Breakfast at the Jacob Lake Diner was the best part of the day. Yes, breakfast at 8am sharp because we had miles to hike. The good thing about such a late breakfast was that we were able to sleep in. I am glad we took a zero day in Jacob Lake, especially after that 29 mile day on day 39.
We left Jacob Lake Inn by 9:15am, with our goal of a 20 mile day, which is easily attainable with such a well maintained AZ trail. At this point along the way, we are still hiking on the Kaibab Plateau. Kaibab is a Paiute word that means mountain laying down. Very appropriate in my opinion, especially knowing that this plateau tops out at over 9000 feet elevation. The weather forecast called for a 10-20% chance of rain. While it did not rain, the backdrop of solemn, dark, ominous clouds over a burned forest had us feeling we were walking in a post apocalyptic world. I kept feeling that zombies or cannibals would suddenly pop out of nowhere. I think this section of the forest burned about 10 years ago. Likely human caused like most of our modern day forest fires.
Fortunately, not all of the forest on this here Kaibab Plateau was burned. Pine trees, particularly Ponderosas and Douglas Firs and Aspens dominate the scenery. We were not lucky to see the endemic and unique Kaibab Squirrel. Maybe we will see it tomorrow. We did however see a wildlife biologist with her radio antenna tracking the famous California Condor. These archaic creatures (I say archaic because they’ve been around since the last Ice Age) almost went extinct in the early 80s due to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT in the 60s and 70s. Actually, many raptors almost went extinct because of DDT. Apparently DDT made it into the ecosystem and eventually the birds via the food chain. DDT affected the birds by not allowing the eggs they laid to harden enough for successful incubation. Essentially the eggs were too brittle and cracked easily.
When the population dwindled to 22 birds, scientists initiated a captive breeding program. I think it took almost 20 years for the scientists to feel comfortable enough to release them into the wild. It was in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument that they were released. They have become so successful in these parts that you even see them in the Grand Canyon. Sure enough, we were lucky to see one today. Heck, we were so high on the Kaibab Plateau, we were granted views of those Vermilion Cliffs, Navajo Mountain, and even Marble Canyon, where the Grand Canyon starts, just below Lee’s Ferry. Even better, I even saw Mount Trumbull to the west. Damn, I love this country.
By the 20 mile mark, we made it to our camp and water source, Crane Lake. Actually, I think the more appropriate name for this watering hole should be Crane Cesspool. This is some of the nastiest water I’ve filtered. Even after filtering, the water was yellow. Oh well. Water is life. Here is hoping we don’t get sick.