|Hiking||12.00 Miles|| 12 Hrs ||1.00 mph|
|2,200 ft AEG|
|With the recent rainy, cold weather we got, I got back to thinking about the first photoset I posted on HAZ and noticed that I never posted a triplog for it. I had always meant to write one up but never got around to it. I even forgot that I had posted this photoset, which is one of my personal favorites because of what we encountered. I've never been one to go back and post older hikes, but since this was one of the most memorable hikes I've ever done (and the photoset is already up), I think it's appropriate to make an exception. |
I had been meaning to finish the Two Bar Ridge trail for some time. A year or two previous I did the Tule-Two Bar Loop back to the Tule TH. The plan was to do a shuttle hike from Tule to Upper Horrell, taking the Tule Trail to the Two Bar to Reavis Gap and down to the Upper Horrel TH. I needed someone who could provide a 2nd vehicle and also have a 4WD. I hadn't yet utilized HAZ for hiking partners, so I asked my neighbor Marty. This ended up being our first hike together and almost our last.
I think the weather forecast for that day was something like 20% chance of precipitation. Definitely no big mention of an impending storm. We knew to expect colder weather and maybe a little rain. The ride out was grey and dreary as expected. When we started it was very dry and the ground was bare. From the Tule TH we could see that there was snow on Two Bar Mtn. I remember mentioning to Marty how cool it would be if the trail went up into the snow line and how lucky we would be if that happened.
The Tule Trail is steep and overgrown in one section. After you pass thru the ranch it gets steeper. Once it levels out, you have to do some route finding. I had my first GPS at the time and had "programmed" the route in by setting waypoints along the trail in my Delorme program and then putting those points into the GPS and programming a route, which essentially connected the dots, forming a big black segmented line which was our trail. This helped in the route finding and would soon become even more valuable.
Soon after we leveled out, we were much higher in elevation and could see Two Bar Mountain much better and at that point the snow had started to fall. Marty made a video of me during this and fatefully mentioned that we were taking "a nice hike". As we made our way along, the snow started to accumulate. Stupidly, we had assumed that we were hiking our way more into the snow line that we saw previously rather than the fast accumulation that it was.
At the junction of the Tule and Two Bar Ridge Trails, we stopped and had a snack. The hike up was a good workout and some sustenance seemed like a good idea. At this point the accumulation was already about 3 inches or so, and the snow was still coming down heavy. The idea of just turning back hadn't even slightly entered into our thought process.
We started to make our way along the Two Bar Ridge Trail towards Reavis Gap. This section of the trail basically enters into a valley and then climbs out. About halfway into the valley, we had started to get a little concerned. By this time, everything was completely white and the accumulation was in the 6-8" region. We had our first conversation about turning back, but the going wasn't too tough at that point, so we decided to brave it out.
By the time we got to the bottom of the valley, we knew we were in for a long day. Any signs of the trail had disappeared as the accumulation was nearing about a foot. The pine trees had so much snow on them that the branches were hanging down, making it impossible to move along without hitting them and getting covered in snow. The only way we knew which way to go was to follow my GPS route. We bushwhacked our way thru the snowy pines, uphill in a foot of snow for a mile or more. Whenever we found the trail, it never got much easier to move along since the snow was so deep. Every few hundred feet, one of us would slip on the wet rocks under the snow and wipe out. I was getting nervous that one of these wipeouts would end up in a sprained ankle or worse for one of us. Every once in while we would brush some snow off of what we thought was a cairn, only to find a barrel cactus, and vice versa. This looked more like northern PA back when I went deer hunting. I still managed to take a few pictures during all of this because of the fascinating scenery of seeing the Supes covered in white, making this transformation from just a few hours earlier.
The last mile or so of the Two Bar Ridge Trail up to Reavis Gap was the easiest to follow. We were out of all the heavy brush and the grade was gradual, but the going was still fairly slow and interrupted by wipe outs. Once we got to Reavis Gap, it was all downhill from there, but I had done that section of the trail on a previous hike and knew that it's very steep. And daylight was beginning to be an issue.
On our way down the Reavis Gap Trail, we lost the trail again and ended up in a drainage. At this point I fell trying to make my way down a dropoff and landed on my back. I was ok but pretty sore. It was obvious that we weren't going to make it back before dark. I told Marty that we needed to get our headlamps out and get ready for walking in the dark. He suggested we keep going until it got dark and I countered that if we did that, we wouldn't be able to find our headlamps in the dark. Marty was getting a little panicky at this point but I kept cool knowing that we were close and still had an idea of which direction to go.
Once we made it out of the drainage, we made our way thru more low hanging pine branches as it got dark. By this time we were both getting soaked from all the snow falling on us and it getting frigid. It was also very tiresome busting our way thru the branches. At this point Marty and I had this exchange:
Marty: These branches would make good firewood.
Me: No they wouldn't they're soaked now. And we're not building any fires tonight, we're getting to the car and going home. If we have to stay out here, we're gonna freeze to death.
Marty: That's not such a bad way to go. It's peaceful, you just fall asleep.
Me: Yeah, after hours of shivering and convulsions.
Marty: But then your blood leaves your extremities, and your body core temp drops....
Me: Hey, can we talk about something else?! Like, maybe, "Do you see the trail?"!!!
And not long after that exchange, we did in fact find the trail. The snow had got down to a manageable 2-3" and there were actual footprints! Glory! And then I looked closer. One set of prints didn't look right. I hunched over to get a closer look and illuminate it better with my headlamp. It was of a bare footprint. It was definitely bare human feet. One set of tracks like that, and one other set that looked like they were tennis shoes. I called Marty over to look at which point he just about freaked:
Marty: Oh my God!! Who would be out here like that?!! That's insane!! Who would do that??!!
Me: I don't know, but did you ever see the Blair Witch Project?
Marty: Yes, let's get the he11 out of here!
The going was much easier at this point back to Upper Horrell, although the temps were really frigid. I was familiar with this section of trail and knew that a trail branched off going into the Reevis Mtn School of Self Reliance. It was at this junction that the tracks disappeared. And Marty freaked again. He was convinced that "they" were out there watching us. I tried to tell him about the school. They even have a website. It didn't seem to comfort him much, but it got him calm enough to keep moving.
Once the trail got up above the school, you could see the lights in the teepee looking structures below. Marty turned off his flashlight (which he kept winding up to recharge every 90 seconds) and waved me over to him.
Marty: (whispering) Let's keeping going quickly so they can't see us.
Me: Why are you whispering?
Marty: Because who knows who those guys are or what they're doing, or if they're watching us, or
Me: Then why don't we just keep walking like we were? We can't turn off our lamps because it's too dark. The longer we stand the more whoever you're worried about can see us.
We finally got back to Marty's SUV at the Upper Horrell. The total hiking time was about 12 hours for 12 miles. I changed into a dry shirt and sweatshirt, but even with the heater on, I was starting to almost violently shiver. We picked up my car at the Tule TH and made our way back home. We couldn't get a cell signal to let our wives know we were ok until we got halfway to Globe along 188. And the first thing I had to do was check the voicemail from the Pinal Co. Sheriff telling me my wife called them to report me missing. Whatever.
The storm was so bad that apparently parts of 60 were closed during the day. Fortunately they had opened it again so we didn't have to spend the night in Globe. I remember that even after 45 minutes sitting in my car with the heater blasting, the second I stepped outside my car in Globe at the convenience store, I instantly started shuddering again. When I handed my money to the cashier to pay for my food, it was like I had Parkinson's disease. At least I had long sleeves and pants. Marty's only extra clothes were shorts and a t-shirt.
And a good time was had by all.