This day we were finally going to reach our last cache where we had a plethora of much anticipated foods, plenty of water, a few buried beers, sparkling juices and a large jug of honeycrisp apple cider. We made quick time of the eleven miles and made camp in a dry sandy wash by mid day giving us plenty of time to enjoy our cached treasures.
The following morning we hiked out of Hack Canyon and onto the Arizona strip. A large, arid expanse of sagebrush covered flat desert land that encompasses around 7800 square miles. It was such a drastic change of scenery from what seemed to be an eternity within tight, tall canyon walls and I marveled at the beauty of the open lands. We reached the strip in the early afternoon and were assaulted with whipping winds. We pushed against the gusts as we made our way through a network of dirt roads surrounded by cows, sagebrush and the occasional bird of prey. Dark, ominous clouds loomed in the distance and we pondered where we were going to set up our tarp for the night. As the sun settled into the horizon we found our route tucking its way into a small bump of land in the midst of the otherwise flat area. We found a swimming pool sized water tank fed from a spring which was protected from cattle contamination by a huge fence. We set our tarp up under a small juniper tree and filled our water bottles from the spring before settling in for dinner and bed.
We had about 15 miles of dirt roads left on the strip before we reached the hwy where we would hitch into the nearest town to pick up our boxes for our final resupply of the trail. The wind had let up over night which made the walk much more enjoyable. Somehow along the way we managed to get turned around at one of the dirt intersections and added several miles to our day before we were able to get ourselves back on track. We neared the road at about 4pm and decided to try to catch a ride before the sun went down and the post office closed. Our guidebook had given us very little information about the town of Colorado City/Hildale where we were headed other than to say that it was "a strange polygamist town with women wearing little house in the prairie dresses, curious stares from unhappy eyes, and silent children in nineteenth century garb." We knew we did not want to camp too close to this town so we decided if we had not caught a ride within the hour we would camp near the road and try again in the morning.
As I stood on the side of the road with my thumb out and a smile on face I was passed again and again by cars with passengers and drivers who looked confused, concerned or curious about my presence, but none willing to stop. After about forty-five minutes, much longer than I am used to waiting for a ride, an SUV whom I had seen staring as he drove past returned now headed in the opposite direction and swung around in the gravel when he reached our spot on the side of the road. We were greeted with the smiling face of a native american man who welcomed us into his car and chatted happily with us for the five or so miles we drove to the edge of town. He dropped us off on the main road into Colorado City and we began our walk into the town in search of the post office.
We were a curious and a bit nervous about what we would encounter in this "strange town" and the stares from every person we passed did not help our comfort level. We walked by large compounds of houses with tall solid fences surrounding the yards. The description of the old fashioned homemade clothing worn by all of the women and children was completely accurate, and the out of date bun style hairstyles of all the women matched the clothing. At one point Goose stopped to ask a young woman in a car for directions and when he approached with an "excuse miss, can you please tell us where to find the post office" she dropped her head avoiding his gaze and stomped on the gas quick to get away from us. We could not have felt more uncomfortable or out of place looking like dirty homeless hippies in our bright clothing. I felt so uncomfortable having my legs exposed in my shorts that I stopped to pull on a pair of pants. Relived to see the post office just before closing we rushed in hoping to get our boxes and get the heck out of there. Unfortunately we were told there was no mail waiting for us at the general delivery. Dejected we asked about a place we might find dinner for the night and were told the only place in the area was the market we had passed on the highway when we came into town.
We quickly walked out of town and made our way to the market where we grabbed cold drinks and plenty of food for our first town meal in weeks. We sat outside eating and charging our electronics enduring more stares but unwilling to leave a place where we could stuff ourselves with fresh food. After eating all we could for the moment we returned to the store to restock with more goodies and carried the heavy grocery bags back to the highway in the dark. We walked until we reached what we thought to be public lands a couple of miles outside of town and we walked as deep into the juniper trees as we could to set up camp for the night. We were uncomfortable with the area and hoped our camp was far enough away.
Unfortunately we knew we had at least two more days in the area. I had worn dime sized holes entirely through the soles of both of my shoes and there was no way I could make the final fifty miles to the end of the trail. As soon as I had gotten to a place with phone service I had ordered a new pair to be sent overnight, but we knew in these remote areas we could expect it to take much longer. We crossed our fingers that the shoes, along with our resupply boxes, would arrive the following day and we could get back into the canyons and away from this creepy place.