“So when you're cold From the inside out And don't know what to do, Remember love and friendship, And warmth will come to you.” ―Stephen Cosgrove,Gnome from Nome
When I woke up the sounds had changed from the pandemonium of police officers, fire trucks, and ambulances, to silence. My neighbors at the good ole Motel 6 had apparently gotten into such a stressful fight that one of them was taken to the ER due to what was thought to be a heart attack. It was 4 am and I made sure to flush the toilet a few extra times, and run the sink sporadically to inform my neighbors of my hygienic behaviors, as they had informed me of their emotional behaviors.
Once 5 o'clock rolled around, I decided to walk down the street to a McDonald's. Little did I know, It was no ordinary McDonalds (see picture below).
The first ever McDonald's drive thru!!!!! How cool is that!?!?!?!??!
I filled my pack with some food that I had purchased the day before, as well as some water bottles. I was carrying less than 20lbs of gear, but with food for 2 weeks and the large quantity of water that is necessary to carry into the desert the pack weighed somewhere around 75lbs. After checking out, I waited on the curb at the front of the motel until Matt arrived at 6:30.
Matt dropped Tom and I off at around 7000 feet in a forest of pines, and oaks. The plants here were all spikey. Everything in these mountains wants to stick you.
We stashed our packs at a site where we would set up camp, and took off to explore a nearby wash. Southern Arizona is a lot different than I expected it to be. The flora along with the terrain tempts one to believe they’re in Venezuela. It was like we were dropped into a scene from Jurassic park.
After some plant Identification we found and harvested materials to make friction fires. The favored wood in this area is the stalk from the sotol plant. We found the sotol, cut it, and headed back to camp. It was now around noon, and I hadn’t gotten very much sleep the night before. With an excuse in hand I set up my hammock, and took a short nap.
We spent the rest of our day looking at the pictographs left by Native Americans long ago. Some of them depicted a “thunder bird.” In the stories told by the natives of this area, the thunder bird fits the exact description of a Pterosaur. There’s also a story of two cowboys who shot a pterosaur in the Huachuca mountains in the 1800s I believe. As the story goes, they shot the creature and returned to town with its wing tips as proof.
The fun didn’t really begin until the night came. I had never slept in a hammock before, and didn’t know what to expect. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong night to start. Temperatures dropped into the 30s and I was only able to sleep in 20 minute increments. This was quite possibly the worst night that I’ve ever spent in the wilderness. In the valley we camped in there was about 10 hours of darkness each night. Every time I woke up, dismayed by the fact that the sun hadn’t risen, my hammock would be shaking violently from my intense shivers. This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting when I planned a desert expedition. Oh well, could be worse.
When the sun finally did rise, I was as cold as I have ever been in my life. The numbness in my feet reminded me of another experience I had on a cold weather skills expedition. On that occasion the temperatures reached 20 below. I was amazed at how cold I felt, when just hours earlier temps were in the mid-80s and sunny. It was a harsh welcome to Arizona…
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