Pine to LF Ranch

Pine is a strange place. Yes, there are large expanses of pine forests to its north justifying its name, the ladies volunteering at the library were very helpful and chatty, a bakery served good espressos, the hiker-friendly brewery served excellent thin-crust pizza and beer, the Pine Creek Cabins where we stayed were clean and cosy and provided more horseshoe-throwing entertainment, the village next door bears the quaint name of Strawberry and the postman looked suitably guilty at having returned our box of essential trail supplies to San Angelo 3 days earlier, but Pine has a strange air to it. The streets were mostly deserted with people seeming to scurry into the safety of quaint-looking buildings, the supermarket was a magnet for misfits, the thrift store occupied the prime high street location and the lady making the espressos came right out with the news that Pine harbours several polygamous Mormon families. Isn’t that illegal?

We’d already discovered how fast hard-earned muscle and stamina can melt back into flab and lethargy when we re-started our hike in Flagstaff after a 3-week break to let Glenn’s shin splints recover. However, on that leg, while the distances were long, the trail was clear and on relatively even ground compared with what was to come, and the pine forests cloaked us in shade and sprinkled springy pine needles at our feet.

From Pine, both the scenery and the trail became a lot more rugged. No more springy pine needles for us. The trail was now strewn with pink and purple stones and rocks as slippery as ball bearings, but lined with a growing array of spectacular, XL cacti and aloes and offering panoramic views pine forests would have hidden. And it felt wild. Wild in a way only places with few human visitors can feel.

We’d just stumbled and slid into Oak Creek -an explosion of russet and yellow leaves against a purple rock backdrop in a canyon hidden until you’re in it- when I said to Glenn that my instinct was telling me there were dangerous animals around, so we stopped and took some photos and a brief rest, as you do. We’d only just started walking again when I spotted a 1.5 metre (4.5 ft) coral-like snake lying motionless across our path, too cold in the shade to slither any faster than a snail. There’s a saying which is supposed to help you remember the colour sequence of the deadly coral snake, but was it “red on yella, kill a fella” or the opposite or a whole different set of colours??? No idea. We hiked on, now much more careful about where we put our feet.

That night, we camped under some power lines, buzzing like an angry beehive 24 hours a day, in the wake of the juniper bush destruction left behind by 2 giant strimmers (Am. weed eaters) attached to giant yellow tank-like machinery, which had strewn saw-sized splinters across the trail for the last 2 miles and 2 more to come, about 10 miles south of Pine and 14 miles north of LF Ranch; our next hot meal. We’d packed a surplus of food and set out with 12 litres of water; plenty for 2 days, so that night we had a salami, olive oil and spring onion feast.

The next day, a praying mantis and a tarantula later (no praying mantis was harmed in the making of the photo), we came across three deer hunters driving around in something which looked like a golf buggy and very clean camo gear, who told us that they’d been a little way down the next stretch of the Arizona Trail and turned back, as it was “a twisted ankle waiting to happen”. Well, all my mind would do was wonder how tough those hunters in their little golf buggy and clean clothes, worried about their ankles actually thought they looked and of the laughing out loud of one of our rugged Spanish hunters had they ever met… but of course, within 20 minutes, I twisted my ankle badly enough to make me squeal like a baby, so they had their revenge.

We spent the next five hours slithering down a black and brown and purple hill, across sandy patches, between prickly pears, century plants and spiky aloes, following zig-zagging rock cairns and cow tracks to Whiterock Spring, where Glenn suddenly made the increasingly rare sighting of people coming down the trail behind us; one of whom, as it turned out, was Puerto Rican Shawn, a hiker walking to raise money for the MS cause, whom we’d met before Grand Canyon. We thought she would have finished the trail while we were resting Glenn’s leg, but it turned out that road closures and other issues had meant that her husband hadn’t been able to cache water for her on some sections, so as a supported hiker walking with a day pack only, she had ended up having to come back to complete some of the more remote sections out of sequence.

Not long afterwards, we discovered that our last 3 litres of water -plenty to get us to LF Ranch- had become contaminated by disintegrating plastic in the water reservoir, making it disgusting to the point of undrinkable and, potentially, poisonous. We were tired, thirsty, had a steep descent and about 4 miles ahead of us with just 90 minutes before we would lose the light.

Shawn and Rob followed us for a while, but our thirst was slowing us down, so we encouraged them to go on ahead. We hiked on, religiously tracking down and following the cairns. By the time we reached the top of the second and final, though super-steep and slippery descent to LF Ranch, the thirst was parching a sand dune blockage into my throat and messing with my concentration. I was desperate enough to drink some of the plastic-laced water and starting to get disoriented. Glenn was desperately thirsty too, but still in decent shape. Towards the end of the descent, it was all I could do to follow him. There was no time to stop, as the sun had set 20 minutes before and the light was fading. We had to make it to LF Ranch to get water.

We walked through some wooden posts and thought we had finally arrived, when we found the path cut off by a river. The Arizona Trail hadn’t tackled rivers with no obvious crossing before, so we thought we’d gone the wrong way. I lost my balance on the pebbles and fell backwards, landing on my behind. In my waterless stupor, it felt pretty good down there, sitting next to a cool, flowing river in near-darkness, and I briefly considered staying, but I could just make out a cairn on the other side and hear dogs barking, and knew from the map that LF Ranch was the only place for miles around, so Glenn pulled me to my feet and we put the waterproofing on our boots to the test. My socks were soaking by the other side, but LF Ranch soon emerged and Maryann came out to see what all the barking was about. Glenn was out of it too and forgot about drinking while he petted the dogs, but I was soon gulping like a wild thing straight out of a spigot while Maryann fetched a glass.

Shawn and Rob hadn’t made it, though, despite being well ahead of us. We knew they had plenty of water, food and camping equipment, however, so we decided against a search party and tucked into the roast dinner Maryann had waiting in the oven. Wyatt and Pat, two frustrated mule deer hunters, were staying in LF’s bunk room too and they kindly shared their very welcome dark beer with us after supper while we threw a ball for Pistol, an Australian shepard with limitless energy. So, it was with a beer in my hand that I noticed a faint light on the top of the mesa we’d slipped and slithered down, about a mile off-course. That would be Shawn and Rob.

We slept like logs in the bunk beds and awoke to a freshly cooked breakfast and the big box of groceries Maryann had very kindly bought for us via our texted shopping list for the next 6-day leg of hiking. Thank you, Maryann! Shawn and Rob appeared later in the morning, in good health and raring to hit the trail again. We, on the other hand, decided to enjoy Maryann’s hospitality for an extra day to let our muscles recover.

LF Ranch is a functional, working cattle ranch in a wild and beautiful setting on the East Verde River, 16 miles from so-called civilisation, where you’d probably be able to find a spare part for almost anything. Not that you actually see the cattle, as they roam across the rugged countryside until Maryann saddles up and rounds them up.

The set-up’s not that dissimilar from home in Spain: a well for water (though Maryann’s gives her quite a bit more than 40 litres a day!), solar panels, gas-powered water heating and lots of dogs to warn of strangers and ward off wild animals. (And, yes, I can’t resist mentioning that in Spain, our 2 boxers have just produced another 6. Very exciting!)

Maryann is a great host with unbeatable mountain lion stories, local knowledge (she identified our coral look-alike snake as a King Sonoran Snake, which is thankfully harmless except to other snakes, which it eats) and a passion for photography which has earned her numerous local prizes. While she scared me to death with the revelation that ALL Arizona bees are africanised and potentially, therefore, killer bees, we felt privileged to hang out with her and hope to stay in touch.

On morning 2 at LF Ranch, after Glenn had finally exhausted every imaginable excuse to delay hiking, we set off towards the daunting 4000 ft (1333 m) straight-up mountain on Maryann’s doorstep.

1 Comment

  1. Ruth & Dave Slaughter
    Sunday 11 November 2012, 7:54 pm

    Hike on, good friends, hike on!! Loving your stories and the way you tell them…loving the photos by Glenn too!! Hope you are keeping warm this weekend!! I see there is a cold snap in the higher elevations…keep warm and safe! Hope to see you soon! Dave & Ruth

  2. You have made your point very clearly!.
    https://www.visitwaushara.com/
    canadian prescription drugstore
    trust pharmacy canada
    prescription drug
    canadian pharmacies online

  3. You reported it superbly!
    https://www.visitwaushara.com/
    canadian pharmacies shipping to usa
    canadian drugs
    canada pharmacies online pharmacy
    canadian pharmacy

  4. Good content. Kudos.
    https://www.lunarciel.com/
    buy online prescription drugs
    canadian cialis
    rx price comparison
    canadianpharmacy

  5. Appreciate it, Quite a lot of write ups!

    https://www.interlandchemie.com/
    canadian pharmacy viagra
    global pharmacy canada
    online pharmacy
    northwest pharmacy

  6. Useful advice. Thanks a lot!
    https://www.dunamisproductions.com/
    cheap canadian drugs
    canada pharmacy online
    canadian pharmacies that are legit
    canadian pharmacy

  7. Seriously a good deal of fantastic advice!
    https://www.dunamisproductions.com/
    canadapharmacy com
    canadian pharcharmy
    canadian pharma companies
    global pharmacy canada

  8. Thank you, Fantastic information.
    https://www.interlandchemie.com/
    canadian mail order pharmacies
    canadian online pharmacy
    canadian pharmacy viagra brand
    canadian pharmacies

  9. Thank you! Lots of posts.

    https://www.visitwaushara.com/
    canadian pharmacy uk delivery
    online pharmacies canada
    prescription price comparison
    canada drug

  10. Wow plenty of excellent information!
    https://www.visitwaushara.com/
    canada pharmacy online no script
    canadian online pharmacies
    canadian pharmacy reviews
    canadian pharmacy online

  11. You’ve made your position quite nicely!!
    https://www.interlandchemie.com/
    pain meds online without doctor prescription
    london drugs canada
    medication costs
    online pharmacies canada

  12. Fantastic advice. Appreciate it!
    https://www.dunamisproductions.com/
    buy prescription drugs without doctor
    canada pharmaceutical online ordering
    northwestpharmacy
    canadian drugs

  13. Appreciate it. A lot of knowledge.

    https://www.waltcoexpress.com/
    canada pharmacies without script
    canadian viagra
    rx pharmacy
    canada drug

  14. Very well expressed certainly! .
    https://www.dunamisproductions.com/
    prescription prices comparison
    canadian drugs
    pharmacy online mexico
    online pharmacies canada

  15. Amazing plenty of helpful facts.
    https://www.lunarciel.com/
    online canadian discount pharmacy
    canada pharmacy online
    best online pharmacy stores
    canada pharmaceutical online ordering

  16. With thanks! Wonderful information.
    https://www.visitwaushara.com/
    no prescription pharmacy
    canada drug
    canadian family pharmacy
    northwestpharmacy

  17. Incredible quite a lot of valuable facts!
    https://www.visitwaushara.com/
    canadian pharmacy
    canadian drugs
    canada pharmacies online pharmacy
    online pharmacies of canada

  18. Thank you. Good stuff!
    https://www.lunarciel.com/
    best canadian online pharmacy
    canada drug
    prescription drug assistance
    canadian pharmacy

  19. Amazing write ups. Many thanks!
    https://www.lunarciel.com/
    internet pharmacy
    canada pharmaceuticals online
    no 1 canadian pharcharmy online
    canadian viagra

  20. Kudos! Very good information.
    https://www.lunarciel.com/
    canada drug pharmacy
    canadianpharmacy
    medical information online
    canada pharmacy

  21. Truly tons of useful material.
    https://www.lunarciel.com/
    trusted overseas pharmacies
    london drugs canada
    buy online prescription drugs
    canadian pharmacies

  22. You’ve made your point.
    https://nicktambone.com/
    price prescription drugs
    canadian pharcharmy
    canadian family pharmacy
    canadian pharmacies-24h

  23. Truly loads of excellent knowledge!
    http://canadianpharmaciescubarx.com/
    prescription cost comparison
    canadianpharmacy
    canadian family pharmacy
    canadian pharmacies that ship to us

  24. Position effectively considered!.
    http://canadianpharmaciesnnm.com/
    online canadian pharmacies
    northwestpharmacy
    prescription cost
    canada drug

  25. You’ve made your stand extremely effectively!.
    http://canadianpharmacymim.com/
    canadian drugstore reviews
    canadian pharmacies without an rx
    legitimate canadian mail order pharmacies
    canada drugs

  26. Thank you, I like this!
    http://www.canadianpharmacymsn.com/
    canadian pharmacies without prescriptions
    canadian online pharmacies
    mexican pharmacies online
    canada drugs

  27. Amazing forum posts. With thanks!
    http://canadianpharmacyntx.com/
    buy prescription drugs online
    canadian pharmacies-24h
    trust pharmacy canada
    canadian online pharmacies

  28. Truly plenty of great information!
    http://www.canadianpharmacymsn.com/
    online pharmacy without a prescription
    canadian pharmacy
    safeway pharmacy
    canadian pharmaceuticals online

  29. You definitely made your point!
    http://canadianpharmaciesnnm.com/
    web medical information
    canada pharmacy
    pharmacy prices compare
    canadian pharmacies

  30. Incredible lots of very good material.
    https://nicktambone.com/
    online canadian discount pharmacy
    canada drug
    discount pharmacy online
    canadian viagra

  31. Helpful info. With thanks.
    http://canadianpharmacymim.com/
    mexican pharmacy online medications
    canada drugs
    prescription pricing
    canadianpharmacy

  32. You suggested it very well!
    http://canadianpharmaciescubarx.com/
    online pharmacies no prescription
    canadian pharmacies
    canadian pharmacy reviews
    online pharmacies of canada

  33. Nicely put, Thanks a lot.
    http://canadianpharmacyntx.com/
    no prior prescription required pharmacy
    canadianpharmacy
    best non prescription online pharmacies
    canada pharmaceutical online ordering

  34. Truly a lot of wonderful material.
    https://nicktambone.com/
    visit poster’s website
    canadian pharmacy
    no prescription pharmacies
    northwestpharmacy

  35. Fantastic content. Thanks a lot.
    http://canadianpharmaciesnnm.com/
    best non prescription online pharmacies
    canadianpharmacy
    canada drug
    online pharmacies canada

  36. Perfectly spoken without a doubt. .
    https://nicktambone.com/
    canadapharmacyonline.com
    canadian pharmacies-24h
    most reliable canadian pharmacies
    online pharmacies canada

  37. You actually explained that exceptionally well.
    http://canadianonlinepharmacynnm.com/
    canadian prescription
    north west pharmacy canada
    online pharmacy usa
    canada drugs online

  38. You expressed this superbly.
    http://canadianpharmaciesnnm.com/
    prescription drug price comparison
    canada drug
    canadian pharcharmy online
    northwest pharmacy

  39. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it!
    http://canadianpharmacyntx.com/
    walgreens pharmacy
    canadianpharmacy
    canadian pharmacy online
    canadian cialis

Leave a reply