Day 18: Verde River & Prescott National Forest

Road Miles: 7.9

Total: 1430.8

Trail Miles: 0

Total: 88.2

SitesVerde River (Coconino National Forest) & Prescott National Forest

Locals: Onager (aka Tiny Dancer)

So, what does one do the day after a monster tasting at a famous musician’s winery, wine to ease the anxiety of watching a worm be threaded and minor surgery performed upon a mudfish, wine with dinner, wine to celebrate encountering a ringtail that tried to crash camp in the middle of the night? The answer: one does not do shit, because one has a monster stomach-turning, skull-crushing hangover, that’s what.

Deep in a canyon on the banks of the beautiful Verde River, about an hour’s worth of driving over a rough, rocky, and probably vomit-inducing 4WD track away from cell service, it quickly became clear that not much was going to happen today but a lot of vigorous sitting around, and possibly some deep thinking about my choice of coping & celebration techniques, especially when both occur in the same night. Onager, in much better condition than myself, had set about making an awesome breakfast of bacon (Fun Fact: if there is bacon, the meal is automatically awesome), venison hash, and zucchini noodles using the biggest knife I’ve ever seen and some genius gadget called the ‘Spiral Ninja’ which I now need. My primary contribution to this was attempting to spiral ninja the zucchini, then almost dropping the knife on his foot. 

So, fairly useless, and with no desire to dismember my eminently patient adventure partner, I parked my sad ass in the camp chair, sucking down water, capable of not much more than wincing at the bright light of the sun and panicking. I was due in Albuquerque that evening, at least 7 hours away from Cottonwood, which was now not going to be at all possible, and I had no way to make contact with my friends there to let them know. I felt horrible.

When there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can do. Once I accepted my situation, I calmed down and was actually able to relax and even enjoy the day and where I was, this beautiful riparian cubby at the bottom of spectacular sandstone canyons, with wildlife galore, including the couple of otters I was currently watching frolic around in the river. Simply magical. And frankly, it was nice to be able to spend time at a site just being. No hiking, no obsessively trying to document everything with photos, nothing but just observing and relaxing into the environment. We did just this for awhile before finally packing up the truck and start bouncing back up to Cottonwood (without puking – win!).

By now it was getting dark and I needed to figure out where to camp for the night. Luckily, Onager knew of some free open sites nearby on the Prescott National Forest that would get me closer to the road I’d be taking to Albuquerque, where I was due to pick up RaggedyCrow from the Amtrak the following afternoon. After picking up the van, I followed Onager out to the open land, and we found a spot big enough for both vehicles. Now well after dark, it was impossible to get any sense of where we were, what it looked like – that would have to wait until morning, but the stargazing here was pretty great.