So…. this was hands down the hardest, easiest hike we have done so far. On paper, an easy 20 mile out and back section. In a monsoon storm… well… the flat easy soft trail…. well turned into some of the wettest, nastest, glue like mud possible.
The day started out quite nice. Mid 70’s with a couple clouds. Although living in Arizona you realize that in July and August there can always have a chance for late afternoon rain or thunderstorms. We did check the forecast and it noted clear for today. Bright and earlier on Tuesday morning Tom and I loaded up the Tahoe and headed back up to Flagstaff, Lake Mary Road and the trailhead at Marshall Lake. Since taking a “Zero” the prior week (I was laying on the beach in San Diego) we planned for an easy flat section that in all regards would actually be kind of boring and nondescript. Putting in the Miles was to be the theme for the hike. Chipping away at our 1600 mile goal and knocking off an underwhelming section from our progress map. The trail was actually quite nice and about at mile 1.1 took us right up to a very surprisingly awesome view of Lake Mary and Mormon Lake. At about mile 5.5 we hiked into the open prairie which shouldered Horse Lake, another nice surprise. From mile 6 to 8.5 we found ourselves on some odd Jeep trails and I would have to say things got a little confusing. I mean there were two to three trails leading in all directions. Over and over. Fortunately, they all seemed to cross each other…. numerous times… so if you took the wrong one, it would wind you back to the other one. I was checking my Guthooks trail app constantly. This happened so many times, kind of felt like I was in a fun house…fun house of jeep trails.
By the time we got to Mile 9.5, our original turn around, our legs were feeling good and we decided to cross over Lake Mary Road and push another mile down trail. Still feeling it we turned about at 10.5 and broke for lunch around mile 11 back north of Lake Mary road hidden from the road traffic. Turkey sandwiches and pop tarts was on the menu for today… yum. Heads down we were so lost in eating that we failed to notice the dark massive clouds creeping up trail to the north. As we put our packs back on we noticed trouble might be coming.
“Oh…. Sh$t” I said as I stood up and turned north toward the trail. Oh well…rain… blah… no big deal. Wind and even a little lighting… no worries… well lightning a little… I hate that stuff. Very dangerous for hikers. Anyhow, I had to make the dumb comment to Tom… “I have nooooo problem hiking 9 miles in the rain. We have hats and rain Jackets… I am not worried and all”. It did rain, off and on for nine miles. Nothing too hard or scary though. Couple lighting strikes but far off in the distance. The real problem become the mud. I have hiked in mud cake boots before… remember Hike #1. But this was something completely different. Mud so sticky and thick it was like walking 9 miles with unremovable 5 pound weights stuck on each foot… plus another couple pounds added to your trekking poles. No amount of stomping, kicking or flicking could relieve us of these nature burdens. This was sludge and our nice soft trail had just turned against us devouring our feet with each step. It was just slug it out. Our happy 3.2 mph pace went to 2.5 and I have no idea how we managed to move that fast. Like two nomads crossing the frozen snow packed arctic with oversized snow shoes we battled though. The site of the Tahoe never looked so good. After a technical bath in the large puddles at the trailhead parking lot, we were on our way back down to Phoenix. Still quite stunned at the days events. “Oh well… we have to love this stuff” Tom commented. “Yep” I said. “maybe it will not rain next week”.