a cave. That turned out to be wasted effort as there was nothing of interest when I got there. Doubly wasted, because now I was an extra 500' BELOW the trail where I had left my fluid cache.
I'd already emptied my CamelBak bladder and a 20 oz bottle of Gatorade, leaving me with but 8 oz of HOT Gatorade in my last bottle, so at this point my only goal was to reach the cache. That .3 mile up to the cache was brutal with the steep angle as well as the loose ground. I was reduced to picking out a spot 10 steps up, climbing to it, taking 10-15 seconds to catch my breath, picking out the next spot and taking the next 10 steps.
What a relief it was to make it to my cache and find the 64 oz bottle of Gatorade still cool
Thankfully I thought ahead and had frozen it, wrapped in a heavy towel inside a white canvas bag and left it hanging in the shade. First I ate two granola bars and washed it down with the last of the hot Gatorade then drank 6 oz of the cool stuff and poured the rest of it into my CamelBak bladder, which kept it cool enough for the rest of the return trip. As it turned out I ran out of fluid within a hundred yards of the car, which had another three COLD 64 oz bottles. And I felt like I had gone to hell
and back and was now in heaven
I took just enough time to secure everything for the rough and rocky drive out, attach my GoPro HeroHD video camera to the windshield to document the trials and tribulations of the trip out and set out for home. Of course all but a few of the worst areas to drive through were now on the uphill, so instead of using the rear diff-locker only once like on the drive out, it was put to use a half-dozen times. Due to not being able to take the same line going up I did hit the front differential truss solidly on a boulder,
but it happened only once and the guard did its job. Even though My Sammy has less than 70 HP it came through with flying colors.
I'll probably post only a few high and low lights here on HAZ but I've already posted 135 of over 150 photos here: