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Highline Trail #31
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mini location map2007-04-22
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Highline Trail #31Payson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Apr 22 2007
Backpack34.00 Miles 1,260 AEG
Backpack34.00 Miles1 Day   13 Hrs      
1,260 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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HAZ - Event
Attention: "HAZ" now stands for "Hitchhike Arizona!" More on this breaking news in a minute.

For some strange reason, I felt that it would be a good idea to attempt to hike the entire length of the Highline Trail in 2 days. I also felt that I should do this trip with absolutely no research. I didn't want to be burdened with extravagances such as a map or a watch. And, even though I had injured my achilles tendons (yes, both of them) a week before, proper healing time was not going to be necessary. So, with all of that in mind, Mike, Andrew and myself set out on our ill-fated odyssey.

Saturday morning we woke up at the 260 Trailhead, stoked about our up-coming accomplishment. We broke camp and hit the trail at about 6:30am...I think. Around this same time, snow began to fall ever so gently from the heavens. With each footstep the snow fell harder. Ordinarily, this would have been cool, had we been prepared. As we hit See Canyon, 6 miles into our trip, we were feeling very fresh, but Mike and Andrew were finding out what a lousy rain jacket a wind-shirt makes. A few miles further, and there was talk of mutiny. If the snow didn't let up we would quit at the Tonto Fish Hatchery. I was quietly savoring the thought of surrender. My achilles tendons started to hurt (again) around mile 2. Obviously, this was going to be a miserable trek and continuing further made no sense whatsoever. As luck would have it, the snow let up and the weather appeared to be clearing up when we reached the hatchery. The choice was made to continue (curses). We were now about 17 miles into our journey. We rested for a bit, and got the time (3:30pm?) from a silly fly-fisherman. (I'm sorry but Tonto Creek is not conducive to fly-fishing.) We really only needed to go 8 more miles and that sounded easy. For some reason, it was not. Each step felt agonizing. "What are all these stupid rocks doing in the trail?" "Why are there so many freakin' hills?" "Darn horses...making tracks in the mud and screwing up the trail...I'm gonna break my ankle." These thoughts all went through my head over and over again over the course of the next 7 or 8 miles. As you can tell, I was really enjoying myself. But hey, snow, sleet, rain, mud, rocks, oh yeah, I broke my sunglasses, the horse tracks; as if that all wasn't enough, some blisters were sneakily forming on each one of my heels. What an excellent day. Finally, when we had passed 2 creeks that we thought were Pearly and Bonita creeks, we stopped and camped. I set up my tent, cooked dinner and crawled in my sleeping bag in record time. I dreamed horrible, horrible dreams. I dreamt that I had to repeat today all over again. Oh...that wasn't a dream.
Sunday dawned clear and sunny, and with a convenient coating of frost over everything, including my shoes. After the sun partially melted and dried the frost, we packed up and hit the trail with a lot less of a vengeance than yesterday. I put moleskin around my blisters, and it helped...for about 5 steps. As we pressed on, it became clear that we did not have a command of the area. Oh, there's Pearly and Bonita Creeks. I thought we hiked past those yesterday. It's great for moral to find out that you didn't hike as far as you thought you did. But we soldiered on, through the area consumed by the Dude Fire. The trail was in terrible condition, with rutted, eroded sections. The horse tracks were even more annoying than yesterday. Had it not been for the yellow ribbons marking the way for the Zane Grey 50 next week, we probably would have gotten lost on one of a million unmarked side trails. Our immediate goal was Washington Park. Once there we would rest for a long time to recover for the final 17 mile push to Pine Trailhead. Around the 5th mile of the day, I decided that Washington Park was my final destination. Failure seemed acceptable if it meant an end to the pain in my feet. Over the next few miles, I bounced back and forth in my head between quitting and not quitting. Quitting is so easy, but I didn't want to let down Mike and Andrew. Maybe I could hang in there for the next 17 miles. 17 miles!? Hell no! I can't. I was already at max hobbling speed which is roughly 1 mph. At that rate, I would finish sometime during the upcoming work week, and that was not an option. See, quitting is easy.
I broke the news gently to Mike and Andrew, not wanting to cause a scene in front of the elk and squirrels. It was as if a burden had been lifted from their shoulders. Finally. Someone caved. Now Mike didn't have to hike 17 more miles on knees that didn't want to go down another hill. Andrew didn't have to hike 17 more miles on soles that were cracked and hurting badly. I broke the ice and tensions were relieved.
We stumbled into Washington Park around 12:45pm. There in the parking lot was our savior...Tom. Poor Tom. It must have been quite a scare for him to have 3 scruffy, stumbling, dirty men (boys at this point) wander up to his driver's side window. He rolled the window down and we rambled on about our predicament. With our best "puppy-dog eyes" we asked, no, practically begged for a ride to the Pine Trailhead. Tom, a super-friendly gentleman and fellow HAZ member, was about to embark on a hike of his own. But, seeing the hurt in our eyes, he relented and offered us a life-saving (probably not literally, but it felt like it at the time) ride. We couldn't throw our packs into the back of his truck fast enough. I suppose this doesn't officially qualify as hitchhiking, but it's close enough. Tom drove us 18 miles to my car, and would not except any form of payment. Tom is a hero in my book. Thanks Tom.
Looking back on this hike, I realized a few things: 1. I'm out of shape. 2. Knowing what you're getting into is good. Do some research. 3. No matter how hungry you are, Famous Sam's is never a good dining choice.
I probably won't ever attempt this hike again. I really didn't like it at all. I think if the trail was in better shape (without the horse tracks) I might have enjoyed it slightly more. I might go back and do the 17 miles from Pine Trailhead to Washington Park. I'm in no hurry though. I've got blisters and tendons to heal.
"I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals; I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants." A. Whitney Brown
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