AZT Journal Days 10-14
Day 10 (38.0 Miles)
That might have been one of the hardest days of hiking I can remember. Damn. Detour woke up early just to make me breakfast and send me off. It was really good to meet him when I did, I think. Sometimes trail provides specific people at specific times. He was really grounded and calming, I needed that. I crossed highway 60 and headed north, towards the Superstition Mountains. It was easily my coldest morning yet. I had my tights and jacket on until 8:30. It’s looking like I need to get used to that...as the sun can’t up though, it turned into rather perfect weather. Sunny, cool, crisp air. The initial climb to the superstitions was an ass kicker. The first of many today. steep and long, I was drenched in sweat by the top. The hike mellowed out as I worked my way into the range, and after one more smaller climb I took lunch. Great water all day today. The afternoon wrecked me. Steep climb after steep climb, to rival AT terrain. It was just plain hard. So despite working super hard today, I didn’t quite make my goal of 40 Miles, looks like my dreams of 4 40’s to pine might not happen. I’d be totally fine with that, were it not for a big storm that’s coming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Potentially three straight days of cold rain and snow. Really nervous about that prospect. I’ll try to enjoy one last nice day tomorrow.
Day 11 (37.7 miles)
The first few miles today suuuucked. I figured it would be an easy little descent down to Roosevelt lake from the supes, wrong. The first part was down an old trail that literally just followed a wash. 3 miles of rocks, blowdowns and confusing parts where you couldn’t find where trail continued. All in the dark for me. Then, with Roosevelt lake in sight, the trail decided to do a bunch of puds for 3 more miles. All in all I was pretty pissed of when I got to the Roosevelt lake bridge (which I rode across on my bike tour last year). Luckily for me, I had a surprise down there. Savage, a super cool woman I met on the pct last year was there with her dog dirt paw. They brought me trail magic, snacks, soda, and savage, a massage therapist, even gave me a quick rub down. She and dirt paw did about 8 miles with me before turning back. It was so nice to have the company. For one, she’s just really cool, but also those were the hardest 8 of the day. Straight up into the mazatal mountains. Didn’t feel so hard with savage and dirt paw along. We said goodbye with plans to meet on Wednesday in pine when I get there. All of a sudden pine sounds even better to me. Gotta make it through 84 miles of rain and snow though. After leaving her I finished the climb up to the ridge quickly. From then on it was a beautiful, not too difficult hike. Just following the ridgeline of the mazzies with great views of Roosevelt lake to the east and the four peaks to the northwest. Hard hiking, just like the supes, but not as hard. So yeah, I’ve made up my mind I’m getting a room and staying in pine no matter what time I get there. Honestly I hope I can knock out as much of those 84 as possible tomorrow and Tuesday and just have a quick, cold morning into pine Wednesday. But I won’t ask too much of myself. When my body needs to stop, I don’t want to push it anymore. I’m making my miles still, I don’t want to mess that up. I’ll enjoy one last dry night tonight. Tomorrow, things get interesting.
Day 12 (40.9 miles)
It was a quite a chilly morning as I broke camp and headed off. Had both my wind pants and rain coat on. The morning hike had a lot of branches and stuff I kept getting scared I’d rip the pants on....foreshadowing big time. As the sun came up in the canyon I was descending it actually got kind of warm. It was way to forget the weather coming in that afternoon. I passed a thru hiker, catbait, shortly before crossing AZ 87. I may be the furthest north now. Not sure. After the road crossing I started to climb back up into the mazatal mountains. Yesterday was four peaks wilderness but today was really the heart of the Mazzies. They’re a stunning range for sure. Right after I had lunch, the clouds rolled in and the rain started. Just light, but enough to get my jacket and wind pants back on. Not two minutes later, I caught the paints on a sharp plant, and tore a huge gash in them. Tried really hard not to get mad but it was demoralizing. The rain kind of tapered off just as I began my big climb of the day, so I shed the layers again and hiked in shorts and a t shirt like usual. Even with occasional raindrops I felt really good. It’s funny, things like a big storm give you so much anxiety until they come out here. Then you stop being scared and just deal with it. I hit a great hiking groove this afternoon. Cruised up the big climbs. Of course as soon as I hit my highest point it rained the hardest yet, and I had to navigate snowy north side descents while getting rained on. I took a breath, accepted the challenge from the T gods, and hiked on. I ended up doing just enough to get within striking distance of pine tomorrow. I’m hunkered down for the night, happy to be semi dry, but already thinking about how nice town would be tomorrow night. It’s going to come down hard overnight and all day tomorrow. I may just hoof it all 43. We will see I suppose.
Day 13 (20.8 Miles + 5 mile road walk to pickup point)
I woke up at my usual 4:30 to a nice steady rain beating down on my tarp. I turned on my flashlight to find not only had the tarp fully saturated with water dripping down on me, but also big time mud splashes had come up to soak my quilt and the rest of my gear. As I packed everything up, soaking wet in the rain, I realized I had no choice but to get to pine today. Camping again, in these conditions, after a day walking through rain and snow, was too dangerous. I set off, in the dark and a driving rain. Trail was totally underwater. Within 5 minutes of hiking everything was soaked from my hat to my socks. The prospect of 43 Miles, 15+ hours of this was daunting. I hiked on. As the sun came up I made my way up over 7000 feet and quickly found myself in a snowstorm. By the time I began descending again there was 3 inches on the ground. The morning wore on and my pace was slowed because of weather, but mostly the mud in the trail sucking me in. Around 11 I got cell signal and figured I’d call some places in pine to make sure I had a place to stay tonight. I didn’t want to roll into town around 9 or later with nowhere to go. Couldn’t find anywhere, so I went on the azta website and found a trail angel to call. His name was ray, and he said I could stay with him, and suggested I meet him earlier than pine. The storm was picking up and the temperature was dropping. He told me if I got to LF ranch, I could walk 5 miles up the dirt road to where it becomes paved, and he could get me there. I told him I’d get to the ranch, only 3 miles from where I was, and call him back. As I hiked those 3 miles I thought a lot. I thought about what I was trying to do. I thought about why I was trying to do it. I thought about how it had been going. I was well ahead of pace so far, hiking strong and cruising miles. But I just wasn’t having fun. It just wasn’t an enjoyable hike. And then I thought about day 10 on the AT three years ago. Hiking into that blizzard when everyone told me not too. How awful it ended up being. As I neared the ranch, the choice was pretty clear. I could hike 22 more miles, in to a cold wintery mix, potentially not even make it and find myself in a life threatening situation, or I could choose to get to a safe place for the night, and end the self supported aspect of my hike, and thus any chance of establishing an FKT. It was a pretty easy choice. At the ranch was a nice woman named Mary Jo. She let me use her phone to call ray, and even gave me a cup of coffee and a brownie. I thanked her and started the 5 mile road walk. I don’t remember how long it took, just that it was cold and rainy and I cried a lot. It’s hard to say why. It wasn’t just pure sadness and disappointment although those emotions were certainly there. It was a lot of things. I think I was just overwhelmed not only by the last 24 hours but really by the last two weeks. Every waking minute was dedicated to making miles. It was just so exhausting. Ray picked me up at our agreed upon location and we headed towards pine, with a stop at Walmart on the way. It was all surreal. I was simultaneously so relieved to be safe but I felt so weird about having just given in and quit. He was a really nice guy though, I’m glad I had that car ride with him. At his place in pine were two other hikers, Payphone and Lifeboy. Within 30 seconds of getting into the little hiker hostel area he has here I felt my first wave of real relief. I hadn’t had any real hiker time on this hike. And I missed it. I missed chilling on a long siesta on a hot day. I missed sitting around a hostel on a cold stormy day, enjoying the warmth we’d all been craving. As I laid out all my wet shit, we all got to talking. Always so easy amongst thru hikers. And I was happy with my choice, at least right then. Already I’m feeling weird again about it. That’s to be expected. But I’m just happy tonight to be dry and safe and have two new hiker friends. I don’t think I’ll do the yo-yo anymore. I think my only real motivation was to set an fkt. Which isn’t really the right reason to do such a hike. This far in, I’m pretty committed to finishing the AZT in Utah. And to be honest, I’m really looking forward to it. Two or so more weeks of just thru hiking. No pressure, no mile requirements. Allowed to hitch. Take a half day when I want. Enjoy Arizona, an amazing place that I’ve been a little two angry at for 13 days. I’m really nervous about telling everyone that I’m bailing on the attempt. But I think tomorrow I’ll just do it, and then get back to hiking. That’s what I came here to do anyways. Not impress anyone or set a record. When I first got the idea to do the AZT last year on the pct it was just to go on another hike and enjoy another trail. I’ll be glad to do that for the rest of it.
Day 14 (0 miles)
It was a true zero day, through and through, and all the familiar comforts of a zero came back to me. After sleeping in until 7:30 (gasp) I walked into town for breakfast. It was still snowing hard, and as I powered through the cold and couple inches of snow I took solace in the fact that I probably made the safer decision yesterday. I ate a big breakfast at the cafe in town, then headed to the post office to send one of my two boxes I sent to Pine back. I’m still kind of undecided about bailing on the yo-yo or not. I think I’m just going to hike to Utah and those miles will help me decide on if I want to end there or turn around and do the yo-yo. If I do, I can resupply in pine out of the store pretty easily, so sending the box back made the most sense. It was really good to just bum around the garage with Payphone and Lifeboy today. We fed the wood stove to stay warm, joked, told stories, sang songs to Lifeboys ukulele playing - I just realized that today will end up being a really good memory, and Pine will become a town I remember having a great time in on a thru hike. I didn’t think I would get that on this hike. Until I made the decision to take a ride yesterday I probably wouldn’t have gotten that. So I’m grateful for it. We all went to dinner with Ray and Julie (our trail angels) and another angel in town Felicia, and a hiker she is hosting, Stitch. It was a good time. At dinner I was talking with Payphone, and he told me how cool he thought that I was attempting an FKT. I told him thanks, but that I had failed, I had quit. He said it was still cool that I tried for it. I asked him if he thought if I should bother finishing the yo-yo or not. He said I should. It’s what I came out here to do. I don’t know what I’ll decide. It will mostly depend on conditions from here to Utah. If it’s a bunch of shit snow and mud I don’t think I’m going to want to turn around and do it again. But we’ll see. I can be patient now which feels so freeing. Tomorrow I’ll hike south back to the ranch road that Ray picked me up at yesterday. He’s such a nice trail angel, and has agreed to pick me up again there tomorrow and bring me back to Pine; that way I can clean up those 22 miles I missed. I’m at least finishing a purist hike if this trail. That part of my hiking style hasn’t changed, and never will. I’ll get every damn mile on this trail at least once. Thankful to sleep inside tonight on a cold night. Thankful to still be on a thru hike, one that suddenly feels so much more authentic. Ashamed that I quit. Glad that I made the right decision yesterday. A lot of emotions. A lot of thoughts. Hopefully northern AZ will provide me the miles I need to think them all out.