Endless P Summer

Day 10

Danakyu

Elev. 7181 feet

Today we mixed things up a little. Sara and I have been thinking about what we were going to do after the Manaslu Circuit. A couple days ago we decided to just link it to the Annapurna Circuit and try to do them back to back. The start of the Annapurna circuit overlaps the end of the Manaslu circuit anyway. We don’t need a guide and we already have the permits, and since Mac can lend us a map of the Annapurna region and loan us some extra rupees there’s no reason to leave the mountains yet. We took Mac up on his offer since we wouldn’t see an ATM for awhile and cash is king in the mountains. Our original plan was to walk another 2 days to the end of the Manaslu circuit, Besi Sahar, and then catch a ride down to Pokhara, the nearest city, but we figure this plan is better. 

Today we walked from Bimthang to Dharapani. It was almost all downhill and it was pretty cool, we had awesome views of the big mountains early on then we got into a pine forest with plenty of pink and red rhododendrons in full bloom. We arrived in Dharapani around 3 PM which is where the 2 circuits join. Our friends would walk the rest of the way to Besi Sahar so we said goodbye to them in Dharapani; Mac was headed back to Kathmandu for a while then on to thruhike the Japanese Alps, Moist was trying to decide between going to the Everest region or going to Kyrgyzstan, and Gopal AKA Mountain Tiger was headed home to Kathmandu until his next guiding mission.

QB and I walked along a road, the first road we’ve seen since day 1, for another hour until we got to the town of Danakyu. We found a place to stay for the night, pretty much just picking at random. This should be interesting going without a guide and figuring it out on our own. We’ve done absolutely zero research on the Annapurna Circuit but how hard could it be? We have a map.

Day 11

Upper Pisang

Elev. 10,820 feet

I think everybody gets sick eventually in Nepal. Today it was QB’s turn. Yesterday she started feeling lousy walking down from Bimthang and it progressed throughout the day and overnight. She’s tough though and once she got on the Imodium train this morning she started feeling better. Maybe not 100% yet but she’s getting there.

The weather wasn’t great today plus with QB’s bellyache it didn’t look like we’d have much of a day. Still crushed though. There was a decent climb from Danakyu to Timthang then walked a couple more hours to Chame. A German guy Alan walked with us for a while and that was a breath of fresh air, someone new. He stopped in Chame where he was meeting a friend and we carried on. For lunch we got to this lodge in Brathang that looked totally out of place. It looked more like a farmhouse you’d see in the Montana mountains than a tea house in Nepal, and it was actually called ‘The Farmhouse.’ All of a sudden there were lots of other trekkers around. I think a lot of them were actually starting here at The Farmhouse. The Annapurna Circuit is much different than Manaslu for a bunch of reasons but for starters there’s a Jeep road on Annapurna that goes almost all the way around. This gives people the option to start in all different towns.

We walked a couple more hours after lunch, sometimes on the Jeep road and sometimes on trail, until we got to Upper Pisang where we’ll spend the night. There’s a big group of Russians here and another group from Israel. Including us and the locals there’s four different languages being spoken in the dining room but I can only understand one.

Day 12

Gunsang

Elev. 12,952 feet

Well, today was awesome. Yesterday we had a choice; take either the low route or the high route. The high route was longer and had more elevation gain but left the road and had incredible views. The low route stuck down on the road and would have been easier walking, albeit less scenic. Naturally we went high.

Shortly after we left Upper Pisang this morning we were admiring the beefy Annapurna II from across the valley. I was alternating between looking straight ahead where I was going and turning to get another look at this gigantic mountain when suddenly I saw a massive amount of snow break off from near the top of the peak and pick up steam and more snow as it tumbled down towards the valley. AVALANCHE! The natural phenomenon that until this point I had only heard about. It was incredible. Thankfully it didn’t reach the valley containing Lower Pisang and I don’t think people climb that side of the mountain. I hope not anyway. Check out below for a video or see it on my instagram @endlesspsummer.

 

The rest of the day was cool but nothing happened as exciting as a Himalayan avalanche. From Upper Pisang we had a steep climb up to Ghyaru, an ancient village looking over the valley. We contoured along the side of a mountain for awhile and got to Ngawal. The villages for the most part seem much bigger in the Annapurna region than over by Manaslu, probably because most can be accessed by a road or at least close to a road.

Eventually we rejoined a road and had to stop at a police checkpoint, and for whatever reason QB’s permit has her listed as Algerian but the Nepal police didn’t question it. I wasn’t about to say anything, that would just slow us down. We got lunch at a really good spot in a tiny village called Manchi then made our way to the big city in the area; Manang.

Manang is literally the end of the road, it will be all trail from here until we get over the pass. Because of this we figured we better stock up on coconut cookies and other goodies before the prices jump when we get higher in the mountains. Lots of trekkers usually stop in Manang for a night or 2 but we strategically wanted to get a little higher for acclimating purposes. We walked another hour uphill to this place Gunsang that is pretty much just one active hotel.

After taking a few minutes to get set up we came out to eat and the kid here was like, “My parents just left and will be back in an hour or two.” It’s 5:30 and we’re both wicked hungry and it’s not like they just ran to the store or something, the nearest anything is an hours walk in each direction. Whatever, at least the kid here made us some tea and I guess we just eat late. It’s weird though, I would have thought they would have told us they won’t be around to cook for awhile. Anyway our room tonight is incredible, I mean there’s nothing to it but we have a view of some of the most gigantic mountains I’ve ever seen and it will probably only cost something like 3-5 dollars.

Well I just learned that the reason the parents ran out is because they went to check on one of their yaks that was bitten by either a snow leopard or a wolf(I didn’t know there were wolves here but who knows). I guess I can wait for my food, sure hope their yak is ok.Sweet $3 view!

Day 13

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Today was a short day for miles hiked or for hours hiked but we did put ourselves another couple thousand feet higher and should be good to go to get up and over Thorung Pass tomorrow. Ideally we would just walk all day and be on the other side of the pass tonight but that’s not the way things go out here. Clouds usually roll in every afternoon and the chances for lousy weather go way up later in the day. Thorung La(or pass) sits at something like 17,500 feet and I’ve never been up that high, I’ve also never slept as high as I am tonight. I think getting acclimated the last couple weeks has got me and QB in good condition and we’ll spend most of the day resting, eating, and drinking mint tea. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be nice and clear and we’ll be able to get it done. Even though we only walked about 4 hours today the hiking was pretty rad. We walked higher and higher through a valley all morning and had views of some incredible mountains ahead of us and behind us. At one point along the side of the trail there was a dead goat or a blue sheep carcass and we watched as about a dozen Himalayan Vultures(not sure what the real name is for these birds but they’re massive) fought and picked over the dead meat. It was quite a sight. 3rd coolest thing I’ve seen in 2 days: avalanche, a dog sliding off a roof that a girl caught that we saw in Manang, and these vulture fights.

 

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We got to Thorung Phedi around 11 and our only other option for today was to go another hour and another thousand feet to sleep at High Camp. I’m comfortable here. Excited about tomorrow and a little nervous.

Day 14

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Well today didn’t go as planned. We woke up at 4:30 am and were ready to crush it up the pass. Overnight the weather turned to shit and it was already snowing down here below 15,000 feet. We decided to wait until 6 and if it didn’t improve we’d wait it out a day for safety’s sake and try the pass tomorrow. It didn’t improve. Not the end of the world though, it was nice just laying around, resting, reading, and beating Sara in Chess.

Then around noontime my stomach started doing somersaults. Over the next few hours my condition deteriorated. I’ll spare you the details but if you look back to my entry for day 3 of this adventure you’ll get a good idea of what I went through again. Things aren’t looking good for getting over Thorung Pass. If by some miracle I’m 100% by morning and the skies are clear we might go for it. Otherwise I think our best option will be turning around and hiking down to Besi Sahar(our original ending point for the Manaslu Circuit). It will probably be about 4 days of walking either way, hopefully between the 2 of us we’re carrying enough Imodium. Thorung Pass and the Annapurna Circuit were never part of the original plan so I won’t be too upset if I don’t get up and over it. Sure would be cool though.

Day 15

Besi Sahar

Elev. 2500 feet

The skies were clear and the weather looked just about perfect to go up and over the pass this morning. The problem was I was completely drained. I wasn’t so much feeling sick and nauseous anymore but I didn’t have any energy at all, I was dehydrated and I’d barely eaten anything in the last 24 hours. Neither of us slept well the last 2 nights. Going over the pass would be a poor decision. QB and I decided to head back down the way we came and in a few days end up in Besi Sahar, which was the town we were originally aiming for before detouring over to the Annapurna Circuit. In just a few hours of walking quickly downhill we were back in Manang, the town where the trail meets the road and vice versa. We walked another couple hours and were just getting through the town of Humde when a Jeep pulled over with a deal for us: 8,000 rupees for the 8 hour ride to Besi Sahar. Deal! I’m only in Nepal for so long and I don’t need to see the same things twice.

There were already seven other Nepalis jammed into this thing so Sara and I jumped into the back and it was an enjoyable first couple hours. At one point a couple got out and they told us to come sit in front. I just do what I’m told. The road got wicked bumpy after that and the ride was slow going and treacherous. It’s beyond me why people go 4 wheeling for fun. After a long day of traveling we got Besi Sahar and will stay here for the night. Tomorrow we’ll either get another Jeep or a bus to take us into Polkara where we’ll regroup, do laundry, take showers, have internet and come up with a plan for the rest of our trip.

It’s been a great couple weeks in the Himalayas. A very different style of hiking than I’m used to and also for the most part very enjoyable. I’ve switched from coffee to tea and gave up eating meat for my time in the mountains. I also had 2 separate and very extreme cases of getting sick. I got sick more times in the last 2 weeks of hiking in Nepal than in almost 10,000 miles of long distance hiking in the States. Maybe I’m just unlucky. I broke my no shower record(not sure if my hygiene contributed to me getting sick but I diligently used hand sanitizer before I ate and I treated all the water I drank). I climbed to the highest point in my life multiple times on this trip and also slept higher than I’ve ever slept before. Most importantly I got to see a part of the world that is simply incredible; people living with a backdrop of arguably the most spectacular landscape on the planet.

4/10…..Boulder City, NV

Since we finished the Arizona Trail a little ahead of schedule we decided to rent a canoe and relax on a river for a couple days. Last fall QB and I took a little trip out to the southwest and as we were camping at some hot springs near the Hoover Dam we met some people that just canoed to them. Good idea! There’s a canoe rental place in nearby Boulder City, NV so for short money we rented a canoe and a shuttle down to launch in the river.

The only potentially tricky part would be traveling the 225 miles from Kanab, UT to Boulder City without a car or a bus ticket. This proved to be no problem at all, luckily for us we have been perfecting the art of the hitch.

After a good night’s sleep at Lynn and Richard’s house, Lynn cooked us a big delicious breakfast with fresh veggies and fresh eggs from their chickens in the yard. We ate on their porch looking out at Kanab’s Vermillion Cliffs. After we ate, Richard gave us a ride downtown and we started hitching west. We weren’t there long when ‘Aunt Patty’ picked us up and drove us about 10 miles to the next town: Fredonia, AZ. A couple minutes later and Sujin, a tourist from Thailand, picked us up and he was heading all the way to Vegas. Sujin works as an electrical engineer building the subway in Bangkok. He encouraged us to visit Thailand, and then told us a bunch of scary snake stories like how one time he had a king cobra in his toilet. Once we got to Vegas we thought a hitch would be pretty difficult and instead of waiting out in the hot sun we got a relatively inexpensive Uber to Desert Adventures(the canoe outfitter) in Boulder City. We got all squared away to get on the river tomorrow and then walked downtown and got a room at the Best Western for the night. Downtown Boulder City is a nice little town and after walking around exploring for awhile we went out for sushi then back to the hotel to hangout in the hot tub for awhile. From the hot tub we watched a family come into the pool area and baptize a baby in the water. I’ve never seen anything like it, I mean I’ve seen babies get baptized before but never at 9:30 on a Tuesday night in a hotel pool. Lynn and Richard’s yard AKA Chateau Relaxo

4/11…..Arizona Hot Springs, AZ

This morning we walked downtown and ate breakfast at The Coffee Cup(probably my favorite breakfast place of all time, we found out about it last fall when we came through here and made sure to come back). From the restaurant we walked about a mile to the outfitters and stopped at the dollar store to get some flip flops along the way. These things proved to be essential for the river.

Desert Adventures, the canoe rental place, drove us to Willow Beach at 10:30 and after we got the rundown about do’s and don’t’s on the river and what not we were in the water and paddling upstream. Willow Beach is about 14 miles south of the Hoover Dam and the whole Black Canyon of the Colorado is something like a 63 mile section of river between Hoover Dam and Davis Dam(I think). It’s all within Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This is what river people call ‘flat water’ and although there’s a current it’s not too severe so you can paddle up or downstream. We were going up and aiming for the Arizona Hot Springs to camp. The wind was at our backs so that cancelled out the minimal current we were going against and we were able to make decent progress. I’ve done some paddling here and there but nothing serious and the bulk of my canoeing experience comes from when I was a kid canoeing the Bearcamp River in Ossipee, NH. QB on the other hand was a Girl Scout and went to summer camp so she knows what she’s doing. We took turns in the front and the back but it didn’t take long to figure out that’s she’s better at steering and was quickly designated the stern woman and I would be the bow man. Canoeing the river today was great. Check out the pictures below of the huge rock walls, emerald cave, and some other cool stuff like catwalks and old cable cars. It was about 90 degrees today but the river stays 53 degrees year round(supposedly) so whenever we got too hot we stopped and swam. We also saw about a dozen bighorn sheep running down some steep cliffs to get a drink at the river. I felt like I was inside a National Geographic program, check out the video below. We got to the beach where the hot springs are around 4 and had a really nice night. There’s a bunch of other people here but only a few were up at the springs. The springs themselves are inside a slot canyon probably no more than ten feet wide and are sandbagged creating 4 different pools that get hotter as you go up. They’re about a quarter mile from the river and a little tricky to get to even including climbing a 20 foot ladder but well worth it. We went back and forth a couple times from the cold river to soaking in the hot springs and as I lay down tonight my body feels like melted butter.

4/12…..Arizona Hot Springs, AZ

Today was awesome! This morning we wanted to get up river a couple miles and check out some hot springs at Boyscout Canyon. We gave it hell for about 45 minutes but we were going into a headwind and the current was working against so we decided to turn around. Boyscout Canyon is only accessible from the river or by doing a 300 foot rappel and I don’t have those skills yet. Going back down river we stopped at the Arizona Hot Springs again and had a nice long soak. We got going around 11 and had until 4 to get back to Willow Beach where we’d be picked up. Today was much easier to float downstream so we really could just relax and steer and we still moved a lot faster than yesterday. I mostly relaxed while QB steered. We explored Emerald Cave again and it was better today because the afternoon light was showing off the green water. Just north of Willow Beach is an old historic site that has the remnants of the river guagers house so we stopped there and took the trail up to it. The best part was when we were up there we had a great view looking down at the river and a huge bald eagle soared just above us. What a treat! We got back to Willow Beach shortly after that and asked the driver to drop us off at the trailhead to the AZ Hot Springs. From the trailhead we took the White Rock Canyon trail about 3 miles back down to the river. We ate some noodles, setup our tent then walked back up to the springs and had a nice long soak. Tonight was a much clearer night so we could look up above through the slot canyon and see a sliver of the starry sky, it was so cool.

Tomorrow we’ll hike out and hopefully find some petroglyphs along the way that we heard about earlier. Our plan is to hitch to Vegas then get a flight to NYC tomorrow afternoon, after a morning soak of course.

4/13…..Boulder City, NV

We took a nice bath this morning and met Mike one of the caretakers of the springs. He walked out with us and gave us a guided tour of the petroglyphs and took us through a slot canyon where we had to scale a short wall. Mike was learned in the world of botany and gave us all kinds of info on the plants growing in the desert. Once back up at the trailhead, Abby who we met down at the springs, was going our way and gave us a ride to Boulder City. We’ll be moving on from here so stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted. To see more pictures from this trip follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and if you like what you’ve been reading subscribe to this blog.our guide MikeSpiderwoman!

Day 29…..22 miles…..AZT mile 712.4

Today we walked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon and it was awesome! I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile now and it absolutely lived up to the hype.

This morning we caught a couple of buses to get from Mather Campground back to where we got off the trail yesterday, the South Kaibab Trailhead. Starting down the South Kaibab trail it was steep but the trail is very well taken care of and graded for mules so it switchbacks nicely for about 8 miles to the Colorado River. We cruised down and then took a nice break in the shade of some cottonwoods at Phantom Ranch. On the north side of the river the trail turns into the North Kaibab trail and for about 6 miles follows a relatively mellow trail through a very impressive canyon. We took a little detour to check out Ribbon Falls and found a sweet little swimming hole. It was about 90 degrees in the bottom of the canyon and a quick dip in an icy cool bath felt so good, I definitely recommend a side trip to these falls if you’re exploring the canyon. From Ribbon Falls the trail started to climb rather steadily and for the next 7-8 miles we were crushing switchbacks uphill to the top of the canyon. We walked over to the closed North Rim CG and found only four other hikers who were in the middle of a 2 day rim to rim to rim hike so we set up our tent and ate supper with them. For whatever reason the north rim of the canyon is all closed up for another month but this keeps the crowds on the south side. Plus there’s no mule trains on the north side so instead of smelling mule piss while I walk the only foul smell over here is my own scent, a combination of b.o. and sunscreen. I think one of the true joys of thru hiking is you can find yourself in some amazing places and have them almost all to yourself.

Today was a lot of fun. A few years ago I hiked from the north rim to the river and back then last fall QB and I hiked from the south rim to the river and back but I had yet to make it across the canyon in one shot. Today was the day. I’m glad it worked so nicely into my thru hike of the AZT. Ultimately I think I’d like to do a rim to rim to rim hike in one shot but that seems super tough. We met a few people doing that today and I think some were doing better than others. When I got to the end of the day though I didn’t really have a sudden urge to do it all over again. Someday though, probably or maybe. mule trainthis guy Tach told us he’s hiked down to the river and back 113 times plus a bunch of other stats about himself

Day 30…..27 miles…..AZT mile 744.1

What a difference a day makes. While yesterday we walked through what is arguably the most beautiful famous hole in the world, today we walked a paved road for 20 something miles.

From the north rim CG we walked the half mile back to the North Kaibab Trailhead and the AZT. Going north we heard reports that the trail had a lot of snow so after checking it out we realized a better but more boring option would be just taking the road for awhile. Although it’s probably a few miles shorter than the trail there’s a closed highway, rt 67, that is more or less parallel to the AZT so we walked that for about ten miles until we were outside the national park boundaries. The further north we went there seemed to be less snow so we would check the trail whenever it came real close to the road. After an almost all day road walk we rejoined the trail and walked patchy snow postholing here and there until we got to the edge of a major burn area. It was super windy all day and looking out towards the burn it appeared that the weather was about to make a nasty turn. We decided to camp in some pines south of the burn about an hour before we usually stop and I’m glad we did because while I write this the rain is starting to beat down on the tent.

Day 31…..29.3 miles…..AZT mile 772.4

Holy mackerel! The weather last night went crazy on us. While we were eating our supper of cheese and rehydrated beans we got our first taste of an Arizona thunderstorm. The thunder and lightning was one thing but the wind was the real issue. I’m not sure that a tornado didn’t touch down nearby, I’ve never camped through a more intense windstorm. After an hour or so it settled down but around 2:30 this morning the storm returned with a vengeance and was off and on for the rest of the night. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared. At least it wasn’t thunder snow, it was pretty cold and we camped close to 9000 feet. I did get some sleep though and this morning I woke up happy to be alive and enjoyed another day of hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail.

For the first ten miles of the day we walked through an apocalyptic looking burn and the skies were clear but a cold wind was still whipping. Eventually the burn ended and we walked through a pine forest for half a dozen miles before getting to a road that led to the town of Jacob’s Lake. This is more like just a little inn that has a diner and gas station but it was worth hitching into. We crushed a couple of cheeseburgers and each bought 4 big cookies to go. Outside the store we met a handful of hikers going west on the Hayduke. The Hayduke is high on my list. It’s actually less of a trail and more of a suggested route that goes through southern Utah and Northern Arizona(seriously if anybody is considering doing this soon get in touch with me). After a couple hours at Jacob’s Lake we started hitching back to the trailhead but didn’t have much luck and walked about mile until an Arizona State Trooper pulled over and gave us a ride the rest of the way(not my first hitch from a trooper, once in CO a trooper drove me about 60 miles east of Denver). Back on trail QB and I walked fast the rest of the day and put in another ten miles before we found a campsite at sunset.

Day 32…..17.1 miles…..AZT mile 788.5

Made it to Utah today and the last day on the Arizona Trail went super smooth. All morning we hiked through pinyon pines and juniper trees until the last 3 miles where we dropped down a couple thousand feet and had views looking into the red rocks of Utah. After 800 miles my legs and body are feeling really good and I feel like I’m just hitting my stride. If there was another couple thousand miles ahead of me, I’d be alright with that. This summer I’m doing things a little differently though and I’ve got some other stuff going on, so I won’t be walking to Canada from here.

We didn’t see anyone all morning until the very end of the trail where we met a couple Hayduke hikers walking south, Twinkle and Ping Pong, who were just starting out on something like a 2 year trip around the world. We talked to them for awhile and now I really want to hike the Hayduke, as well as travel around the world for 2 years. A little further on and we made it to Stateline Campground, home to the northern terminus of the AZT. We high fived of course and took a few photos with the sign. Our plan was to get to the town of Kanab, Utah. Since there was nobody at the Stateline trailhead we walked another mile and a half to the busier Buckskin Gulch trailhead. There we met a photographer, Jay, who was exploring Southern Utah and capturing it on film. He went out of his way and drove us an hour to Kanab. We ate a meal at the appropriately named ‘Trails End’ restaurant and got in touch with some local trail angels Richard and Lynn. These two are both recently retired teachers from Moab and put us up in their beautiful home looking out towards Kanab’s Vermillion Cliffs. Hosting hikers is a relatively new hobby for them and they are really good at it. Throughout the trail QB and I have been reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey and Lynn and Richard not only knew him Abbey from Moab but Lynn is really good friends with his widow Clark. Small world right?

From Kanab QB and I are planning to hitch west for a few days and squeeze in a small adventure before we fly to the other side of the world for a month. I hope you liked reading about my Arizona Trail hike, I certainly enjoyed sharing this trip. Stay tuned for more and feel free to follow me on insta @endlesspsummer for more pictures.

-Endless Richard and Lynn’s backyard

Day 25…..20 miles…..AZT mile 612.8

Our stay at the Travelodge last night gave me all the rest and strength I need for this last stretch of trail(I hope). This morning a couple of our friends, Hoho and Chicory, who had recently moved to Flagstaff had us over and cooked us an incredible breakfast. These two hiked the Arizona Trail last spring as well as both of their dads who were in town, Van Gogh and Pops. Hoho and Chicory have hiked a bunch of the same trails as us and usually the same years so we know lots of the same people and it was fun to talk trail for a few hours with all four of them. They gave us a ride back to the trail around noon and armed with new pairs of sneakers that we sent to their house, QB and I put a good beating on the trail all afternoon and evening. We hiked through a beautiful ponderosa pine forest then saw the first aspen trees of the trail as we got up to 9000 feet. This I think is the high point of the trail but that’s not based on much. While we were up around 9000 we walked by the Arizona Snowbowl that people are still skiing into April and there was still a bunch of patches of snow on the trail. This must have inspired QB to start and then quickly lose a snowball fight. We walked into the evening and as the sunset produced an alpenglow in the sky we found a place to camp in the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks.

Day 26…..30.8 miles…..AZT mile 643.6

Queen B saw a bobcat this morning. Or a lynx but let’s just say bobcat. She was about 50 yards away and had a stair down for a full minute with the beast. Look at the picture below to see the blurry image she captured. I’m so jealous, I was ahead of her for about an hour and had just stopped to dig my morning cat hole when she got out ahead and had this awesome wildlife sighting. I mean I’m happy for her and everything but I really wish I saw it too. I’ve yet to see a big cat in the wild, and I know a bobcat is more like a medium sized cat but still. I guess I’ll just keep walking until I do.

The rest of the day was fairly mellow. Early this morning we got out of the pine forest and dropped into a high desert with juniper trees and scrub bushes. Eventually we were out in a wide open range with big views of the San Francisco peaks whenever we turned around. All day was spent on flat fast forest roads which made the miles easy and by the time we got to the last water source of the day, a cow tank, we easily had 30+ miles. Blurry bobcat

Day 27…..31.3…..AZT mile 674.9

No bobcats today, we did see a coyote though, probably my favorite animal. Once again the trail was pretty mellow. We crossed into Kaibab National forest first thing this morning then followed a combination of single track and forest road for the rest of the day. It was a relatively uneventful day, we saw a couple horses that might have been wild or just lost. They didn’t have any saddles on them and there were no people nearby but sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not I’m on the outskirts of somebody’s ranch or way out in the wild.

We’re getting seriously close to the Grand Canyon. This afternoon we came across Grandview Lookout which is a 7 story fire tower that we climbed and had our first views of the canyon. I was disappointed to find the top of the tower locked and closed but still had a pretty good view from up there. From the tower we took a left and the rest of the afternoon pretty much walked parallel to the GC but in a forest and far enough away that we didn’t have any views. Right as we were looking for a campsite, we saw a little coyote running through the woods then out of sight. I wish I had a frisbee with me, or at least a tennis ball.

Day 28…..20 miles(est)…..AZT mile 690.6

This morning we walked for a few hours until we got to the little town of Tusayan Village. This place is just south of the Grand Canyon and seems to exist solely to cater to the National Park visitor. It was good for us because there was a breakfast buffet at the Mexican restaurant in town. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either, this was definitely a quantity over quality situation and we did our part in putting a dent into their food supply. After breakfast we walked another couple hours into Grand Canyon Village. We picked up a box of food at the PO that we sent a month ago then secured ourselves a site in the hiker/biker section at Mather CG. From here we took a bit of an alternate from the AZT. Since we’re planning on doing a rim to rim hike of the canyon starting at the South Kaibab Trail tomorrow, we figured we would set up our stuff and take light packs south of the trailhead and walk along the rim for awhile today. This probably added 5 or 6 miles but was well worth it. Walking along the rim of the canyon is awesome, the views are indescribable to anyone who’s never seen it. As much as the natural beauty of the canyon is so incredible, sometimes the people watching in the park is the real national treasure. I’ve never felt more like an adult than today when I had to tell these three knuckleheads to cut the shit because they were throwing rocks over the side of the canyon. It’s not my favorite role and I’m sure I’ve been on the opposite side of similar conversations more than once but seriously how stupid could these kids be? Anyway a more entertaining thing we saw today was this full grown man intensely practicing tai chi right next to the trail, just behind him was(I can only assume) his wife and 4 kids hitting a dead log on the ground with sticks. It was quite a scene. After we tried not to stare at this martial artist we walked past the South Kaibab trailhead out to Yaki Point for the main event of any day at the canyon, sunset, and it was of course spectacular. From Yaki Point we had to walk back a ways to catch a bus and then another bus that brought us to the supermarket where we ate a bunch of food and charged up our phones and batteries for the next section. Like any of the big National Parks, Grand Canyon is an amazing natural wonder but the village here is very commercialized and draws lots of people. I’m a person too so of course I can’t complain about too many people being here(since I’d be part of the problem), but it’s always weird to go from being almost all by ourselves in the middle of the woods to a major outdoor tourist mecca. Still though, I encourage everybody to see the Grand Canyon at least once.

Day 20…..9.6 miles…..AZT mile 470.2

Today was a really nice relaxing day in town. The cabin we rented behind THAT Brewery was super comfortable and after sleeping in a couple extra hours, QB and I split a box of Lucky Charms and explored the town of Pine. I guess this place is becoming a vacation spot for people from Phoenix and it was a perfect little pit stop for a thru hike. We got a pizza for lunch, did our laundry, resupplied at the market, got a couple Reuben sandwiches at the deli and headed back to the trail around 3:30. Once back on trail the miles were smooth and easy as we walked through a pine forest, a nice way to get back at it after pigging out all day. Just as we started to look for a campsite we saw a couple of elk browsing for leaves in the woods. The first elk jam of the trip!looking up at the Mogollon Rim

Day 21…..26.7 miles…..AZT mile 496.9

This morning the trail rolled through a forest for about a dozen miles until we got up close to the edge of the Mogollon Rim(Mogollon sounds nothing like the way it looks). We then climbed steeply for about a mile until we were up onto the rim. The Mogollon Rim is something of a geological feature that I can only describe as a plateau that goes on for miles and miles until we reach the south rim of the Grand Canyon(I think). You’ll have to check Wikipedia for a better explanation of what the Mogollon Rim actually is and you might even learn how to pronounce it. Anyway, now we’re up around 7000 feet, the trail has been relatively flat and we’ve been walking through a legit forest with big pine trees overhead all day. It has been very enjoyable. It’s a little colder up here though, I anticipate a 3 dog night but I don’t have any dogs. I did have a big hot bowl of macaroni and cheese for supper and that was a first for me. Instant mac and cheese is a supper time staple in the thru hiking community but since this is my first season using a stove I’ve never had it on trail before. It was pretty good, at least the first two thirds of it were good and it definitely warmed me up. Hopefully warm enough to sleep through the night on this pine needle tent site we found.

Day 22…..30.5 miles…..AZT mile 527.4

I was right about it being cold last night, even some of our water froze. This morning it was cold for about an hour of walking then all of a sudden it warmed way up and was an absolutely beautiful day. The trail has been flat and easy since we got above the rim and we clicked off miles a little quicker than usual finally having our first 30 mile day.

At the beginning of this trail we met a fair amount of thru hikers, I think something like 20 in the first 200 miles but until tonight we hadn’t met another thru hiker since Superior, 230 miles ago. It’s weird, I guess we started at a popular time to start this trail then got ahead of the bubble and remained in a little pocket without crossing paths with any other thru hikers. Tonight at camp though we caught up to Roadrunner and Pumpkin, 2 women who’ve been just ahead of us for awhile now. It was refreshing and fun to eat supper and camp with other hikers. These 2 are both former PCT hikers and Pumpkin actually started the same exact day as both me and QB in 2015. Crazy! We’ve got different schedules for the next few days so we might not see them again but it was fun to meet them.

Day 23…..27.7 miles…..AZT mile 558.1

Last night Roadrunner and Pumpkin were talking about their plans to go into the little town of Mormon Lake today to get a meal. QB and I hadn’t planned on stopping but this put the bug in our ear and some town food seemed like a really good idea, plus Mormon Lake was on a road that ran parallel to the trail so it wasn’t all that far out of the way. What a good decision. Mormon Lake is more like a village, it’s actually just a road that has mix of little cabins and semi permanent trailers along the side of what once was, or maybe sometimes is when it rains a lot, a lake. It was a pretty cool place and the best part was the pizzeria was open and serving breakfast. QB and I stuffed our faces real quick and got back to walking. We had both been low on food and without going into Mormon Lake we probably would have lived but we would have had to ration our snacks until we got to Flagstaff. After breakfast we walked the road north for awhile until it met back up with the trail. Even though it was parallel the road was probably a few miles shorter than the trail(notice the discrepancy in my numbers at the top of this post). Once back on trail we walked on top of a mesa following a series of forest roads and then a comfortable dirt path through juniper trees. In the distance we had a good view of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s tallest mountain. Another time HP. Tonight we walked past Lowell Observatory, I guess some famous research place, then found a spot to camp and called it a day.Lake? this is supposed to be a lake Hawk!Lowell Observatory

Day 24…..19 miles…..Flagstaff alt mile 11.6

I’m in Flagstaff today in what will probably be our last major town stop of the trail. This morning we walked about 7 miles to where the trail meets the Flagstaff Urban Trail. We took the Flagstaff Urban Trail north for about 5 miles to where it crosses old scenic rt 66 and got a room there at the Travelodge. There was an awesome Mexican restaurant next door, Agave, and we had ourselves a nice Easter Dinner. They had my favorite food, sopapillas, that I’ve only had one other time in my life but it happened to be just down the street on rt 66 in Grants, NM last year. Still my favorite food though, if I’m ever to be executed that’s what I’ll be requesting for my last meal, a never ending plate of sopapillas. After lunch we dropped off most of our gear at our hotel room and with lighter packs walked about 7 more miles on the Urban Trail. Flagstaff has a really nice trail system right in the middle of the city, ideal for hiking, running and mountain biking. We even saw a couple mountain bikers get into a fight with each other(most likely a domestic situation). Once we got to a trailhead that seemed like an appropriate distance for the day we put our thumbs out and the first truck that came by scooped us up and a mountain biker Todd drove us into downtown. This place has got a lot going on, downtown Flagstaff’s got a bunch of restaurants, shops and because of such a big outdoor community they had something like 5 outdoor stores in a square mile. Plus there’s murals on a bunch of the buildings just like Lynn, MA. We walked around for awhile running a couple errands like getting our food squared away for the next section then had some delicious Korean BBQ downtown for supper. Flagstaff is a great town, I’ll be back through here again for sure.

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Day 14…..26.2 miles…..AZT mile 327.3

Fueled up with a fresh grapefruit and some jerky that Ron and Diane gave us, QB and I walked about a mile from the motel in Superior to a gas station where I got the rest of my breakfast; a coke and a microwaveable beef and bean burrito. From the gas station we put our thumbs out and got picked up in a couple of minutes by another guy named John in another pickup. John drove us the 5 or 6 miles back to the AZT and said he wrote a novel about the next section of trail called ‘The Search’ by John Henderson(his full name). I’ll look it up and maybe read it, unless it’s a horror story involving hitchhikers.

Back on trail we cruised through about 10 miles of open range desert with a lot of cows under a hot sun. We had a beefy climb for a few miles and the clouds came out to block out the sun which was nice. Once we were up a few thousand feet higher we were out of the saguaros and getting ourselves into a pine forest. We crossed into the Superstition Wilderness, had another serious climb, then had some really nice miles through the forest along Reavis Creek. It was an uneventful day but definitely not unenjoyable, the weather was nice and the trail was pleasant.

Day 15…..23.7 miles…..AZT mile 351

Today was tough. From our campsite the trail descended steeply for awhile and then rose steeply after that. It seemed to do this repeatedly all morning. The trail was narrow, steep, and full of loose rock with cholla, yucca, and prickly pear cactus attacking my legs from both sides. We each took a little spill and I had countless close calls. For the first time of the hike I was thinking that this trail kind of sucks right now. Later on in the day it didn’t get much better, we walked down a steep rocky wash and then descended steep dirt roads full of slippery loose rock. With a slow pace we were making minimal progress but eventually we got to Roosevelt Lake where we had mailed ourselves resupply boxes. We picked up our boxes at the marina and they had a little bar there where we could grill our own burgers so that was nice. While grilling burgers I saw the biggest carp ever looking over the side of the dock(check below for a picture). Leaving the marina we had 4 days of food and as much water as we could carry so our packs were about as heavy as they get. We walked along the road for a little while going over a suspension bridge with a view of the Roosevelt dam before rejoining the trail. The trail rose steeply from the road but the weather was nice and we had incredible views of the lake and enjoyed a nice climb. We met a section hiker, Ross, and walked with him for a couple miles then found a pretty sweet spot to camp for the night. Today was tough, for the most part the trail has been really awesome and I imagine it will be again tomorrow.

Day 16…..29.5 miles…..AZT mile 380.5

I felt powerful today. We started the day with a series of big climbs into the Four Peaks Wilderness. Once we were up a few thousand feet we contoured around the big beefy Four Peaks while walking into a serious headwind. I saw a few bighorn sheep up in a ravine jumping from rock to rock, it was pretty amazing, they were jumping like 10-15 feet from one rock to another, landing gracefully, changing direction and jumping to another rock. One misstep meant sudden death. There were no missteps(check out the video below). Halfway through our day we got to a little spring and realized we had about 15 miles to our next water source and 5 hours until the sun goes down. It’s not that I can’t walk in the dark, I just like to end my day at sunset. The trail turned into a dirt forest road up on a ridge for awhile so the miles were easy but every so often some four wheeling enthusiast in a Jeep or a side by side would come bombing by. At a crisp 3 miles per hour all afternoon and evening we got to this little spring right at sunset and set up for the night.

Day 17…..26.8 miles…..AZT mile 407.3

An owl hooting woke me up this morning, I didn’t see that loudmouth anywhere but I know he was close by. About twelve minutes later I was packed up and walking down the trail. The first dozen or so miles were up and down over rolling hills through open range desert(when I say ‘open range’ I usually mean just a big wide open area with cows around). We then passed under a highway, rt 287 I think, and a few miles later walked through a big canyon where I saw two ring tailed cats chasing each other. I would describe a ring tailed cat as a cross between a raccoon and a squirrel and it happens to be the official state mammal of Arizona. The trail climbed for much of the second half of the day and eventually we were back up high contouring along the mountains. This evening we crossed into Mazatzal Wilderness. If you’re reading this at home all these different Wilderness names must get confusing. It’s confusing for me too, I usually don’t know where I am until I see a sign but other people always seem to know the names of these different Wilderness areas. People will say things to us like, “are you excited about the Mazatzals?” or “the Catalinas sure are nice this time of year” or “when do you think you’ll be in the Superstitions?” Since I never really know what they’re talking about I usually just say something like, “Oh yeah that will be cool!” or “yeah I’m really looking forward to getting up there.” The truth is I didn’t do too much research on this trail and neither did Queen B. Finding ourselves in all these different mountains and wilderness areas has been a mostly unexpected treat. I know that up ahead is Flagstaff, The Grand Canyon, and Utah and that’s pretty much all I knew going into this trail. That being said ‘the Mazatzals’ are awesome. We climbed up onto Mazatzal Ridge and found an excellent little tent site tucked into some pines with an incredible vantage point to watch the sunset. If you ever hike the AZT, try to camp at mile 407.3 and watch the sunset. Oh yeah we passed the halfway point today so that was cool.

Day 18…..27.2 miles…..AZT mile 434.5

Besides each other, QB and I didn’t see another human being all day. I know the world didn’t end because I saw airplanes but I still think it’s pretty crazy. We’re relatively close to Phoenix, a major metropolitan area with millions of people, yet we walked for 27+ miles in the desert and the forest and didn’t see one other person. Anyway today was tough. This morning we walked along the Mazatzal Divide Trail and half the time it was around 70 degrees and then the mountains would block out the sun and the temperature would drop to something like 40 degrees(all estimates of course). No big deal, it was neither too hot or too cold I just couldn’t find a happy medium. And the trail was rocky too. Loose grapefruit size rocks all day that I kept tripping over. Maybe that’s why nobody else was walking out here. It was very scenic though, whenever I looked up from the rocks I was tripping over I could see forever and there were rocky mountains all over the place. This evening as we were walking out the last few minutes of sunlight the campsite selections were getting slim. We found a spot that’s flat and soft but it might be just a little bit in the middle of the trail. Nobody will mind though.

Day 19…..26.1 miles…..AZT mile 460.6

Town day! Although hiking today was a bit of a slog, knowing that a cheeseburger and a hot shower wait for me at the end of the day will always make me hustle. This last section, 160 miles from Superior to Pine, was particularly difficult and getting into town tonight felt very well deserved. I’ve heard a handful of times about hiking the Arizona Trail that the first half, Mexico to Pine, is super difficult and then the trail gets pretty easy once it gets up onto the Mogollon Rim all the way until Utah. We’ll see if this proves to be true but I will attest to the fact that the first 460 miles were relatively difficult hiking. Not all the time, but some of the days were rather tough.

This evening we got to the cozy little vacation town of Pine and I love it already. We stopped at THAT Brewery and Pub(THAT’s how they spell it) on the edge of town to quickly stuff our faces. A few days ago, actually 75 trail miles ago, we ran into a trail runner, Ed, who gave us his info and told us to get in touch if we need anything in Pine. The very first people we see in the brewery are his wife, daughter, and son in law who recognized QB’s pink braids and told us who they were. Ed’s daughter ‘No Bad Days’ and son in law ‘Waldo’ are thru hikers themselves and although we never met them, they were also on the Colorado Trail in ‘16, the same year as us. Small world I guess. Ed’s family was super nice and offered to help us with anything we need while in town.

After eating burgers and a bunch of elk meat covered nachos we got set up in the 1 room cabin behind the restaurant that the Brewery rents out. Absolutely perfect! I just took one of the best showers of my life, at least top ten, and am about to crash out in a bed for the first time in a week. for more pictures follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and for more stories subscribe to this blog

Day 9…..16 miles…..AZT mile 214.2

It was so nice to have slept in a bed last night at the Village Chalet in Oracle. Don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping in a tent miles from anywhere, but after doing that for a week it felt really good to be inside an A-Frame hotel room on a soft bed. One day I’ll live in an A-Frame, miles from anywhere, and that’s a G.D. promise. Marnie and Jim, the owners of the Village Chalet, are the epitome of ‘hiker friendly.’ You see that phrase used to describe a lot of places along the trails but these two are doing it right. This morning before driving us back to the trailhead, Jim drove me and QB to the Patio Cafe in town for breakfast. Patio Cafe had it going on. B had a Monte Christo sandwich and I had pork belly and eggs; a few items you don’t normally see on a breakfast menu. I definitely don’t eat enough pork belly. Then of course we both ate peach pie and ice cream.

We got back on trail around 12 and the rest of the day was nice and relaxing. Near a trailhead we passed 4 older women and one of them loved QB’s pink hair so much she said so and reached out and grabbed one of her braids. It was funny and sweet and stuff but I thought it was a little weird, like most people ask before they pet someone’s golden retriever nevermind grab a strangers braid to see if it’s real. Whatever, QB didn’t seem to mind and this woman obviously didn’t give a shit. Later on we ran into an Arizona Trail crew with the AZTA and they were running a training program with high school kids. It was cool, they hooked us up with some sodas and told us a little about what they were up to. The rest of the afternoon we walked up and down gentle hills on nicely kept trail through the desert. We walked along lots of saguaro cacti and had views of big mountains in the distance. Right before sunset we called it a day, set up camp, watched the sun drop and the stars come out.

Day 10…..28.4 miles…..AZT mile 242.6

I thought today was going to be miserable. When I got out of the tent this morning it was cold with dark gray skies in every direction. All I could do was start walking. It did rain here and there and it was windy and cold but the sky produced a rainbow so that was cool, and by 11 the sun came out and warmed us up. The rest of the day was cool but sunny, ideal for walking through the desert. We crossed paths with Big Sky who was going east on the Grand Enchantment Trail or GET and talked with him for a little bit. The GET goes from somewhere near Phoenix to somewhere near Albuquerque(I think). It’s on my things to do list but not yet. Later on this afternoon we came to a trailhead and ran into Sequoia who was camping there and providing hikers with trail magic. He hooked us up! Grill cheese sandwiches, fresh oranges, sodas, packets of salsa and hot sauce and was a wealth of info on what we would find ahead on trail. After hanging out with Sequoia and his sweet dog for awhile we got back at it and walked another 8 or so miles. Around sunset we found a flat spot to camp and called it a day.

Day 11…..24.7 miles…..AZT mile 267.3

This morning was crisp and cool but sunny as we cruised through open range desert. My mind was wandering and a few times I got off trail by following cow paths that wound up going nowhere but looked eerily similar to the AZT. We saw a couple of weird things today; first was this big huge Crocodile Dundee knife sitting on a cairn on the side of the trail, then a few miles later was a stray or wild dog walking with a limp in the middle of nowhere. Neither of those things were all that remarkable but strange enough that they were worth noting. Around noon time we climbed a big hill appropriately named ‘Big Hill’ and then walked along a ridge on top of it with big time views of a huge copper mine. We met a handful of GET’ers today; Iron Mike, the Punisher, Trail Dale, and Ledge. It seems like many of the hikers on the Grand Enchantment Trail are seasoned thru hikers and it’s been fun to talk to them about some of the other trails they’ve hiked and trails they recommend. Maybe it’s because the GET is lesser known and people who are new to thru hiking opt for one of the more popular trails.

Yesterday while talking to Sequoia he told us there’s this place ‘Old Time Pizza’ in Kearney, AZ that will deliver pizza to the trail. Once we got close to the town we called Lorraine at Old Time from one trailhead and she delivered a gigantic delicious pepperoni pizza and a couple of sodas to us a few miles later at another trailhead. I’ve heard of stuff like this happening before but this was the first time I’ve had pizza delivered to me on trail and it was a real treat. After we ate we laid around in a food coma for a little while then walked a few more miles. We crossed the Gila River(the same river the CDT crosses something like 200 times in New Mexico) then walked alongside the river through a bunch of Saguaro Cactuses before finding a spot to camp. I got myself pricked pretty good by a cactus looking for a spot and it’s not quite as funny as the cartoons make it out to be.

Day 12…..25.8 miles…..AZT mile 293.1

Today started off easy enough. We contoured along the side of a valley in and out of drainage ditches loosely following the Gila River for about a dozen miles. Around noon time we stopped to eat and fill up our bottles with river water before cutting into some mountains for a long dry stretch. We cut away from the Gila for a 14 mile stretch to a water cache that didn’t seem too promising. Those 14 miles were hot and sunny and we were climbing and conserving water but they were definitely the best miles of the trail so far. I could try to describe what I saw or you could just look at the pictures below. The highlight of the day was while we were up on a ridge I was just walking along minding my own business and a Gila Monster walked right out in front of me. A Gila Monster!! I couldn’t believe my eyes, I’ve heard of these mythical creatures but never dreamed I’d actually be able to see one up close and personal. I’m terrified of snakes but for some reason giant lizards don’t scare me. Now if I could only see a desert tortoise all of my wildest dreams would come true. When we got to the water cache there was very little left but luckily QB and I both carried an extra liter and have enough water to survive. We walked another quarter mile before finding a campsite and for whatever reason I was legit beat by the end of the day. Resting these weary feet right now.

Day 13…..8 miles…..AZT mile 301.1

Town day is always exciting. This mornings miles breezed right by and soon after we walked around scenic Picketpost mountain we had our thumbs out on rt 60 hitching a ride to the town of Superior. 10-15 minutes later John, a local rancher, picked us up and drove us to the Copper Mountain Motel in this old mining town. Queen B and I got our room all squared away and then made a beeline for Porter’s Cafe where we inhaled bacon burgers, macaroni salad and French fries.

Back at the hotel I met a couple of other hikers; Socrosse and Tortuga. I didn’t know it right away but I actually met Tortuga a couple years ago while staying in a hut in the NH’s White Mountains while hiking the AT. I remember I got to the hut late and tried to trade chores with him so I could get out early but he wouldn’t budge. No big deal, I wouldn’t have traded chores if I was him either. He ended up being a pretty cool guy and I’m glad I ran into him again.

Tonight Diane and Ron, friends of my folks and Massachusetts transplants, drove out to Superior from their home in Chandler and took us to dinner. It was great to see them and always fun to share stories about the trail, especially while stuffing my face with Mexican food.

So 300 miles in and things are going well. I’m digging the trail, feeling good, QB and I are having fun, and enjoying the state of Arizona. If you like what you’ve been reading you can subscribe to this blog and or follow me on Instagram @endlesspsummer

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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