Tag Archives: arizona trail

Day 1: Some of Everything and Lots of Climbing.

3/7/15

From the Coronado national monument visitors center to Mexican border to mile 11. About 15 miles total, about 6000 feet elevation gain.

Got in our Arizona sunshine Tours shuttle at about 6 am and drove the hour and a half to the Coronado visitor center. It was a pleasant ride with a CD playing about the history of the area we were in and the driver was very nice, let us stop at a quick shop for some last minute stuff. 

We then began a 2.4 mile hike up a very steep pass probably gaining 1500 or more feet in elevation until we intersected the AZT at mile 1 where we then took a very steep trail down almost 1000 feet to the monument and had our pictures taken in Mexico by a nice couple names Sue and Todd. Then 1000 feet back up to the trail and headed north towards Montezuma Pass (which is only .7 miles from the cut off down toward Mexico so if you can get a ride there you can save a few miles and a killer climb.)

Here’s Bill Muarry and me in Mexico at the monument. It’s in Mexico so you actually have to go through the border to get a picture with it! Bill Muarry was a friend I met on the AT back in 2012. She got her name from some other hikers who really wanted to give out the name to someone and she adopted it because it would be funny and confusing in the trail registers. Thru hikers reunite! Then we started the real climb up Millers Peak, another 2500 feet up, to over 9000 feet above sea level. We passed several old copper mine shafts.  The trees went from scrub oak to pine then to juniper and finally into a forest of Douglas Fir and other firs and spruce I didn’t know. It looked like a northern boreal forest!

Then you go up and down a little bit, passing bathtub spring which is exactly that.

Near the top of the climb we were suddenly in a quaking aspen forest with occational areas covered in snow.

Every now and then you’d also see trash from illegal aliens such as this. They carried 15% mas and didn’t even eat it!

After that the weather got gloomy. It’s cold, overcast and the wind is blowing pretty good. Also considering I got less than 1 hour of sleep last night in the airport with too much on my mind, we decided to set up camp at 4:15. We’re beat and hitting the hay. All downhill tomorrow. Oh and I found these precious babies. 😊



Getting There is Tough

Woke up today at 7:30 and it was 1 degree out. At least it’s sunny! Took off for the airport and continued desperately tried finding a ride to the southern terminus. I tried all the southern passage stewards with no luck but did learn a lot of useful info from them (thanks AZT trail stewards!) finally after about 25 failed contacts I reserved a pick up from Arizona sunshine tours. They will come pick us up at 6 A.M. from a hotel, walking distance from the Tucson airport, then drive us to the Coronado national monument visitor center just a few miles from the Mexican border for $75 each. More than I was hoping but hey, they come right to us and take us very close to a place that’s pretty far from anything.

Met up with my friend Bill Fuckin Murray during my layover in the Atlanta airport.  Sleeping in the airport tonight. Tomorrow the journey begins!



 

Twenty-five years and my life is still, trying to get up that great big hill of hope, for a destination. 

And so I cry sometimes when I’m lying bed just to get it all out what’s in my head! 
No but I really love the song “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes. It was my song of choice on the Appalachian Trail in 2012. I remember first hearing it on the radio in the white mountain house hostel. I know I had heard it before but I heard it and loved it then. I remember Buzz Lightyear commenting that he heard me blaring it in the shower while we stayed in the galaxy motel in Brooklyn, New York after we decided we’d rather pay $130 a night for a hotel instead of sleeping on benches in Central Park with our packs on again and being awoken by hobos asking for cigarettes at way too early hours in the morning. But as of yesterday, I’m a quarter century old. It’s also my last day of work today. I need to finish up a few errands and then I’ll just be sitting around waiting for Friday to come so I can fly away. 

My girlfriend Katie got me some new trekking poles for my birthday and added a hilarious and thoughtful twist to the straps. How cool is that?!



I can’t believe I start my AZT thru hike on Saturday with Bill Muary. I’m so excited I can hardly express it. It’s also funny because I’ve noticed I’ve become extremely careful about everything I do lately to ensure nothing goes wrong right before my hike. For example, I make sure I drive very slowly and carefully so I don’t get into an accident and squander funds that I require for this trip. About a month ago I got a flat tire and really didn’t want to have to buy a new tire for the car so I researched how to fix it, went to an auto parts store and bought a $9 tire plugging kit and plugged my tire and it’s been working fine ever since! I’ve been saving as much cash as I can and can’t afford to spend it on tires and fixing bumpers and other mundane crap. 

I’ve also been obsessive about watching the weather in Tucson, Phoenix, and Flagstaff for the past month or two. Getting so excited every time it rains or snows in any of these areas because it means more reliable water sources but even more for me it means that the wildflower will be going well… wild!!!! I took over 3000 pictures on the PCT and probably 1500 of them were of the flowers or plants along the way. It was the driest year on record in much of California and yet I couldn’t get over the diversity of wild flowers I came across. Without bias I took pictures of every single one no matter how small or dull looking because I want to know what they all are. I crave this knowledge, and more plants mean more insects which means more fat reptiles and birds! I have also been refreshing the desertusa.com wildflower reports for Tucson and Phoenix 10 times a day to see what’s blooming and what’s about to. It seems like it’s been a pretty wet winter in most of Arizona. As I write, much of the higher elevations throughout the state are being buried in snow. I’m actually worried that I may hit some pretty deep snow right off the bat on Saturday since the trail goes over 9000 feet in the first 10 miles of the trail. I just hope that it’s manageable! I am so ready to get the hell out of ohio though. We’ve been getting more snow than usual and it’s been brutally cold the last month. Rarely going above freezing and temperatures regularly below zero Fahrenheit and often -20 with wind chill. Ohio is trapped at about 500-1000 feet above sea level throughout the entire state. There’s no escaping the climate unlike mountainous regions where if it’s cold at 9000 feet, you can go down to a warmer location, and reverse if your hot at low elevations. 

Desert bluebells! shooting stars Gentians, one of my favorite genus of wildflowers!

My resupply boxes have been done and packed for two months and my backpack has been packed and ready to go for the same amount of time. With a 3 day supply of food in it and 4 full liters of water it weighs just 27 pounds. Not bad I’m thinking! I just imagine when I’m about to get into town with low food and water and a 15 lbs backpack, I may as well run! 

I’ve been thinking about and gauging the reactions of my friends, family and acquaintance about my upcoming hike and future hikes. I get a lot of “You should be working and saving up money for the future. The more you save now the more money you will have when you retire!” That may be so, but you can never save up youth no matter how hard you try. My body just happens to be strong right now so I’m going to use it while I can. I can make money at any age. Certainly age is not a barrier to long distance hiking, anybody can thru hike if they put their minds to it! Some of the most badass hikers out there are in their 50-70s. I just know that a 65 year old Sheriff Woody is going to have a rougher time hiking 800 miles through the desert than his 25 year old counterpart. And to future me if you ever read this post, I hope you can still hike!!! Also as grim as it may seem, what if I don’t even live to retirement age. I may get some illness or die in a car crash any day. How lame would it be if you worked your life away for decades so that one day you could retire and pursue your dreams, and then you die before you get the chance! You get one chance and I am going to live every year to the fullest. I’m pretty sure that no person on their deathbed ever lamented that they should have worked more often instead of pursuing what they were passionate about. I mean really. My dad asked me yesterday if I had all the money I ever wanted, what would I do? I came to the immediate conclusion. Go long distance backpacking somewhere. Then I realized… I’m already doing that. I AM doing what I love here and now, and I have no plans on stopping.

the stark beauty of the desert love you guys! 

Reptiles and Amphibians of the PCT

I’ve been researching everything about the flora and fauna of Arizona. This is something I do and have been doing since I was a kid before I go anywhere new. Everyone knows what I’m all about. The critters, the plants, THE MUSHROOMS! Unfortunately I don’t expect to find many fungi in the dry conditions. But holy crap the reptiles… The deserts are reptile heaven. What I have to look forward to in Arizona are desert tortoises, Gila monsters, whiptails, collard lizards, chuckwallas, and dozens more species of lizard, 52 species of snakes including THIRTEEN different rattlesnake species. I love rattlesnakes. Let me help ease the fear of them. They are probably the most compromising dangerous animals in the United States. Think about it. They have good camouflage and will try to stay still, not rattling and go unnoticed if possible. I can attest to this because on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania I walked right past a big fat timber rattler that was not even a yard off the trail and then did a double take because that big stick looked odd. I walked back and got a good look at him. I couldn’t believe it! Just right there by the trail and he didn’t curl up or rattle at all! Turns out Buzz Lightyear walked right past it a few minutes earlier and it didn’t move either! He thought it was just another Rat snake. It wasn’t until I got close taking pictures that this fella coiled up and the started rattling. After camouflage fails or they get nervous that you’re too close they have a freaking rattle that they use to say, “Hey, uh yea your getting kind of close brah and it’s making me nervous. But I’ll keep rattling so you know right where I’m at and you can go around me. Kthxbye.” What other animal warns you of it’s presence for they good of both parties? And guess what… Snakes don’t have ears! They can’t even hear their own rattle! So all if you who carry bear bells in the desert to alert the rattlesnakes you’re coming, bad news. They can’t hear them.
Rattlers aren’t looking for a fight. A rattlesnake is no match for a human at all. Any person that can pick up a rock or stick has a massive advantage over an animal that can’t defend itself by any other means than biting. And then you hear the stories of rattlesnakes chasing after people. I just laugh at this. If you’ve ever met a rattlesnake, you know that they’re a fat short snake compared to most. And although they can strike amazingly fast, they really aren’t quick to move across the ground compared to other snake species. No contest at all for any person who can run more than a few miles an hour. The fastest snake on earth is the black mamba and they clock in at a top speed of 12 miles an hour which is hardly a sprint for the average person. Don’t even get me started on all the Mojave green rattlesnake crap we heard from locals on the PCT. One guy we were hitching with gave us some weird papers talking about how sinister they are and that a boy just sitting on his porch had a Mojave latch on to his leg and he couldn’t get it off until his brother pried it’s jaws off and then venom was spraying all over. I’m not even kidding about this. Anyways… I digress.
Here are some of the AWESOME reptiles and amphibians I came across on the Pacific Crest Trail!

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Day 1 I came across this speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) just a few miles before Lake Morena.

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This guy was on eagle rock! It’s one of the many species of Sceloporus lizards. Not sure which one.

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Here’s another Sceloporus I found in Idyllwild. Check out his blue belly!

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A western patch nosed snake (Salvadora hexalepis) that was cruising around looking for lizards to chow on!

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This striped racer (Masticophis lateralis) was checking us out from under a bush next to Deep Creek!

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Twinkle’s most favorite lizard of all time. The horny toad! Phrynosoma blainvillii I think.

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This big guy started rattling at Twinkle, McButter and I heading up Mission Creek.

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While postholing in the high Sierra, I saw something in the bottom of a previous posthole. It’s was a freaking living frog! In this world of ice and rock this little guy was alive and well! Not too sure what he is other than cute.

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This garter snake was chowing down on a salamander when I crossed paths with it in Northern California!

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A California mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata!!!) I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to find one and she was so precious and gentle. Never tried to bite or struggle or musk, just calmly chilled with me until I put her down and she went on her way looking for snakes, rodents other tasty things.

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I went nuts when I found this widdle baby rubber boa (Charina bottae) in Oregon! Another snake I really wanted to see on the trail and it’s a precious baby! I bet you didn’t know there were boas in the US! In fact there are two! The rubber boa can be found all the way into Canada even. The other is the rosy boa and it’s found in Southern California and western Arizona.

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Caught this big Alligator Lizard (elgaria coerulea principis) in Ashland, Oregon with Mitra and Guthrie next to some “fairy ponds.” Though the common name sounds menacing, he was pretty chill as you can see!

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And then there was this guy… Big northern pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) I found him right on the trail about 3 miles north of Ashland and it was still pretty early in the morning so he was slow and chilly. I pinned his head (gently) with one of my trekking poles and picked up his head right behind those big venom glands. I held him just firmly enough so he couldn’t wiggle is head around and get me. I held him for a bit in one hand and was taking pictures on my phone with the other hand because I was alone at the time. He was very calm and never even rattled his tail. I set him a little ways up the hill from the trail so he won’t be stepped on and put him down and he just slowly crawled towards some rocks! No aggression at all. One of the biggest adrenaline rushes of my life. To get up close and personal with wildlife, especially the ones less loved. Just like my hero Steve Irwin. Disclaimer… Don’t do this. Haha. I’ve been catching snakes my whole life and caught my first venomous one at 13 years old. I love them. I’m crazy about them. Don’t fear the snakes!
-Sheriff Woody
I wish there was a snake in my boot!

Food!!!

Yesterday I went out and bought the bulk of the food I’ll eat along the trail. This time around I just bought whatever I thought I’d like to eat for a somewhat extended period of time. Last year I was much more scientific about my purchases and even made an excel spreadsheet comparing calories per dollar because well, I don’t have much money, I’m a poor smelly thru hiker! This info if you’re interested is back near the beginning of this blog around April 2014!
So people often ask me, “don’t you just crave nutritious food? Like when you’re out there is fruit and veggies all you want?” Well… If by fruit you mean peach rings, jelly beans and sour patch kids then yes! And by veggies you mean Pringles then also yes!

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I mean just look at all the different fruits in there. Orange, juicy pear, tutti fruity, etc.

Once hiker hunger sets in all I want is meat and candy and fat. I’ll eat veggies and fruit when I’m in town but they’re too heavy to carry around and I really don’t crave them. This is not really a common sentiment with thru hikers however. I know some of my buddies like Guthrie loved him some blueberries and carrot was always down for a salad.
I craved protein and pure energy. I needed to grow those disproportionate calf muscles all thru hikers cultivate and then give the them raw energy to run those bad boys for months on end. So that’s the kind of food I bought. High calorie, high fat and some high protein in the mix. Oh and lots of salty stuff. Pretty much everything that is bad for you in civilization is what I want while hiking.

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Snickers are a well know food source for wild hikers.

I guess the staple food of mine however is the usual bars, granola bars, powerbars and cereal. I hate trail mix with a passion so that is not on the menu. I like straight up Cheerios and Special K in place of it. I’ll also carry along some multivitamins and electrolyte pills since salt lost is rampant in the desert environment.

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Rice krispes treats are cereal right?!

Also for the first time I got some crystal light flavoring packets because I was very jealous of Twinkle’s squirrel blood juice and other powdered drinks. Some even have caffeine just in case I need a real boost.

AZT Gear List

So this hike is a little bit different from my other two thru hikes because it is vastly shorter and there is no time constraint. I need to go 800 miles from March 7th to anytime before April 23rd or so. That’s only 17 miles a day if I used my full time allotment. This means I am going to be “ultra light” but I’m also bringing some luxury items such as my 2 lbs camera and my go pro with harnesses to capture and share the experience in pictures and video. Something I wish I did more on the PCT but my iPhone’s memory got full so fast. I also have a lot more time to stop and take pictures of the little things so I’m hoping this trip results in some spectacular macros of all critters Arizona.

I’ll be using another pair of tried and true Brooks Cascadia 8 trail running shoes.

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Got these bad boys for Christmas and fully expect them to last the 800 mile trail considering my first pair took me over 1700 miles and my second pair took me the next 1000 on the PCT and I still use them frequently for day hikes and weekend trips. Check out the tread on my first pair compared to my second pair after I got them in Ashland, Oregon!

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I’ll also be using the trekking poles I used on my Appalachian Trail 2012 since they are still useable, unlike my tortured pair from the PCT. If I have extra money before the trip I may buy I new pair but I’m broke at the moment.

There is some amount of clothes that I’ll always be wearing and so I won’t include that in the base weight. Typically my light shirt, zip off pants, cotton boxers and a pair of socks and a hat.

So here’s the rundown:

Backpack and Water Treatment and Storage:
Gossamer Gear Gorilla Ultralight Backpack 28 oz (793 grams)
Sawyer squeeze mini 1.7 oz (49 grams)
4 1 liter smart water bottles 6 oz (170 grams)
Subtotal 35.7 oz( 1012 grams)

Sleep system
Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis tarp tent with insect netting 13 oz (400 grams)
6 Aluminum tent stakes 3 oz (87 grams)
Z Lite sleeping pad 10 oz (290 grams)
REI Radiant 19 degree down sleeping bag 39.9 oz (1130 grams)
Subtotal 65.9 oz (1907 grams)

Clothing in Backpack
Undershirt 7.2 oz (206 grams)
Long johns 6.9 oz (196 grams)
Go lite down jacket 7.5 oz (214 grams)
Wind Jacket 18 oz (510 grams)
Subtotal 39.6 oz (1126 grams)

Miscellaneous Items
Head light with batteries 2.8 oz (81 grams)
Sunglasses .7 oz (20 grams)
Small bic lighter .4 oz (11 grams)
Mosquito head net .7 oz (20 grams)
Toothbrush and toothpaste 1 oz (29 grams)
Subtotal 5.6 oz (160 grams)

Electronics

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Camera, 2 batteries, lens cleaning cloth, mini tripod, Raynox DCR 250 Macro lens 32 oz (906 grams)
GoPro Hero 3 White 4.8 oz (136 grams)
Chargers 3.1 oz (88 grams)
Anker battery 15000 mwh 11 oz (315 grams)
Subtotal 50.9 oz (1517 grams)

Total Base Weight
201.84 oz or 12.61 lbs (5772 grams)

I weighed all the smaller gear with a gram scale to get the most accurate weight and the larger gear I used the company’s given weight so there is a tiny discrepancy in the in grams vs oz on some items which were only given in one unit or the other so bear with me that the math isn’t exact.

12.6 lbs is a pretty acceptable number for me considering I’m carrying 3.2 lbs of non essential camera gear and extra batteries. If I were on one if the big trails my base weight would be under 10 lbs!
Edit: I forgot a few pairs of extra socks so add a few ounces on this. I don’t feel like recalculating everything 🙂