I've been remiss in posting the rest of this story, so I'm making this portion a bit longer. So instead of a ten-part story, this is probably only going to be a five- or six-part story. Many thanks to Eric and Dave for providing the pictures.
Part IV: The Journey Begins
Throughout the week before our adventure I had been checking the weather. The last thing I wanted was to get caught in a stream-filled canyon if it rained and flash floods ensued. The weather for our expedition looked pretty good when I checked it the week before our departure date. In fact, it looked perfect. But as time passed, the forecast changed and the chance of rain became more and more likely.
On the morning of, Eric called me to make sure I was still okay with going. He said that although the chance of rain had increased to 50 percent, the precipitation expected was less than an inch. So even if it rained, he didn’t think it would be enough to cause any danger.
“What do you think?” he asked. “Should we still go?”
“What do you think?” I answered back.
“No,” he said, “What do you think?”
It was apparently up to me.
Living in Tucson for more than eleven years, I’m pretty familiar with how crazy the storms can get in the summer. A little rain in the forecast can easily turn into a torrential downpour. And although the monsoon had been officially over for nearly a month, we were still getting monsoon-like storms on and off through September.
I countered these thoughts with the fact that this was our reserved weekend to go to Aravaipa. Because it is a wilderness area, only a certain number of people are allowed in the canyon at one time. Dave had reserved this slot for us over two months ago. If we didn’t go, we wouldn’t get another chance for probably another year.
“Oh, let’s just go for it,” I said. “If we don’t we’ll probably regret it.”
And that was that. Let the adventure begin.
When I arrived at Eric’s house the morning of, Eric looked eager to get on the road, and also a little annoyed. I soon understood why.
“We’re taking my Jeep,” he said. “It’s the only vehicle with 4-wheel drive.”
Eric’s Jeep isn’t exactly large, but there was room for the packs in the back. And although the four-hour drive would be a little cramped with three of us in the backseat and his parents up front, I wasn’t very concerned. But then he lowered the bombshell.
“The dogs are coming too.”
Eric’s dogs aren’t huge, but they aren’t exactly small, either. And one of them is a rambunctious puppy they had recently found abandoned at an Indian reservation. I was a little confused about where the dogs would sit since our packs filled up the back. But I didn’t ask.
“It’s too long of a trip to leave them at home and we don’t have anyone to watch them,” Eric said. “And since we can’t trust this one to stay in the backyard,” he said pointing to Lexie, the larger of the two terriers who had proven to be a highly skilled escape artist, “they have to come.”
When we picked up Dave and explained to him about the dogs, all he said was, “Oh. Really?”
So in we squeezed. Our gear was stacked high in the very back. I sat in the middle of the back seat between Dave and Eric. The puppy, Shay, started on my lap. Eric’s dad was driving, and his mom was in the passenger seat with the escape artist on her lap.
Lexie settled down immediately for a nap the minute the Jeep started rolling, but the puppy was a different story. She took turns prancing over our laps and attacking the back of our ears with her tongue. Dave and I did most of the puppy holding as poor 6-foot-4 Eric was sitting with his knees in his face for the duration of the trip.
Throughout the ride, I was keeping an eye on the sky. The sun was shining down on us quite nicely, but dark storm clouds loomed in the eastern horizon. And that seemed to be exactly where we were heading.
After nearly three hours of driving we turned onto a dirt road that headed straight towards the looming darkness. Our speed slowed to about forty miles per hour and the puppy found a spot laying above us on the narrow ledge of the back seat just behind our heads. Despite the long journey and the cramped conveyance, everyone was in good spirits. As he drove, Eric’s dad was pointing out areas of interest on both sides of the road, and Dave had his camera poised to catch hawks resting on fence posts or the sun peeking over mountains shrouded by dark clouds.
The unspoken question on my mind was, what if it’s pouring down rain when they drop us off?
“Oh, oh oh! Dad! Stop stop stop!” Eric cried out suddenly.
Reacting as any normal person would, Eric’s dad slammed on the brakes.
“No no no!” Eric cried again. But it was too late. The puppy fell from above us and landed in our laps along with a large pile of throw-up that she had just deposited above us. Apparently Eric saw her gagging and was trying to get his dad to stop the vehicle so that he could get her out of the Jeep before any damage was done. Except that he was too late and the force of the sudden stop … well you know the rest.
And so, covered in puppy puke, Dave, Eric, and I exited the vehicle and did our best to wipe ourselves and our seat down. We walked Shay around to help settle her stomach, gave her some water, then clambered back into the pungent-smelling Jeep with a wary eye on the puppy. After about ten minutes we repeated the above scenario, only this time we managed to stop and get the dog out before she threw up again. This was mainly due to the fact that I clamped her mouth shut while Eric frantically struggled with the latch and got the door open. Fortunately we only had to repeat this scenario about five times before we reached our destination.
It was hard to imagine anyone living this far away from civilization, much less there being a town along this long dirt road, but the name Klondyke kept coming up in conversation. Once we reached the town of Klondyke, they said, we would know the trailhead was near. Klondyke turned out to be a collection of three or four buildings that included an abandoned gas station and store, a one-room school house, and a few rundown houses. We were greeted by a sign that said: Entering Klondyke Country, Pop. 5. Just before this sign was a yellow caution sign that read “Congested Area, 15 mph.”
As we drew closer to the trailhead the high desert landscape transformed into dense green vegetation and large willow trees. The reason for needing a four-wheel drive also became evident as the smooth dirt road dissolved into a rather crude collection of deep crevasses and significant stream crossings. The road was now muddy and filled with puddles as we drove under the storm clouds. But it wasn’t raining. Whatever rain had occurred earlier was done for the day. Or so we hoped.