Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cooler weather

I don't seem to go hiking much anymore when it's hot. I felt like I needed to get out and do something, so on Sunday I headed north looking for cooler weather. Arizona Highways magazine had an article about hikes for hot weather and I planned to check out one of those. It's called the Maxwell Trail, and it's a few miles north of Payson. As I left the house, I could see some storm clouds to the north but I thought they were probably so far north that I wouldn't even get in their shade. Boy was I wrong.

I took most pictures on this trip from inside the truck.

By the time I got to Payson, I was under the edge of the clouds. On the other side of Payson, I went through some light showers. Saw some great lightning bolts, too. I continued on my way to the trail because I didn't think the rain would last long and because I was enjoying being in some rain. I eventually had to leave the pavement but the dirt road was good and solid even though it was wet. Maybe that was because there were rocks mixed in with the dirt. I drove slowly along the road enjoying the scenery and hoping the rain would stop when I got near the trail. I saw several things that I wanted pictures of, but it was drizzling too much to get the camera out of the truck. Then I got to a patch of road that didn't have any rocks mixed in with the dirt. I was moving at a steady speed of about 10 mph. The road was sloped slightly to the left. The rear end of the truck started sliding to the left. I kept steering the direction I wanted to go. I didn't even let off of the gas, because I was afraid that if I stopped there, I wouldn't get moving again. The trees weren't too close to the road in that spot, but there were some small boulders beside the road that had me a little concerned. Eventually the rear got back where it belonged and of course, swung the other way. I fishtailed for about 30 yards until I got back on road with rocks mixed in. That slippery section was on a slight uphill incline and I was able to maintain my speed, so I continued. There were several more slick spots. In fact, the stretches with embedded rocks were becoming scarce. The road was mostly level, so I continued, thinking all the while about how I hadn't seen anybody else for a while and how there weren't even any tracks in the muddy road and wondering how long I would be out there if I had to push the "I'm OK but I'm stuck" button on my SPOT. Surely Suzanne and Richard would not assume that it's just another OK message and would figure out how to send a tow truck to me. Heck, Richard could even come rescue me in his new 4WD truck!

The truck felt strange. It felt like the tires were coated with a layer of mud and that was why I had no traction. I couldn't imagine mud being sticky enough to stay on the tires at 10 mph, though. Also, it would get squeezed out the sides as I rolled along. Well, I live in a desert so I don't have much experience with mud. I got to a point where it looked like the road started going downhill. I might not be able to drive back up it, so I decided to turn around.

When I turned around, it was sprinkling very lightly so I got out and took a couple of pictures, and the tires *were* coated with mud.

When I turned around, it was the first time I had stopped for a while. I couldn't move much in any direction before tires started spinning. I rocked back and forth a few feet at a time and finally got all the way around. That's when I saw that I had actually been going down a slight incline for a while. I was a little worried about getting back up that incline, so when I got moving again, I kept moving as fast as I dared, keeping an eye on trees and boulders up ahead and trying to stay on a course that would take me between them even if I started sliding. I think that was the most exercise that truck suspension has gotten since the last time I drove it on a Houston street. I dang near bit the steering wheel a couple of times.

I wanted to walk into the forest and do a 360 panorama but I had to settle for a few pictures out the window.

A rainbow over the road.

The sun broke through now and then and turned water on the road to "steam". It was about 70 up there. Wonderful.

Except for the bumps, the ride out was uneventful. I headed slowly for home. Just south of Payson it started raining hard. It rained pretty hard most of the way back, until I passed Four Peaks road. It was almost too exciting driving on wet mountain roads with 40 mph crosswinds (Arizona's summer storms always have lots of wind). I thought all that rain would wash all the mud off, but there were still some big chunks in the wheel wells. It seems to fall off when it dries. There are piles of dirt in the driveway now.

Click below to see all of the pictures (including the rainbow).


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