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Sand Tank Wash, AZ
mini location map2013-06-15
5 by photographer avatarOutlander
photographer avatar
 
Sand Tank Wash, AZ 
Sand Tank Wash, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jun 15 2013
Outlander
Hiking17.00 Miles 2,000 AEG
Hiking17.00 Miles   12 Hrs      1.89 mph
2,000 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break40 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to spend a day hiking the Sand Tank Mountains from I-8 to the Blue Plateau.

The Blue Plateau is a moderate hike of only 1500’ elevation gain and less than two miles from road 8008. However, this road is well beyond the Line of Control (LOC), where unattended vehicles are subject to theft or vandalism. I opted to park at a safe location on I-8 and attempt a 20 mile hike to the peak.

The Sonoran Desert National Monument has over 40 water catchments, or guzzlers, that can be found every three miles in all directions. In a sense, this is not a desert at all, water is everywhere. Having maps, GPS points to the guzzlers, and three gallons in my pack; I headed south towards the destination.

People sometimes die out there despite the abundance of water, and the discovery of human remains is a common occurrence. Just last week a hiker died of thirst over at Table Top Mountain. A group of three European tourists attempted to hike the peak, unaware of the large amount of water consumption required. They ran out of water near the summit and became dehydrated. A SAR team responded quickly but was only able to rescue two of the three. Little did they know that life sustaining water was just a mile away (25 minute walk), in the form of an Arizona Game and Fish Dept. water catchment.

After a lifetime of hiking out in the Arizona outback, I have yet to come across a single human skeleton or dead body. In a state with such a violent past, impassible deserts, and massive border incursions; one would expect to be tripping over the bones of the dead at every turn. Not so.

The main reason is the fact that exposed bones can decompose to dust in as little as 8 years in a desert environment, as opposed to 40+ years in cooler climes. I did find one set of bones in the Growler Mountains last year that appeared to be human, but they had been broken up and decomposed to such an extent that it was difficult to identify them with any certainty.

It is always interesting to see how the desert fauna and flora adapt to the harsh environment. The ground squirrels and prairie dogs in the Sand Tank Wash were active, collecting the bounty of palo verde and ironwood beans that littered the ground. At one point, a baby prairie dog was separated from its parents and became frozen with fear. I could have just reached down and picked it up. It took a while for the cute little critter to regain its wits and scamper off; chalk it up as another missed photo op.

The hike was rather uneventful, but that was actually a good thing, considering the circumstances. The best decision of the day was to call off the peak attempt at 1400 hours, about two miles short. I was already used up and had a long slog back to the truck ahead of me. I will try again once the weather cools down a bit, and find out what is going on in untamed wilds of the Sand Tank Mountains. Until then, it is off to the cool pines.
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