AZT Day 36: Happy Halloween & Trail Magic!!!

Wednesday, October 31
Miles: 23.5
Starting/ending: 545.1-568.6
Camp elevation: 3478 ft

Wake at 5 am in campsite next to wash. Coffee, ramen, pack. Cool morning. I hike ahead of Tarek and Andrea. I hike with wind gear on across flat-ish terrain. 9 miles until Florence Trailhead and water cache. Hike, hike, hike. I’m kind of bored… I’m waiting until late morning to listen to podcasts. I eat a bar. Then another. I write down a list of all the music running through my head on the trail. I’d like to turn it into a music playlist when I get home. I follow a new set of footprints – they must be from El Matador.

At 9:30 or 10 I’m at the cache! It’s full of water! And there’s candy. Oh yeah, it’s Halloween! I sign the register and see El Matador’s signature – it’s taken him a short 14 days to get here. There’s also a note inside – “Thru- Hikers, Sequoia here. I’m in the big white trailer. Stop by if you’re so inclined.” Hmm, there’s a comment in the app about great trail magic…

I walk toward the trailer and find trail angel, Sequoia, cooking a grilled cheese sandwich for Oklahoma, another thru hiker sitting in a folding camp chair. Sequoia sets up a camp chair for me, cooks me a grilled cheese sandwich, and offers me an apple and a soda (I go for a Dr Pepper) – what great unexpected trail magic! Then who appears out of the sprinter van next to the trailer, but Double Deuce and Trash Compactor – the nobo section hikers I ran into spotting a car at the Cedar Ranch trailhead, then hiking in the San Francisco peaks north of Flagstaff! Fatty Snacks and Mary Poppins (Andrea and Tarek) roll up to chairs, food, and soda, too. Oklahoma hikes off. We stick around for a little bit. I fill 4L of water and pack out a Sprite for later. We muster the strength to leave sometime around 10:30.

I take a short roadwalk shortcut. Cow. I’m already ahead of the others. Sunscreen break. I set my phone and trail wedding ring (a small hose clamp) in the nook of a tree. Back on the trail, after 1/2 mile or so I realize I forgot my ring at the tree. I drop my pack and run back, passing Tarek and Andrea along the way. Grab my ring. Run back, throw on my pack, and catch up shortly with the others. Some cell phone reception and texting. We lunch break in the middle of the trail – tortillas with cheese, hot sauce and olives for me.

Some ups and downs on the trail. The sun is warm, but not crazy hot. Military planes fly by. The occasional cloud. Dirt roads here and there, dirt road crossings. I get ahead. I run into a shirtless and sunburned hiker sitting in the shade – his name is Legend. He’s nobo, but also hiking the Great Western Loop – which is 7000 miles connecting the PCT, PNT, CDT, GET, and AZT. Dang. I tell him about the upcoming trail magic for him and press on. Eat a bar. Tarek and Andrea catch up and we chat here and there. I pull ahead, wait, repeat.

At the Camp Grant wash I run into 2 thru bikers fixing their breaks. Uphill from there. Our goal: the Mountain View Tank tonight, which is still 4ish miles ahead and the light is waning. Not sure if we’ll make it all the way. Rolling pink granite mounds. Pink tinged light. Pretty pinkness. 1 mile before the tank I wait for the others. Camp here? Camp here. We find a flat spot across the nearby dirt road crossing. Lots of spiky little cacti bits. Cool evening. Set up my tent – I’m going no fly tonight. Eat bare burrito and Snickers for dessert. Not enough water for a hot drink. Into tent by 7pm. Man I ate so much food today. The hiker hunger is real. Tomorrow we’ll be in Oracle! 14.8 miles to go. I’m excited to see Jared. And to eat a burrito, a bed, and a Biosphere 2 tour. Then to go to Tucson and see all the family. Sleep…

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