Do you ever have one of those perfect weekends? The one where you spend more time outside than in, have great adventures, see amazing scenery, are close to wildlife, and have great company doing it?
Well I just had one of those weekends!
I decided that it was finally time to do a real backpacking trip. I’ve been accumulating backpacking gear for a while but hadn’t ever done a trip. I’m not experienced and I was waiting to meet somebody who knew what they were doing. The last thing I needed was to hike three miles into the forest with somebody inexperienced. I’ll live without the blind-leading-the-blind, thank you very much!
For my adventure, my friend Ben & I decided to hike into a mine that had a seep coming out of it. And if there just happened to be a geocache there, well, yay for us!
We basically hiked about five miles round trip. And the scenery was stunning and the weather perfect!
At the mine I realized that we really hadn’t read the cache description all that well. (To be honest, I hadn’t read it at all!) And I hadn’t printed out the cache pages. I always print the cache description page because geocaching can take you well out of cell service!
We weren’t sure if the cache was in the cave or not (still not sure since we never did find it) but I did find something cool in the cave:
Lots of little brown and grey bats. Say what you want about bats, they are off-the-chart cool. The cave twists back into the hillside at least 100′. In the last thirty feet there were bats everywhere. Stuck to the ceiling like fuzzy light fixtures, squeezing out of holes about three inches across, and just dangling one at a time.
And no, I didn’t touch one! Nor did they come anywhere close to getting in my hair. But I did turn off the lights and kneel a moment in the black and listen to them squeak at each other. And felt the wind of one’s passing as it flew overhead. I really didn’t have the right camera equipment to get any good photos. And I couldn’t really sit on the mine’s floor since the seep was at the very back and the entire floor of the mine had at least two inches of water covering it.
I got one photo with Ben shining the light on a hole and, yes, I did take one photo with flash. I just couldn’t help myself. I left right after that since I’d woken them all up and I didn’t want to agitate them any more. I’m planning a trip back with better camera gear to get some photos!
Let me just say this, walking out the last time (took a total of three trips into the mine looking for the cache) I was treated to a view of Ben’s silhouette in the entrance and four bats flying between him & I. They didn’t want to pass either of us. But I crouched low so they could go over my head and got to watch the sunlight stream through their wings.
The original goal was to hike up to the ridgeline above the mine and along the mesa until we could see the valley below and then camp. But the ridge was, well, not exactly hiking friendly. Very steep, rugged terrain. We did try it but gave it up as a bad job.
So, on to plan B: return to the truck and then drive to the other side of Chino Valley and hike into the Verde River.
After about five miles round trip (hauling a 30+ pound backpack!) that’s what we did!
The access to the river was in a remote spot that required 4-wheel drive so we had the whole area to ourselves. And it wasn’t that far of a hike from truck to river. Thank goodness because I’m not sure how much farther I wanted to hike. My super cool pack was a super good buy. And it doesn’t fit me as well as I’d like!
After a great night under a full moon, it was a hike back out in the morning!
I will say this: I think I may well be addicted to backpacking now. I love the ability to hike away from other campers and enjoy the wilderness. And I loved knowing that an ATV or 4-wheel drive wasn’t going to come screeching down the road and get dust all over my tent because we were miles from any road!