I’ve been back from the black waterfalls for a couple weeks now. It seems like it’s taken me that long to recover! The terrain was brutal, temps high, altitude high-well, higher than I’m used to, being a flatlander anyway. If I hadn’t just spent three rigorous weeks of doing absolutely nothing, things might have been easier! Or not. I always know that I’ll be sore, tired, cut, bruised and banged up after every trip to the Arizona gold fields because of our pace and the desire to cram everything into every minute! We can sleep and load up on Advil later! This trip was going to be the ‘full package’ crammed into 2.5 days instead of the normal 4!
I flew in late Friday evening, and after getting a full 4 hours sleep (ha!) it was time to load up the quads and head out! I like riding in the desert. The pre-dawn scenery, occaisional wildlife, and cool air are an experience everybody should get at least once in their lives. Now the ability to actually ENJOY any of that while riding OUR particular access road…well, lets just call that ‘spotty at best’! This particular road hasn’t had any maintenance by the BLM in a long time. That’s kind of how it is out there. The BLM wants to close roads like this but generally they quit maintaining them in hopes they will be so bad that people can’t use them, then they can just go ahead and close them. Well, not yet BLM! Because of this, I would encourage folks to hit the desert and file mining claims on any decent ground you find! This will hedge ‘our’ bets against the BLM’s closures. BUT I digress..
We sped along the bumpy road while I tried to take pictures with my phone without losing control of the ATV, but the road was winning. It was hard enough to look around without losing control, let alone anything else. The air was cool, even a little chilly, but I knew we would be suffering from the heat later in the day. Finally, we reached our cutoff to park and eventually start our hike in. My buddy hadn’t told me that we would be rock crawling with our ATV’s, but rough going is such a normal feature of desert exploration that I’m sure it didn’t cross his mind!
The peace and quiet in the desert is a submersive experience. Once we parked and stopped our engines I just sat there for a second, taking it all in. To me, every part of my adventures is important, and the tranquility and expectation of the activity to follow the sunrise is another thing I would recommend you experience at least once! I snapped back to attention as a branch, bent forward by my ATV, suddenly released, smacking me in the chest and face! I laughed and spit out juniper needles and hoping my buddy hadn’t noticed. Oh well, it was time to load up and begin the hike anyway!
The first quarter mile or so was easy (ish) flat terrain consisting of boulders, small drop-offs and ledges. Once we reached the mouth of the wash that would get us to the area of the black waterfalls, my buddy said, ‘Well. It’s all uphill from here and it gets pretty rough, so make sure your gear is secure.’ Him being a master of understatement, I double checked everything, and tightened the waistbelt on my Badlands pack just a little more. I had a gallon of water, plus some Gatorade, a couple tins of sardines, crackers, napkins, a long sleeve sun shirt, my SDC2300 and Pro Sonic, two extra sets of C cell batteries, my GoPro with mounts, batteries and small tripod, my pick, scoop and a bayonet for getting into the rock crevices…oh and my sunglasses in their case, a few protein bars for extra measure, a small first aid kit, a set of heavy duty knee pads…I think that was all. My pack weight was just over 30 pounds, it just all adds up! I did a quick self check-let’s see, I’m in ok shape, knee hurting as it always does, slightly out of breath due to higher elevation, I turn 55 next month…YEP, I’m ready! We turned and began our ascent.
To be continued…