I remember showing Darl my maps before he made the trip north to drop me off. I told him I wanted to start above the town of Strawberry, at a place called Potato Lake, and work my way along the General Crook Trail. A few miles east is a pullout with an old cabin and the trailhead leading down from the Mogollon Rim. I explained that if I got reports that the Tonto was extremely warm that summer, then I would work my way farther east to a lake called Bear Canyon. Either route brought me to fresh water every 3-5 miles, Or so the maps indicated.
When we left, it was still dark in Phoenix, but registering over one hundred degrees. We got to the Rim just as the first fingers of light were reaching up to us. It was cold. You could see my breath.
I asked Darl to drive to the lake before we found me a campsite, so I could make sure there was water... and fish. The lake was what we;d call a pond here in Indiana. You could just about throw a rock across it in any direction. It had none of the signs of bad water: foaminess, stagnation, odor. There were tiny minnows which I (incorrectly) assumed would support a population of larger fish. All systems were go.
We went back down the meandering forest road to a dirt track I had seen about a mile back. As we came around a corner, some guy on a quad was doing about 40 and nearly hit us head on. He drove off the road to the right of our car and down about a fifty foot embankment. I told Darl what the terrain offered on my side of the car and asked if he wasn't going to stop and render assistance. "Fuck that guy" he said. I was sorely disappointed.
We found the primitive road I had seen and followed it until it was too much for Darl's little car. I was home.
I unloaded my gear from the car, inhaling the sweet aroma of the pines. It was a lot cooler in the high country, cooler than I had expected. I realized how useless my charts of average temperatures would be. Average temperatures are just that: an average. There would be radical departures from these mean numbers. Just because the average temperature is 50 at night, doesn't mean it's always 50. Duh. The month could start out in the thirties and gradually warm up. This oversight quickened my pulse and caused me to wonder what other mistakes I may have made that could adversely affect my prospects, but I didn't have the luxury of second guessing my well laid plans. It was a time for doing. I didn't even have a tent. The first order of business was going to be erecting a shelter.
My friend Rona had my tent. On the way to Darl's house, I was to drop off my car at her compound and pick it up. I had filled the Olds 98 with those documents, photos, and memorabilia I felt a need to keep, and Rona was going to store it for me. Nobody answered her door though, which was very odd. In the years I had known her, there was always somebody on site. Unable to retrieve my tent, I left the car in her driveway. (I later learned she had been arrested).
I would have to make do with a length of canvas and a hunk of rope. (I tied it between the trees that are pictured above).
I watched my breath billow out in clouds as I finished unpacking the car. My adventure was about to begin, and it was becoming quite real. There were vital and immediate preparations to be made that would reflect on my survival.
I had a little bit of pot, so Darl and I smoked a bowl.
Then he left and the Maya dog and I were alone in a very big world.