Total Miles: 436.8
Strange. I don’t remember there being rocks under me. In the trance-like state between dreaming and waking, not a whole lot makes sense. Yet, as the dust from my recent slumber settled, it was starting to making quite a lot of sense. I just didn’t like what it added up to.
Where two and a half inches of air mattress had been hours before, there was now only a very sad sandwich of two layers of nylon with nothing in between. The math was simple: somewhere between falling asleep and the hour of 3am my little bed had sprung a leak. A fix would have to wait until we pulled into a brief resupply stop in a few hours, assuming—that is—I could find the source of the leak. Until then, it was a couple hours of tossing and turning on the hard pan and small stones that would be my bed until dawn.
When dawn finally did come, the view down Roosevelt Lake as the sun rose over the far eastern shore did not disappoint.
Crossing the bridge above the dam that turns the Salt River into the lake we now see, our next stop—at a marina along the shore of the lake, no less—was but a couple of overgrown and rock-choked miles of trail away. Add in the usual complement of catclaw nipping at our everything, and those miles couldn’t go fast enough.
When we did finally arrive, in time to catch the last of the marina store’s coffee, we immediately hit a higher note than we had in Pine just by virtue of the fact that our resupply box was actually there on a shelf patiently waiting for us. Our package in hand, we ambled down the drive toward the Tonto National Forest visitor center in search of shade, some outlets for charging, and a place for me to start my air mattress investigation.
While Ace organized our food and did a bit of sock laundry in the bathroom sink, I set to work on what can feel like a search for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Under the pressure exerted by body weight, pin prick size holes—perhaps the size of a cactus needle?—can bring an air mattress to its knees, deflating it slowly over the course of minutes or hours. Fixing it is trivial. Finding the problem is the hard part.
On a hunch, the recently redesigned valve system on my pad had always felt like a possible point of failure so before diving too deeply into a thorough examination of the pad using soap and water—soap bubbles draw attention to air leaks more easily—I started with the low hanging fruit: blowing up the pad and dunking the valve under water. Like that, a stream of tiny bubbles rose to the surface like a big red X pointing to the breach. After a bit of drying out and a quick patch job, it was—hopefully—back in business.
With laundry done, the pad repaired, and our veins tapped for a caffeine fix, there was nothing left but to face the music of the midday sun. All of the miles that had led us down from the Four Peaks Wilderness to the shore of the lake would now need to be reversed. Fresh salt stains would need to be forged into our shirts and hats. Leading us higher and higher away from the lake was a steep road layered with fist-sized stones atop a dusty, shifting soil that felt reminiscent of many miles of the Continental Divide Trail last year.
When the road vanished, eroded and often washed out trail followed a narrow canyon choked with more sharp overgrowth. When the canyon finally widened into open country, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves back on the familiar road of loose footing. Climbing ever higher onto slopes covered in golden grass that waved in the freshening breeze, we reached the boundary of the Superstition Wilderness where it only felt appropriate to serenade ourselves with Stevie Wonder.
In yet another wilderness area burned by wildfire—this time in the summer of 2019–grasses conspired to swallow the trail whole and it was often difficult to see our own feet. Made worse by the rocky footing hidden by those grasses and by squinting into the quickly flattening rays of sunlight, we were glad for the fewer miles we had to walk on account of our pit stop at Roosevelt Lake. Dipping beneath the demarcation line of sun and shade, nestled into an unlikely stand of piñon pine was the campsite we’d been waiting for.