AZT Day 3: Fire Closure and the North Rim Country Store

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Friday, September 28
Miles: 18 ish (plus 1 bonus mile)
Starting/ending: 46.1/64.3
Camp elevation: 9006 ft

I wake at 7 in the woods and reset my alarm to 7:30. Cold! Deer were crashing around and snorting through the night! Sweet. But terrifying. Pack up. So cold. It was definitely sub freezing last night. I was cozy in my coccoon (warm bag, layers, and I kept all tent vents closed). I hike in my rain pants and down jacket.

Stop in sun for breakfast. Marie and George come by. We flip flop some more. Mountain bikers. Meadows. Tree free means I can use the solar charger. I walk with Marie and George. Marie is a former geologist and did environmental consulting for a while too.

A small hill. Marie cached water at FR 610 and shares the extra with me (thanks! I haven’t used my filter yet!). At the fire closure, we road walk the dirt forest roads. We stop at the East Rim view – lovely. More road walk. Cars kick up dust. Lame. We have a snack break, but the bees (hornets?) are in full swarm. Back on the road. I hear the story of Marie and George’s trail partnership/budding trail romance. George is 72 and hiked the 500-mile Colorado Trail last year in 20-something days. Amazing!

At the FR 610/FR 611 split we go our separate ways. I hike the mile or two to the North Rim Country Store. Forest road, then paved highway. The folks at the store are so nice! The son of the owners health me print a UPS label. The three people behind the counter (who just watched the movie Wild last night) are impressed with my adventure, help me with packages, and help me find everything I need. I scramble to get everything I need to in 30 minutes. chug a Gatorade, sort my package to send, make an ad to a hiker box, toss garbage, refill water.

The owners son’s girlfriend, Sarah, gives me a ride to the trail (back to the fire closure). I hop in the SUV with her and her two friends. They’ll watch the sunset over the canyon. Somehow we talk of Mountain lions and animal encounters. They drop me off at 6. Can I make it to the park boundary by 7:30? Hustle! A few cars pass. Eek will I make it before dark? I even run in stretches. I hurry my way there and make it at 7:25, just in time. I find a nice, lumpy spot to set up camp, and dive in my tent. Too dark and late to cook (ok not really late, but I don’t want to make a ruckus after dark – who knows what’s out there). A deer is already out there clomping and snorting! I hop in my bag and go to sleep.

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