Day 3…..22.6 miles…..AZT mile 73.1
After a cozy first night in my new tent I woke up and walked the half a mile or so into Patagonia to get breakfast at the Gathering Grounds. They had this thing there called the breakfast bowl where they just threw a bunch of breakfast food in a bowl and covered it with a few eggs. It was revolutionary, I’ll be doing this at home. QB and I ate breakfast with a couple other hikers who camped at the RV Park, Garth and Mamba and as we were leaving Cruise and Autumn Leaves came in. After breakfast we hit up the market and resupplied with 3 days of food. I was pigging out on the airplane on the way here and I ended up being a little light on food yesterday. This isn’t a good thing to do so early in the trail because now I’ll be buying extra food just in case. I hate being hungry, but carrying tons of food is stupid too. One of these days I’ll get it right. The hike out of town was pleasant, mostly on dirt roads and eventually climbing way up into a sky island, the Mt Wrightson Wilderness. We walked up a steep pass that must be popular for migrants because there was a border patrol truck and a few helicopters hovering around.
The rest of the day was great; sunny but cool temperatures, lots of water, and good views. We found our friend Garth camping right at a trailhead around sunset so we stopped, ate supper, and set up for the night nearby.
Day 4…..27.1 miles…..AZT mile 100.2
There must have been something like forty coyotes within a hundred feet of my tent last night. I didn’t see any but I woke up 3 times to them howling and yipping very loudly and they seemed so close, other than that I slept great.
Hiking today was pretty awesome. About 3 miles in we got to Kentucky Camp, a historical mining camp set up for tours with a caretaker and everything. The caretaker let us use the water there and hooked me up with a cup of hot coffee. At Kentucky Camp we met Stank and JB and also saw Quiet Earp again. We hiked off and on with those 3 plus Garth the rest of the day. Besides a long 14 mile dry stretch that we had to carry a little extra water for, today was pretty relaxing. The trail rolled gently up and down hills and weaved in and out of canyons all day. In the evening we met JV who recognized my name from reading this blog and is on the eve of her 61st birthday(Happy BDay JV!!). We walked the last couple miles with her through a prickly pear palace to a cow pond where a total of 9 hikers are camped for the night. It’s been fun being around so many other hiking enthusiasts.
Day 5…..26.1 miles…..AZT mile 126.3
Got up with the sun and had some nice easy miles right away this morning. Cruise caught up to us early and we walked with him for awhile. He was also on the CDT last year and although we never met him we knew a lot of the same people and he told us a little about his hike.
I got news that they’re in the middle of a blizzard and getting multiple feet of snow today in Massachusetts. Knowing what’s going on back home I felt a little guilty lathering up with sunscreen and enjoying a nice sunny 80 degree day. Overall today was probably the nicest day it’s been so far.
Before we started hiking we mailed ourselves resupply boxes at La Posta Quemada Ranch. They give people tours of their Colossal Caves and have a gift shop and since they’re right off trail they accept food packages for AZT hikers. It was in the heat of the day when we got there and after walking for hours I was super sweaty and slimy and gross. I haven’t showered in awhile and have a really good funk going, I probably smell like old soup. Anyway I was in the gift shop getting a coke and this guy bumped into me, like a lot of contact, half his body bumped into half of my gross body. I turned to apologize and watched as he instantly recoiled with disgust. This guy was absolutely mortified, it looked as if he was dry heaving and at the same time trying to wipe my sweat off his arm. I felt bad at first but it was kind of funny. Sorry dude. After ruining this guys day we hung out in the shade sorting out our boxes and drinking soda. I took a little bird bath in the bathroom there and did some laundry, in a sense. QB and I got back out on trail this afternoon and walked with fellow Bay Stater Garth for the last 7 miles to Rincon Creek. JB, Stank, and Quiet Earp are camped here too and the 6 of us ate dinner together and are crashing out in the desert just before the border of Saguaro National Park.
Day 6…..25.1 miles…..AZT mile 151.1
We entered Saguaro National Park right away this morning. Because of rules and regulations we couldn’t camp within the park without a permit so we just walked all the way through instead. The park is named after the saguaro cactus, an icon of the southwest that grows up to 50 feet tall and some are estimated to be 250 years old (I just read that on the back of a postcard). From the entrance of the park the trail climbed steadily for 6000 feet over the next 15 miles to a saddle next to Mica Mountain. There was a .2 out and back to the top so I dropped my pack and jogged up to find a wooded summit with no views. No big deal, there were incredible views all the way down. The climb was awesome, we walked through saguaro cacti, small manzanita bushes and juniper trees, and then into a ponderosa pine forest. There was good cold creeks for drinking and 1 spot that was good enough to take a little dip; my first swim of the trail. Descending was cool too but it was steep and slow and I’d much rather be going up mountains then down. Once we got to the bottom the trail flattened out and we crushed the last few miles until we found a spot to camp by Reddington Rd trailhead. Since we got out a little early today it doesn’t look like the crew we’ve been camping with lately will catch up tonight. We did meet a bunch of other hikers today; Bernie, Tim, Joseph, Linda and Karts. Besides thru hikers we didn’t see anybody else in the park, not even a ranger, I’m really wondering if other people know about this place.
Day 7…..27.6 miles…..AZT mile 178.7
Today was the day! It was windy and cool this morning so I kept my jacket on as we started walking towards the Santa Catalina Mountains. After just a couple miles I finally saw a coati(Ko-ah-ti) or coatimundi. These little rascals are in the raccoon family and look like a cross between a fox and a monkey with a striped tail. We had a nice climb this morning then dropped into a canyon that had some campgrounds and is a popular place for people from Tucson to come spend a weekend. From the campground canyon(not the real name) we climbed to a pass overlooking Sabino Canyon and it was awesome! We zig zagged down switchbacks to the bottom of the canyon and found Hutch’s pools, a primo swimming hole. It was hot and sunny enough so of course I went for a swim. On the beach at the swimming hole we met Larry who’s enjoying his first thru hike and chilled out with him for a little bit. I didn’t know it then but we had a massive climb ahead of us for the last 8 miles of the day. Somebody told me recently that listening to music can help during a climb(thanks for the pro tip buddy). With this new advice I turned up the Rocky soundtrack and crushed it all the way up to Romero Pass. From Romero Pass we could see way into a valley on one side and deep into Sabino Canyon behind us. The trail then started to climb steeply another couple thousand feet before we started to descend into a pine forest with huge buttermilk boulders all over the place. Temperatures seemed to drop steadily as we stopped climbing and the sun was setting. After we found a soft flat place to camp in the pines I put on all my clothes and ate some delicious noodles. It’s incredible that only a few hours before I was swimming in cold water at the bottom of a canyon and now I’m all bundled up in 30 something degree weather.
Day 8…..19.5 miles…..AZT mile 198.2
Brrrrrr!!! Last night was cold! Woke up to some frost on the tent and temperatures in the 20’s this morning(that’s just an estimate because I don’t carry a thermometer, too heavy). We walked about 4 or 5 miles until we got into the town of Summerhaven. This tiny little ski town sits at 8200 feet in the shadow of Mt. Lemmon. Mt. Lemmon is home to Ski Valley, the southernmost ski mountain in the U.S. We got into town before either of the restaurants were open but the visitor center had a nice warm public bathroom and friendly staff. From Summerhaven we walked along Oracle Ridge which had views for miles but the trail itself wasn’t all that great, just rocky and uneven. We then had a long steep downhill to the American Flag trailhead. It might sound weird to someone that doesn’t hike but I really don’t like long downhills, I’d much prefer to climb.
We’re staying in the Village Chalet in Oracle and when we called, Marnie the owner came out to the trailhead to pick us up. This place is sweet! Instead of regular rooms it’s got about a dozen A-Frames. Plus it’s inexpensive, has a good hiker box, and free laundry. Marnie lent us use a couple of bikes to ride into town to resupply at the Dollar General and pig out at the Mexican Restaurant, La Casa Rivera. It’s nice getting a shower and a bed and eating some town food after a fun but grueling first week on trail.
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