The morning air was still cool as we began our ascent up the boulder strewn wash that would eventually take us to the black waterfalls. I kept my phone in a front pocket so I could get pics as we hiked around and over huge boulders, under low overhanging trees, and the occasional areas that were sandy from accumulated soil where the water slowed down enough for that stuff to be deposited. It was hard to resist the temptation to film and narrate every part of the journey, and after falling behind several times, I decided to just ‘save it’ for the really interesting parts. But it’s all interesting! It’s just too easy for a person with ADD to get distracted and I was constantly scanning and thinking-sometimes out loud – ‘Oh, look at how that rock outcropping is a completely different color than the bedrock next to it’, or ‘that quartz seam runs parallel to the wash but then takes a ninety degree turn and goes into the hillside right here’, ‘check that out, greenstone!’, etc. etc. Till I finally settled down and remembered that I wouldn’t get ten feet if I stopped to look at every interesting feature. So, realizing I was already sweating, I trudged on.
I hate sweating in the desert. Of course, it’s inevitable when hard work is involved, but I’m paranoid about running out of water and getting dehydrated! Water is a balancing act in a way, and once you get to a point where you become slightly dehydrated, you can’t catch up. Not that I was in any danger of dehydration at that particular time, but I just wanted to stay ahead of the curve. I have two ways to gauge how well I’m hydrated-how many times have I peed, and what color was it. Did I mention I tend to overthink things a little? Right, you would never have known if I didn’t tell you… Anyway, not being used to such low humidity, plus the higher altitude with exertion, water leaves the body pretty quickly.
So having just peed, and patting myself on the back for such a great accomplishment of hydration in the desert, I scrambled and kind of jogged ahead to catch up. I rounded a bend and there was my buddy Owen standing at a very large, cascading outcrop of black bedrock-the first black waterfall! The rock was shiny smooth from having sand, rocks of every size, including boulders, and the final polishing effect of water grinding away at what would otherwise have been a rough surface. There were little pockmarks, crevices and cleft places in the rock where pockets of sandy gravel were deposited-great places to find nuggets in their own right-but we still had a long way to go! I scaled the waterfall, thinking how it looked like one wrong step could lead to a painful ride on this giant, bone-breaking slip-n-slide, then ducked under a low hanging juniper tree, and continued up the wash-but not before turning around and getting a picture of the mountains to our southwest, framed by the steep sides of the mountains rising steeply to both sides.
Once past the waterfall, I noticed the ascent becoming more steep, and Owen told me we had another large waterfall ahead, then a couple small ones before things leveled out a bit and we would reach our destination. I couldn’t wait to see the next waterfall, and really couldn’t wait to fire up the detector and start finding pocketfuls of gold nuggets! Somewhat quietly, we hiked onward and upwards. It was getting much brighter outside, but due to the steep mountain to our east, we had shade for our entire hike to the second waterfall.
We took a break at the second waterfall. A snack and some water really hit the spot! We checked our time-only 7:40…we were making great time. I got the phone out and took a video while we joked about how many nuggets we were going to find that day. I like to be optimistic, but can’t help but wonder if we were somehow jinxing ourselves by even talking about what we were ‘going’ to find. Still, the jokes must be told, and hopes expressed. Our enthusiasm is the only thing that could motivate the two of us half-sane guys in their 50’s to go through such punishment before some people were even rolling out of bed! Honestly, it could have been twice as bad and we still would have been happier than pigs in…well, you know! Having recharged a bit, we began the last leg of our hike.
More to come…