AZT Journal Days 4-9
Day 4 (34.9 miles + 2.4 miles in/out of colossal cave)
I keep passing more and more hikers. I knew it would happen, just didn’t expect to be ahead of so many so soon. I passed a girl named whiskey, still in camp, as I wound my way up the final ridge before the desert floor in the early morning darkness. It was a total desert day, my first real one of this hike. It was awesome. Nice trail winding across a huge valley by cacti of all kinds. Barrel, paddle, and of course saguaro. Since it was a Sunday and I was near vail I met a lot of mountain bikers. I was kind of jealous. Looked really fun to be whipping berms out there today. About 20 miles in I met a hiker named Sunkist. Really nice woman. I got to colossal cave by 2, then did the 1.2 road walk to the visitor center and was there by 2:20. Got my package, charged the phone, ate a hot dog, took a bird bath and a shit. It was a nice little hour break. I kept it short though because I wanted to make 10 more miss to the boundary of saguaro NP. Or so I thought. It was actually only 7 miles and since I can’t camp in the park without a permit, I had to cut the day short. No worries. Camped by a great creek and got to wash my legs off. There’s two hikers here, His and Hers. First night with company on this hike and it’s well worth ending the day early. I forgot how convenient it is to set up camp when it’s still light out.
Day 5 (35.3 Miles)
Easily my most brutal day yet. I had to wake up at 10:30 and set my tarp up last night because it was another dewy evening. Probably didn’t help. I hit trail at 5 and headed to saguaro NP and mica mountain. As the sun came up I caught a great silhouette of a bunch of cacti against the sunrise. AZ is so beautiful. The climb up mica mountain brought out all the old familiar climbing feelings. Crazy how quickly I can enter the mountains from the desert. Towards the top I ran into a girl hiking down. She said she got to manning camp then turned around because the snow was too bad. I headed on. As I walked on I thought back to bear whisperer on the AT. As I climbed big bald he came down in tears, saying the top was impassable. Then, as today, I decided to see for myself. Always worth it. The climb was quite snowy but doable. The view from the top was incredible. Kind of like San jacinto I could see all the way down to the desert floor. I postholed a good amount on the way down but still got below snowline with plenty of daylight. Already I could see mt Lemon, my next challenge. The afternoon ended up dragging on. Mica took so much out of me that the last 10 miles just fucking killed me. My knees are in tough shape, as are my feet, which were wet all day. Gotta do it all again tomorrow on Lemon.
Day 6 (32.9 Miles)
Have I mentioned how much I fucking love backpacking? Today was one of those days that reminded me. They all do. But some especially. I needed today in every way. Interesting morning as I wound through some canyons. When I went deeper in I could feel temperature drop what felt like 10 degrees. As I climbed out it warmed up so quickly. I had to take my jacket on and off a couple times. In one Canyon I met a thru hiker names todd, still in his campsite. He was a first time thru hiker who hit the big storm on day 2. I chatted with him for a bit and relayed my snow storm story from my first thru hike. I miss the magic of it. As the sun made its way into the sky I began the long climb up to the Catalina’s and mt Lemon. Oh and was it long. The last 1.7 I particular were some of the hardest climbing I can remember. At the top of the initial ascent I ran into two section hikers. We exchanged photos and they warned me about the snow between me and summerhaven. Already anxty about how much that climb had slowed me (and a little dehydrated to be honest) I fretted about not making my miles that day. But I calmed myself down. I reminded myself that I knew the snow was coming, and I knew there would be days I didn’t make the 32 mpd average I needed to reach my goal. After that, I had a really great hike! I slipped and slid my way through six miles of deep snow and tons of water crossings, and before I knew it I had reached summerhaven with soaked feet. It was only 2:15! Plenty of time to get my Resupply and dry my feet out a bit. The folks at the Mt Lemon General Store were amazing. So kind, even gave me free fudge. Can’t wait to see them again on the way back. I was prepared for the afternoon to be slow as I descended the Catalina’s. But to my luck, the AZT runs down the west side of the range. All the snow was gone on that side, and wouldn’t you know, I made it to the exact water tank I had hoped to reach this morning. Beautiful camp spot too. I set my tarp up to avoid the dew tonight but I’m sitting outside of it, eating my dinner and writing. So many stars are already out and it’s only 7:30. So thankful for today. So thankful to be out here. Whether I hike 1 mile or 40 miles on any given day, I am just so happy to be backpacking.
Day 7 (40.1 miles)
I woke up ten minutes late this morning, 4:40. I guess the big snow day yesterday had me exhausted. Can’t imagine how late I’ll sleep tomorrow. Hike got off to a great start. Around 8 Am, I wound my way around the oracle area I saw a woman coming up the hill. She surprised me when she yelled, “you’re making good time Einstein!” Turns out she follows me on Instagram, and had come out to hike that day just to see me. Very cool. Her name was Kathleen, she was super nice and the whole experience just left me smiling. Hopefully I’ll see her again in Patagonia on the way down. As I passed the road that goes to oracle, I was feeling good. The change from kind of civilization desert to middle of nowhere desert was drastic. All of a sudden I was surrounded by nothing but Hills, sand, and cacti of all kinds. It was beautiful, but daunting. The sun killed me today. No other way to put it. It’s crazy how yesterday I was pissed at how wet my feet were from all the water, and how today water was all I could think about. All my sources were old cow tanks today. They all had water, but I still was on empty every time I came to a new one. I started the day thinking I could go for 40, and locked myself into that when at beehive tank, the last one I passed, I didn’t get any water because of how gross it was. Green, full of bees and bugs, and I had 1.5 liters left. So I decided to push 8 more miles to Freeman Road Trailhead, where I knew there was a cash. The last few miles of a 40 are where you feel it. Everything was killing me. Feet, knees, dry throat, my whole body just wanted to me done. It was worth the push. A trail angel named sequoia has his trailer parked at freeman road trailhead, and he has plenty of water cached. He even made me a quesadilla. As I sat in the dirt eating it, in the dark, delirious, chugging water, I realized it’s the first hot food I’ve eaten this whole hike. I’ve been on Trail a week now. What a life.
Day 8 (39.7 Miles)
Weird day. I started off surprisingly fresh given how tired I was last night. Sequoia made me breakfast at 4:30, so cool of him, then I cruised off. It was overcast all day, so heat and the sun wasn’t really an issue like yesterday. So I was cursing all morning. Passed a couple tents and one hiker named Jim still in camp. After getting water at another old cattle tank, I passed a guy named Richard shortly before my lunch break. I told him I’d see him at lunch. I saw him even sooner as not 5 minutes after I passed him I saw a Gila monster! So cool. Such a fascinating looking animal. I’m so glad I’ve seen one now. So Richard caught back up as I was taking photos, then we had lunch. Nice to have company, even for a few minutes. I spend so much time alone now. The afternoon took kind of a bad negative turn for me. I usually get a post lunch funk, just kind of bloated and sluggish. But today it was mentally too. My right ankle was killing me all day and as the afternoon wore on i got really bad. I guess the pain just started getting to my mind. First I started thinking about what it I had to give up on my goal because of it. As I kept hiking I started thinking about the possible storms next week, and what if they hit me in the mazatal mountains. What if I have to quit because of that I think maybe my brain is just looking for ways out because of all the pain and exhaustion. I guess it’s good to have doubt. I spend so much time fantasizing about success, I need to be able to confront failure too. But it’s not fun. And now I feel weird. I’m really ready to get to Superior tomorrow. I just want it to feel like a normal thru hike for one day.
Day 9 (26.1 miles + 10 miles in/out of Superior)
I began what I was hoping to be a short-ish day still along the gila river. After a few miles walking in the dark I grabbed water from the river then turned north towards Superior. All day I just wanted to get there, resupply, shower, do laundry, normal thru hiker town things I still had yet to do. I barely took notice of how cool the hike was today. Just wanted to make it. I got to picketpost trailhead right at 2, when I had told taco, the trail angel I sent my stuff to in Superior, I would be there. Of course I didn’t have cell service. I still didn’t know exactly where Taco lived either. He had told me he lived only 3/4 mile from the trailhead. To my luck, a PCT 18er named detour was chilling in his car there, hoping to help out some hikers. He offered to drive me to town, I wanted so badly to say yes. But I held firm on staying self supported and declined. He did have service though and let me call taco. Turns out I had to walk all the way to Superior to get to his house. 5 mile road walk down a busy highway. I was so pissed. My short day was going to have 10 miles added to it, and no time for rest. When I finally got to Taco’s I was happy to find he’s a really nice guy. I shouldn’t have been grumpy about the walk. Just having him help me was so nice. I got to shower and do laundry at his place, but I was quick to do my chores and head back. I felt bad that I didn’t stay and hang out but I needed to do that road walk back and didn’t want to after dark. Plus Detour said he’d meet me back at the trailhead. I called mom on the walk back. It didn’t take much of me telling her everything that’s been worrying me and her comforting me for me to start crying. This hike is already taking such a mental toll on me. It was only a matter of time before I lost it emotionally. Hearing her voice just made me want to be home. This is so fucking hard. I don’t know why I’m doing it right now. Which is weird to say because I feel like I knew much better why I wanted to do it before I started. I’m just so tired of constantly pushing to make miles; even when I’m not actually hiking, whatever I’m doing is rushed in order to hike more. And I’m only 9 days in. I have so much to go. That scares me. The storm coming in next week scares me. I feel really under prepared gear wise for cold weather especially if it’s snowing. Anyways. I got back to the trailhead and talked to two cute girls while I waited for Detour. It’s a conversation I’ve had before - easily impressing day hiking girls with tales of my thru hike. And on past hikes I’d gladly talk up how difficult it is, and the toughness of it. I was so emotionally drained tonight though. I kind of just described what I was doing and left it at that. Right after they left detour showed up with another hiker, Iceman, who is starting the grand enchantment Trail tomorrow. It was really nice sitting around with them for a bit. I haven’t had any hiker evenings. At least I had one tonight. Going to bed uncertain of so much right now. Hopefully the miles bring me some answers. Whatever they may be.