AZT Day 51: Gain=Pain, Easy Day, and Sunshine

Thursday, November 15
Miles: 17.6
Starting/ending: 760.4/778.0
Camp elevation: 8501 feet

Last night was not that cold! Hurrah! I was very cozy and warm in my tent and sleep setup. Warmer than most nights even! I wake at the late old hour of 6am and plan for an “easy”, “lazy” day. No hurry, we only have 17 miles to go. Coffee, oatmeal, slow pack up. We all wait until the sun hits our tents before getting going. Cool morning, warm sun. Full sunshine is in the forecast today. I’m feeling some tightness in my back from pushing myself a little too far yesterday. Whoops. I guess I have limits after all.

I hit the trail behind Oklahoma, just ahead of David. 2L of water at Parker Canyon. More water at a windmill late morning, lunch, I leave with 4L. My dang pelvis and sacrum are screaming at me, increasingly pissed off from yesterday’s hiking push. Argh.

Oklahoma is ahead. Podcasts. Gentle uphill grade leading into the Huachucas. Pee break. Steepening trail. I fall behind the others. Up, up, uphill. Slow going as I take my time. Great views! We pass Sunnyside Junction, our planned camp spot, but with no spots to be found we continue on. We’re on a ridge. A semi flatish spot after 0.7 miles is good enough, and we call it a day at 4:30.

I have service! I fix my AZT app and message Jared and Ann. Warm, dry clothes. Tent up. Google tells us that the nearby “UFO” is actually border patrol radar. Dinner: Patagonia Provisions Red Bean Chili. Ugh I’m beaned out. CBD chocolate. Hot chocolate. Toffee almond milk chocolate. Not chocolated out.

It’s going to be another cold night. The air feels cooler than last night, but warmer than the Kentucky Camp night. Weather underground is calling for 25° in the nearest town, while mountain-weather-forecast is predicting 41° atop nearby 9400+ ft Miller Peak. Hmm. Fingers crossed it’s not too cold at least. Into tent at 6! My last trail night. Tomorrow: Mexico! Write, read, podcast, sleep…

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AZT Day 50: Fierce Hiking, a Dumb Hunter, and a UFO

Wednesday, November 14
Miles: 22.9
Starting/ending: 737.5/760.4
Camp elevation: 5715 feet

I wake at 5:20 to my alarm in my Airbnb bed. Gotta get back on the trail. The AZT isn’t going to hike itself! Almost done! I slept through the night! Easily my best sleep along the trail. Breakfast of tortillas, beans, chorizo, and coffee, courtesy of chef Oklahoma. Pack up. I realize that my sleeping bag was pressed against the sliding glass door and condensation my have dampened some down. Uh oh. Fingers crossed it’s warm enough. It doesn’t feel too bad… Wash dishes. Tidy up the Airbnb.

We’re out the door and on the trail (starting with a road walk) at 7:45. 2.8 miles of pavement before single track dirt trail. I’m feeling good and pass David and Oklahoma. I feel inspired by Heather “Anish” Anderson (First Female Calendar Year Triple Crowner, Triple Triple Crowner, and current and/or former self-supported speed record holder of most US long distance trails). In one of her recent Instagram posts she says, “All year I’ve been tempering myself to keep my mpd under 40 (really aiming for 27-35) to avoid injury, but now with less than 500 miles to go, I’m smelling the barn.” Damn. If she can do that, I can do at least a fraction of it… So I get my hike on – fast, big strides, crushing the miles.

Rolling hills, general uphill trend. Some cows. Past a backpacker and 3 older guys day hiking. A light haze of smoke hangs in the air – from the LA forest fires we think. David and I spot a little gray javelina on a river bank. We get water at Red Bank Tank. Lunch at 12:30. Oklahoma catches up. Quick break.

Hike on. We come across a hunter who is literally hunting on the trail. Moron. He grumbles about us being out there, ornery that we’re in his way. He asks if there’s anyone else with us because he doesn’t want to accidentally shoot someone. “Omg get off the trail you fat lazy dummy!“, I think – but hold my tongue so as not to anger an armed mad man in the woods. Some people. Hike on. There’s something hanging in the sky ahead. What is it? A bird? Plane? Blimp? Weather balloon? An odd and stationary UFO for sure.

We all meet up at a water source. 3L for now. We discuss hiking 23 miles – adding 1 1/2 miles to our original 21.5 mile plans. Fine by me. Onward! Some downhill. Some uphill. Some podcasts.

We reach our campsite at a high point (no more chilly washes where the coldest air settles!). I explode my pack and am about to set up my tent under a few low trees when I realize a bottle has leaked and my down jacket is wet. Uh oh. This is not good. Mostly the right arm is wet. David graciously lends me his camp towel and I sponge up the water and dry off the arm as best as I can. Change into dry, non-sweaty clothes. Plus rain and wind gear. The forecast calls for 30° in Patagonia and we expect colder up here. So far it feels warmer than our night at Kentucky Camp, which is a good sign of relative warmth. I set up my tent, batten down the “hatches” (air gap between tent and rain fly walls), and get situated.

Cook dinner, bare burrito. Hot natural calm + skratch. CBD chocolate. Toffee almond milk chocolate for dessert. Into my tent at 6:15. I have my down jacket on over my rain jacket – I think that will be fine for warmth. It feels mostly dry. That’s good. I screwed up my AZT app and it’s rendered useless. Crap. Navigation may be difficult. Good thing David and Oklahoma have theirs. Write, read, sleep. 30 miles to Mexico!..

AZT Day 49: A Zero In Patagonia

Tuesday, November 13
Miles: 0
Camp elevation: A bed in an Airbnb

I wake around 6 or so. Blog a bit before getting up at 7. Laze around. Oklahoma, David and I discuss our camp plans for this upcoming last stretch of trail – we’ll do 40 miles the first 2 days, then a 12. The weather will be chilly and we’ll aim to camp above any low spots but try to stay below 8500 feet.

Oklahoma – the chef of our mini hiker vacation – makes us all breakfast burritos with chorizo. We eat, drink coffee, and enjoy sitting. I blog and write postcards. Eventually, mid-morning, I head to the post office to pick up my resupply box. It’s a breezy and cold morning – a good day for a zero off the trail. Along the way I inquire about a hiker box at the hotel, pick up brownies at the cafe, and get ice cream at the market. Back at the Airbnb (The Blue Jay) I blog some more and bum around.

After a serious hiker lunch of brownies and ice cream, the three of us make a group trip to Red Mountain Foods – a short 1 minute walk. I pick up guac and salsa ingredients and a few more snacks for the upcoming stretch. Then I make guacamole and salsa back at the Blue Jay. The guys go check out the bird sanctuary in town. I shower.

Eventually it’s dinner time – chips, salsa, guac, more burritos. So. Many. Burritos. We listen to my Fleet Foxes Google Play radio station. I eat wayyy too much and am absurdly full. I talk to Jared and get ready for bed. No more burritos please. Gotta get some rest for this last 50 mile stretch of AZT!…

AZT Day 48: 6 Miles Into Patagonia and A Cozy Airbnb

Monday, November 12
Miles: 6.2
Starting/ending: 731.1/737.5
Camp elevation: A real bed

A chilly night last night! Below freezing probably, but not nearly as cold as the previous night. I set my alarm “late” for 6am and wake a few minutes before it goes off to the sound of David and Oklahoma talking. David’s sleeping pad leaked and deflated many times in the night – bummer! He’s already planning a new pad for the last stretch.

It’s a lazy morning. I’m slow to make coffee and pack. Eat a bar for breakfast. Hit the trail around 7:15 ahead of the others. Easy walking on dirt roads, rolling and downhill. Golden hills, nice sunrise. An occasional truck passes. A happy dog is running about. Down near houses. Take off a layer. David passes. I catch up. We hit the highway and walk the short paved mile into Patagonia.

We beeline for the Ovens of Patagonia Cafe for coffee and a cheese danish. Oklahoma meets us there. We chat with a friendly Swiss couple on a 9-month US vacation. Then we have a third breakfast at Gathering Grounds – bacon, eggs, toast, potatoes, more coffee. Nice chatty hunters.

We are able to check into the Blue Jay – our Airbnb – early, and head over at 11:30. Giada, the host, comes by and shows us how to operate the finicky combo washer-drier. Then it’s grocery time! To the Patagonia Market, then Red Mountain Foods, back to the market, back to Red Mountain. We amass enough eggs, beans, tortillas, and veggies for many meals.

Back to the Airbnb where it’s laundry time, shower, hang out, talk to my mom, prep food, and drink beer and White Claw. Dinner of burritos and tacos. Play music and chat. Then it’s bedtime, I talk to Jared, then sleep…

AZT Day 47: Frosty Morning! Day Before Town Day

Sunday, November 11
Miles: 19.1
Starting/ending: 712.2/731.1
Camp elevation: 4570 ft

Man it was so cold last night! I fell asleep around 7. I woke up a few hours later around 9, chilly, hoping morning would come soon. It could not come soon enough. Definitely the coldest night on trail yet. Damp, cold air. We were in a low spot and an open field, too.

My alarm goes off at 5:30. I reset it to 6. Too cold. I eventually get up and pack as quickly as I can, keeping on my sleep clothes and waiting on breakfast and coffee. There’s frost everywhere – both inside on the walls of my rain fly and outside on tents and grass and trail. My hands and toes are freezing. I shake what frost I can off my rain fly and hit the trail all bundled up around 6:30, ahead of the others. Oklahoma is waiting for the sun to warm his tent before moving anywhere.

The frosty trail is flat, then up. Once out of the low spot, the air is immediately warmer. Dirt road walk. Sun. Yesss. Single track trail. Nice mountain views. I pull off at a nice spot to make my oatmeal breakfast and coffee, change into my hiking attire, and reorganise my haphazardly stuffed pack. The air is peaceful and still and the sunshine is warming. Good relaxation.

Back on trail. Day hikers. A few trailheads. A hunter. Water stop for 2L. Oklahoma comes by and we hike together, wondering where David is – ahead or behind? Must be behind. I eat a bar. We stop for more water and to dry out all the wet gear at Bear Spring in Casa Blanca canyon around 11. There’s still frost on my rain fly! I pick up a total 4L of water. David catches up. He’s slow going this morning, his stove won’t work, and his water filter might have frozen in the night. I eat jerky and make wraps with tortillas, Patagonia provisions salmon, mayo, Cholula, and olives – eating one now and saving one for later.

Once my tent and sleeping bag are dry, I hit the trail around noon ahead of the others. Uphill for 2 miles. Feeling good. I chat with a mountain biker who recommends Velvet Elvis pizza in Patagonia. On the downhill I break for water, sunscreen, and the other tortilla wrap. Oklahoma passes. A day hiker hikes by. David catches up and I get on trail behind him. Some of the downhill is steep and slidey. Eventually less steep.

Dirt road walking. A cow here and there. Occasional truck. Car campers and hunters set up at camps. I hike with David. Pretty hills covered with golden grass and juniper trees. Flatish downhill. More water than is listed in Guthook. We catch up to Oklahoma. I pick up a backup liter of water at Anaconda Spring, which I later dump. The detour is in 1/2 mile and we’re hoping to avoid it – it’s steeper and longer than the actual trail. And besides, the road can’t possibly be closed, there are lots of vehicles here.

At the reroute, we forge on ahead, sticking to the dirt road/trail. It’s definitely not closed. More camps. More water. Pretty fall colors. We pass on a potential campsite a half-mile before Temporal Gulch Trailhead. Once at the trailhead, we realize there’s nowhere to camp there, so we hike on for another 0.6 miles.

We find a rocky little hill among the hills where we can fit our three tents. Great views of hills and mountains from here, too. And it’s elevated out of the low spot, so temps will be relatively warmer at night. We’re expecting sub-freezing temps tonight again.

Thanksgiving-on-the-trail for dinner for me, tea with brown sugar, peanut butter m&m’s for dessert, a CBD chocolate, and natural calm. Temps already feel warmer than last night thankfully! I settle into my tent at dark around 6pm. I’m sooo happy it’s not terribly cold. It’s warm enough to read! Read, write, think about the last few miles into Patagonia and the Airbnb we have in town. Sleep…

AZT Day 46: Rattlesnake, Shooting Range, and Mountain Bikers

Saturday, November 10
Miles: 23.7
Starting/ending: 688.5/712.2
Camp elevation: 5098 ft

Wake at 5:30. Coffee and ramen. Pack up. I slept well. Some vehicles are out and about already, near the Twin Tanks pond. I hot the trail ahead of David and Oklahoma. The trail is rolling and generally uphill. Small break, a few day hikers. Oklahoma catches up and passes. David catches up and passes. I fill 2L from a small cache.

Lunch break at a metal cattle trough with the others. I have chili lime tuna on tortillas with hot sauce, mayo and peanuts. Ten miles to Kentucky Camp – a historical adobe site that used to house gold miners – and our planned camp for the night. I lead. Lots of mountain bikers. Also lots of guns firing in all directions. Must be target shooting and hunting. We do not get shot. Success! It’s Saturday which explains why so many people are out and about. I chat with a few mountain bikers. Snack and break at the high point. Oklahoma and David catch up and pass me.

Two hunters are parked in the middle of the trail which is annoying, I go around. I catch up with and chat with Oklahoma and we walk to Kentucky Camp. He’s excited to cook lots of food in Patagonia. We chat with the Kentucky Camp caretakers for a few minutes, thinking David will catch up, but he doesn’t. We walk on and I nearly step on a snake! Yikes! Oh shit, it’s a rattlesnake! That would have been uncomfortable… The snake is just laying there, belly full, unmoving. Occasionally flicking it’s tongue. Whew close one.

At Kentucky Camp I fill a few liters of water. Headache. David shows up. We look for a camp spot and find a decent enough place to pitch our tents in some tall grass, in the open, just below Kentucky Camp. Brr it’s coming off quickly. I add water to my dinner – pea soup and wild Zora meat, plus hot chocolate, a CBD chocolate and natural calm. Into my tent early to start warm. I make sure sleep with my water filter tonight – it may get below freezing. Write and plan ahead. There’s a possible detour ahead on the way into Patagonia. I try to read but my hands are too cold. Brr. Sleep.

AZT Day 45: Scorpions, Section Hikers, and Short Day

Friday, November 9
Miles: 18.6
Starting/ending: 669.9/688.5
Camp elevation: 4042 ft

I wake at 5:30. Coffee, ramen, pack. There are some weird noises… Is the campground haunted? I’m convinced of it. I wash out my pot and pour the water in a tiny puddle in front of my tent. I see what appears to be a bug crawling under my clear ground sheet. Upon closer inspection, the bug reveals itself to be a tiny scorpion! It crawls out and drinks from the puddle. I call David and Oklahoma over to check it out. It glows under the keychain blacklight I’m carrying. Very cool. Also very dangerous – I think these are the scary ones. After it’s fill of water the scorpion returns from whence it came. Oklahoma says he found a tiny scorpion on his rain jacket this morning, too – his tent zipper is busted so he can’t close the door. A close call. I lend him the blacklight.

Oklahoma takes off first out of camp, then me, then David. A pretty sunrise. Past La Posta Quemada Ranch. After a few miles I catch up to section hikers Rick and Jesse. We chat and hike together – they have a few miles left of their hike. They’re both physical therapists in the army. David catches up. We filter water at Cienaga Creek. I take 2L. Shortly after at the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead Rick and Jesse depart with firm handshakes.

Easy walking, slight uphill. We pass under I-10 – the tunnel entrance is painted as a very cool snake mouth. David ahead and I’m behind. I catch up to him at 11am at the Sahuarita Road and Highway 83 trailhead where there’s a cache of water and snacks in the bear box. At this pace, we’ll be at our intended campsite at 2pm! I eat some mini Oreos and haribo gummy bears.

Hike on. Easy walking. Sunny and pleasant day. I eat my lunch of tortillas with cheese and hot sauce around 1. Just after 2 I find David and Oklahoma at Twin Tanks pond. I’m prepared to hike on until 5, but the group consensus is to call it a short day. Do some “laundry”.

Take my time setting up my tent and relaxing. I talk with Oklahoma about Armenia – (I’m 1/4 Armenian) he did Peace Corps there 12 years ago. He teaches me a few words. We help David find a flat spot for his tent.

The wind picks up around 6 and we hunker down in a somewhat wind broken spot next to my tent for family dinner. I have Patagonia Provisions black bean soup, hot chocolate, a CBD chocolate, and natural calm. Retire to tents. It’s so windy. I’m set up under some creaky trees and am a little nervous. I decide not to risk it, and move my tent to the other side of the trees. I schlep my stuff. Settle in. The wind dies down! Ha! Some people on four-wheelers drive around making a ruckus around 7:30. One of them shines their headlights on us and the other one apologizes for being a dumbass as they motor away. Read, write, sleep…