AZT Day 8: Thunderstorms and Canyon Views

Wednesday, October 3
Miles: 18.5
Starting/ending: 106.6/125.1
Camp elevation: 7418 ft

I wake early in the Mather Campground eager to hit the trail. I’m in my favorite spot – you guessed it, the shower/laundromat building – to dry my sleeping bag (the toe box is a tad wet from rain splashing inside the tent) and finish charging the backup battery (7-8 hours for a full charge!). I pack up slowly, drink coffee and eat my oatmeal with yogurt. The sun is peeking out! Since I have a new luxurious sleeping mattress, it’s good riddance to the old foam pad. I cut off a piece to use as a sit pad, and ask the woman whose been camping there for longer than I have if she could use it. She accepts, and I’m happy the old pad has a home.

I – at last – leave Mather Campground at 8:30 and wait for the shuttle. When I’m about to get on the bus I run into Daniel and Mary! They’re getting off the bus. We thought we’d never see each other again (they’re doing 10-15 mpd while I’m aiming for 20’s). They are hitting the grocery store before the trail (I’m assuming the trail here, not 6 miles ahead where I’m starting today, so I don’t think I’ll see them again either!). Nice to see a friendly face either way. But I’m bummed – I really want to hike with them or near them – backpacking without another soul around is a daunting task and the prospect is harder than I imagined.

Blue line to purple line. Tusayan at 9:15. Last bit of WiFi, send a few things home at the PO (mainly the solar charger). I hit the trail via a trailer park. A guy helps me squeeze through the fence (apparently this isn’t where the trail really connects, haha).

The trail is slick! And muddy in spots! Woo! Mud cakes to the bottom of my shoes. The next people ahead of me must be a day or two down the trail at least. I see no other hikers but I do see a set of footprints from what looks like Altra Lone Peaks. As I approach the Grandview lookout tower, I see a truck drive past in the distance. Some helicopters whiz by. A deer bounds away.

Lots of dirt road walking. Lots of gambel oak. I’m aiming for a 20 mile day which will put me at the next water source, a wildlife tank. Thunderstorms threaten all afternoon.

At 5 some light sprinkling and thunder. I’m a mile from the tank, but it’s a good camping spot off the “ridge” so I pull off early and set up my tent near some low trees and elk poop. Just in time before the rain really starts! I hunker down and wait out the passing thunderstorm. Argh I hate thunderstorms. Camping in them at least. Especially solo. Sigh.

By 5:20 the t-storm is passed. I cook, eat, and watch the sunset from my cozy hideout (have I mentioned that the tent is a muted, drab green. Perfectly incognito). Partial canyon views! The elk are calling to each other. Some sound so close. It’s mating season and they’re especially talkative. Crickets chirp. I read, write, and long for a hiking companion or some nearby (should I wait for Daniel and Co?). I know this is the AZT and solitude is kind of the name of the game, but whatever. Time for sleep.

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