Tag Archives: pct

Day 34. Done! Oh Arizona, it’s Been Real.

4/9/15

Mile 773 to 801. 2 miles on highway 89, 28 on trail. 30 miles. 

Woke up early and was out of my room and waking down highway 89 at 6:10. 2 mile a road walk to the AZT trailhead. It was very cold. Maybe upper teens? My hands and face were painfully cold and as I walked, moisture from my breath collected on my mustache and froze into little ice balls that I occasionally picked off.   

 

The morning finally warmed up a bit as the sun rose among the ponderosa pines. I was just smashing the miles again. Another flat day for the finale. I walked down a wash for most of the morning and it finally opened up into a sagebrush flat with a view of the vermillion cliffs off in the distance. That is Utah! I can see the end!  

  Original gangster trans fat

Original gangster saturated fat

Oh my god cholesterol!!!

 Utah in the distance!

For the rest of the day these beautiful rocks got closer and closer. I thought the AZT ended in some scrubby desert in the middle of nowhere. But the trail began to head down a hill and then some switchbacks with an insane view of the beautiful vermillion cliffs the whole way. It was so beautiful. Birds were chirping and the wind had stopped. It was dead still and I was in awe of the last of the AZT.  

                       

As I made it to the terminus I looked around for a monument like the mexican border one but never saw one! Maybe I’m an idiot but I didn’t find one. As soon as I reached the parking lot I heard someone say, “Woody!?” It’s Coughee! He’s been hiking around the area and says its just insane everywhere. I got to the terminus much faster than I had expected. I told Coughee I’d be there 4-5 PM so I was surprised to see him when I got there at 2 PM. 30 miles by 2. The last half of the trail is a moving sidewalk. I’m done! I can’t believe it! It seems so long ago I started but at the same time not. The terrain was so different along the way that it seemed I was in totally different places than just Arizona. 34 days. 1 day faster than my goal, but since I had to skip the snowy area on the north rim I was spot on with my goal. 
We’re heading over to Zion national park to meet up with Twinkle, Rice Krispies, Big Sauce and Guthrie who we hike the PCT with last year. A bunch of them are doing a 100 k race tomorrow. As we pay the fee to get into Zion we have no idea what we’re about to drive through. The place is just out of this world. Massive pink and red monoliths, thousands of feet high. It’s like a gigantic red Yosemite valley. I had no idea this place existed. I have to get back here some day just for this park. Coughee and me both just looked out the windows with our mouths agape. The layered rock was decorated and had pines growing very sparsely among the cracks in the cliffs. It’s a park like no other.   

         

Meet up with our buddies at a sick campsite in BLM land next to a river lined with cottonwoods and surrounded by beautiful mesas. What a way to end this trip!

 Left to right: Coughee, Guthrie, Big Sauce, Twinkle, Me, and Rice Krispies.

Thanks so much for following along with my adventure! There will surely be more to come. If anyone has any questions about the AZT please feel free to ask me on this site or by emailing me at mberger3@mix.wvu.edu

Day 28. Fresh Prints of El Bear and Attempt to Summit Humphreys Peak.

Miles. 10. Some on AZT some off.
We slept in until about 7:30 because it was really cold and I wanted to wait for the sun to warm the area. It sure did get very cold last night. Enough to completely freeze the top of a small pond that was liquid last night. I stayed pretty warm until about 4 AM when I started getting chilly even with all of my clothing on.  

 Oh the aspen.

We ate breakfast pretty quick, jammed in the Guthmobile and drove to the trailhead. It is about a 9 mile hike one way to the summit of Humphreys Peak at 12,637 feet. We leave all our camping gear and only take cameras, food and water so we can cruise up the mountain. It’s easy hiking up the trail almost all the way until we hit snow. In the first large patches of snow we see some relatively fresh paw prints from a very large black bear! 

   

We get to a trail register and were only the second group to hike this trail this year. The last group was back in mid February. Then the trail gradually becomes completely snow covered, occasionally snow free on the south facing parts of the tail. The whole area is covered in many feet of snow. It’s early in the morning so it’s hard and crunchy so we can walk on it like a smooth rock free path. Hopefully it won’t get all soft and become posthole city like the Sierra Nevada did in the afternoon on the PCT. 

   

As were walking on the snow we hear a loud fluttering sound and in a tree is a big dusky grouse! Also called a blue grouse, they live on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and were introduced into the San Francisco Peaks back in the 70s! Apparently that was a success because they’re still here! And beautiful birds! This guy was flaunting his tail feathers and stayed put so I could take lots of pictures! 

       

We finally get up to the saddle that looks down into the eroded caldera of the stratovolcano that is the San Francisco Peaks and the views are amazing. It’s looks just like the Sierra Nevada on the PCT except instead of being a chain of mountains, it’s a ring of mountain peaks with lots of tiny volcanic hills off in the distance. You can also see flagstaff way down there, pretty small city really!  

     

The saddle is mostly open and free of snow in an area where we take lots of pictures and eat some food. It’s also covered in Rocky Mountain bristlecone pines! A distinct population, the only one in Arizona, the next closest place they grow is hundred of miles away in central Colorado! I always wonder how the hell such populations of alpine plants get so far apart. Maybe they grew everywhere In between during the ice age and got stranded at colder areas as the world warmed up? Or by some miracle the seeds got carried hundreds and hundreds of miles by some extremely serious wind, or a very alpine loving seed carrying bird that didn’t feel like eating the seeds but dropped them 500 miles later? Sure pine seeds have a little wing on them so they flutter around in the wind but they’re really a short distance dispersal kind of seed. Anyway, somehow they’re here and it’s amazing!  

 

We start walking across the mountains towards the peak and it didn’t take too long to figure out this was not looking very safe. The trail is buried in 6-8 feet of snow in some areas and it is crazy steep snow. Almost sheer drop. One slip and you’re sliding down the mountain a slamming into trees on the way down. There’s no way you could stop yourself. A little farther and we can see where a recent avalanche has plowed through some sorry looking trees. The trail goes right thorough this avalanche chute. On top of this the snow has a crust about half an inch thick and underneath it’s all dry powder for feet. I can stick my trekking pole all the way down until it’s buried with little resistance. This seems avalanchey to me. Easily moved powder feet deep. We unanimously agree not to keep going towards the peak. We really all want to be on the highest mountain in Arizona but we don’t feel like risking ourselves to do it. We made it up to 11,000 feet and got some killer views so we are satisfied! It’s okay to turn around. We eat a bunch of food and hang out at the saddle for an hour or so.  

 Avalanche wiped out some trees down thar.  

That sign be buried! 

  

 The snow is deep and steep! 

 

We head down the mountain and are postholing regularly but nothing as bad as the PCT. The snow has all become soft and it takes much more energy to walk on. We pass where the grouse was and he’s still flaunting sassily in his tree. We make it down the mountain with soaking wet feet and pass a few day hikers near the bottom of the trail. We cram into Guthrie’s car and head into town for a celebratory feast at McDonalds. Big Mac, 2 pies and an ice cream cone for me! Guthrie takes off to find a place to camp and Michael and me hit up the grocery store. I get a dozen eggs and an angel food cake. We book a room back at the Motel DuBeau after the Grand Canyon hostel messed our reservation up. I eat more than half the angel food cake and write this! What a kick ass day! ALSO! My amigo Coughee may be coming around soon to hike the Grand Canyon with me! Hell yea!  

 

Day 20. To Pine!

3/26/15
Mile 434 to 464. 30 trail miles plus 1 more to Pine on highway 87. 

I dreamt about eating a cheeseburger and fries covered in malt vinegar. I’ve been craving malt vinegar so much lately. What a weird thing to crave right? It got quite breezy during the night but other than that it was a good nights sleep. I’m sleeping better almost every night out here which is nice! Not to mention I go to sleep at 7 pm and wake up at 6 am! 11 hours of sleep every night! It’s really the best. I love mornings, it’s cool out, you can walk fast without getting too hot and I just like the light. At home I never see the sun rise. I’d usually sleep in until 11 am at least every day and stay awake until 2 or 3 am. Out here I’m back in the natural human cycle be awake during daylight and sleep when it’s dark.  

 

Hit the trail at 6:30 and had a fairly large and frustrating downhill that was steep, rocky and overgrown with thorny plants again. Lucky this was only a couple miles. The trail then hit the East Verde River, the largest river I’ve seen yet in Arizona. It was possible to not get my feet wet with a lucky trekking pole vault into a rock and to the other side where there was a peppermint plant growing on the bank! Smelled so good. 
   Came across this horse near the river. He smelled really bad and started following me for a bit. 

   

Then the trail went steeply up towards a mesa that I’d be on much of the day. It looked like beautiful walking looking at the topographic map, smooth very slowly climbing almost all day. The trail disappeared into a scree field at one point and I just could not find any cairns so I pulled out my GPS app that had been spot on every time about where the trail was in relation to where I was… until now. According to the GPS this is the trail!  

 The trail? Probably not.

I finally figured it out after climbing up this mountain thingy and saw the trail off to the east. At the top of the climb the trail did indeed become a wonderfully flat open area for miles and miles! Also cows were everywhere and they make their own trails. A lot more cows hike the AZT than backpackers do so they’re the ones keeping the trail looking trail like, trampling down the plants that grow on the trail to make it visible. The downside to this is cows also like to go wherever the hell the want. So there are all kinds of trails all equally worn going in all directions. The AZT trail builders solved this problem by building cairns to mark the trail. There have been cairns in other sections here and there but they did a marvelous job in this section with cairn building. You can almost always see the next one in the distance so you can ignore the cow trails going all over. Just keep finding the cairns! A bad part about this section however is its just all rocks. The trail is flat elevation wise but it’s rocksss. Rocks the size of softballs, but sharp and jagged. Ankle twisters and balance killers.  

  Nice Mesa!  A cairn made with weird rocks.  

The rocks. Worse than Rocksylvania! Just not as long.

Later in the day the trail got steep for a mile or two and once again all rocks! You could still make good time but I could feel blisters starting to form on my heels from not being able to get a solid foothold on a rock, as it rolled underneath my foot would smack the ground or other rocks and this constant beating did finally give me my first blisters of the trail. They’re pretty small, but still unwelcome.  

 This steep scree field IS the trail. It’s like this for a good long climb.

Almost all of the final 12 miles in passage 26 were on roads. After the Mazatzal area I was perfectly fine with this. Wide open and flat, no thorns near me. I crushed these final miles to Pine, listening to Gustav Holst’s “Mars” which seemed so appropriate with the red rocky plains all around. 
   That’s some good camouflage!

They puff up to look bigger when you pick them up. They don’t even run! He just let me pick him right up off the rock!   Easter chocolate or dried mud?

 This is one of those moments that I truly love. Maybe just leaves to you, but I immediately recognized these leaves as a Mertensia species, often called bluebells. I have some I grew from seeds at my house in Ohio and when you care for a plant from seed to  flower you really know it! Sure enough a few hundred feet later I saw a blooming bluebell plant. The thing is they’re never really common, and these two species are in opposite habitats on different sides of the country! I love it!

 I made it to the highway at 4:30 and began the 1 mile walk to THAT Brewery whom I called earlier and booked the last cabin they had for the night! I tried hitching the mile walk but had no takers even though about 30 cars passed me. When I got to the brewery I payed for my room, just $35 a night on weeknights! It’s got just about everything I want like a TV with cable, shower, AC, queen bed, microwave, fridge and all the normal hotel stuff! Plus it’s 50 feet from a BREWERY. I took a shower and then went right for the food they brewery serves. Got a burger with fries which I covered with malt vinegar. My dream realized. Also got their signature beer and it was good! And just $3! This place rules! Zero tomorrow. ­čÖé
   

 If I didn’t have toenails this would have hurt.

Day 13. Angry at Quail.

Mile 265 to 302. 37 miles.
It rained on and off all night and I decided to get up even earlier today, before it was even light out. It stayed warm during the night because of cloud cover and because this is the lowest point on the AZT. I was damp all night but slept okay. I ate and packed up my soaking wet gear and was on trail by 6:15.
The first few hours of the morning it was pretty rainy, but I could see patches of blue sky around and it was warm so I didn’t mind it at all. You can almost see the plants rejoicing. The saguaros looked a bit inflated and more blue in color when wet. The cholla and hedgehog cacti are full of buds ready to bloom and a species of Tradescantia is blooming away on gravelly hillsides. This was surprising to me because all the Tradescantia species I know from the eastern US like to grow in really damp places like creek beds!┬á

10418852_10204015651017923_984991197836881798_nhedgehog cactus blooming!

I saw a bunch of vultures hanging out with their pals on some rocks and they’d keep flying away when I got close, only to fly away again when the trail kept leading me to their new spot. We leapfrogged for a mile or two this way. I also kept catching a whiff of dead animals all day. Either there is a lot of dead stuff around or that bird corpse water is sweating out of me.

The sky eventually cleared and it quickly got very hot and humid. It felt like the middle of summer in Ohio! Yet this is winter still. Crazy to think it. Not for long though. 

At mile 15.9 of the passage you can either walk to the Gila River, which is very muddy and brown, for water or walk .3 miles up a wash to Red Mountain Seep, which my water repot says “monitoring bucket full.” I’m imagining a small pail filled with water and bees swarming around it like they seem to do at any source of water. I decided to take a risk and walk up the wash towards the seep.
Then I saw a lady and a kid in the wash! People?! Are they hiking? I said hi and the lady says, “Hi! Oh! Wait, I know you! You’re Sheriff Woody!” That I am! Her trail name is India and she’s out for a hike with her son and husband. She’s been following my pictures on Instagram! Crazy! I actually had this happen once on the PCT last year too! Instagram has power.
I chugged a liter and then took two more from the bucket which is a buried 10 or so gallon bucket with holes drilled in the side so water seeps in and fills it. It is kinda brown and lots of insects are in it but it’s so much nicer than what I’ve seen. Tastes okay too. Almost cold!
I said bye to India and her family as they were southbound on the passage. They also said about 5 people were just ahead of me! And would be zeroing in Superior so I will catch someone finally! 

paloverde tree

As the trail leaves the wash it goes up a long steep hill into magnificent views of what I always imagined Arizona looked like. Big red rock spires and cliffs, blue skies patched with white clouds and full sun. Saguaro all over, paloverde giving me shade. It’s so pretty! I eat lunch in the shade.

 On the ridge there were little pockets of different plant life that get more moisture by being shades much of the day by the tall rock walls and because any rain that hits them goes right down the side to these plants. There was a beautiful red sage plant that grew there as well as miners lettuce! A kind of spring beauty that is edible. I munched a bunch of them down. They were delicious! A lot like spinach, with the same texture and similar taste. 

beautiful red sage species

miners lettuce

The rest of the day seemed to drag on despite being so pretty with big vistas. I just couldn’t go as fast as yesterday due to tougher terrain. The at about┬á3 pm┬áI looked at my GPS app. 12 miles to go. No, no, no. I should only have like 5 more miles to picket post trail head. I looked back at my databook. Picket post trailhead mile 294.9. Then water report. Mile 301.6. GPS app… Is right. I have an old databook I borrowed. FUCK!!! About 7 miles extra. It will be almost dark if I even make it today. But no, I’m freaking getting to Superior tonight over my dead feet! I let out a loud yell of just the AGHHHHHH feeling and it echoed very nicely throughout the canyon.

I ate a bunch of snickers and rice crispes to fuel me, then downed an instant Starbucks coffee to energize me and I put in my music and took off. Mumbling to myself in frustration and not really listening to the music. I keep it low usually so I can still hear what’s going on around me for example hearing a rattlesnake near me. A few minutes later a group of quail explode into flight a few feet away from me and scare the shit out of me as they often do. “Fuck you guys!” I yell at them. Then I came to the sudden realization that I’m angry at quail. This literally made me laugh out loud. I’m┬áangry at quail.┬áIf someone asked you what was a frustrating party of the day for you it’d probably be traffic or work related crap, but here I am, walking through the Arizona wilderness angry that some birds flew up and startled me. This is the shit I have to deal with, and this laughing at myself actually put me back in a good mood.┬á

I cruised in down the mountain as quickly as I could but my feet were starting to hurt even with ibuprofen. After a few miles I ran into a biker who was heading up the mountain on to take pictures. We chat a minute and then I continue in down.
I run into a Grand Enchantment Trail thru hiker named Hitch about 3 miles from the trailhead and we chat a few minutes. Sounds like another fun trail!
A few miles from the trailhead I try calling the copper village motel a few times with no luck in my shitty sprint service. Then finally about a mile from the trailhead I get 2 bars on an extended network and am able to call and arrange for a pick up in 20 minutes!!! I’m going to be in a bed tonight! And have a shower and watch TV! I’m so excited! And there are other people in town! I’m so tired though I may end up zeroing tomorrow which will mean I’m still a day behind the “pack” of about 5 or 6 people.
John picks me up and takes me to the motel which has very nice rooms and a hiker rate! I take a shower, walk over to the dollar store across the street and buy all kinds of delicious snack and microwaveable food. I binge and watch TV. I stay wide awake until 2 AM because of the caffeine today, feeling like I can’t breathe unless I think about breathing. Told you that stuff messes me up unless I’m moving.

Day 12. The Taste of Death and a Recipe for Miles.

Mile 229 to 265. 36 miles.
Woke up a little earlier around 6 am. I actually slept really well, despite being spooked by the big critter last night. Pretty sure it was a cow. Heard a bunch of poor wills, a great horned owl and a coyote howling.
Hit the trail at 6:40 and wasn’t feeling super good. I had just that liter of dead corpse, killer bee swarming water to drink for the 7.5 miles to the cache that I really hoped had water. About 4 miles of hiking I was getting really thirsty and I had missed a cow pond that was supposedly right on trail. I sure as hell wasn’t walking back to it. I did see a mule deer in that area though, first of many probably. 
So, the liter of water I had. I filtered it with my sawyer squeeze so it should be okay! I won’t get sick, I think. But I was wary of it. Would the filter get any gross taste out? Sure no microbes would be in it but all the filthy dead smell? I’m not sure. So I drank it because I was real thirsty. I downed about third of the liter and I will not soon forget it. It was fucking bird corpse tea that had been brewing in the desert sun. It tasted like a rotting body, just as I feared. The taste stayed in my mouth too. It was REALLY bad water. The worst I’ve ever had to drink. It made my stomach turn and feel bad. I think just because of the flavor and thought of what it was I just drank, not that it was actually going to hurt me. 
So I was very reluctant to drink any more of it. I thought I could make it to the cache without drinking any. It was rough though, I was really thirsty and started getting dizzy and lightheaded by the time I got to the cache. But oh the cache was the turning point today. There was water! Good water! So I filled up my bottles and chugged a liter on site. There really was quite little public water, just a few gallons maybe. Almost all of it there had people’s names on the gallons. I also donated about a pound and a half of snacks that I had way too much of. A bunch of fruit snacks, snickers, etc. ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐I don’t know what this bush is but it is one of the best smelling flowers on earth. Like Easter candy or something.´╗┐Devils claw seed pod! They hook on to the legs of cattle and deer and disperse seds as they walk and it breaks down.

I also put a caffeine crystal lite in my water. Caffeine really hits me hard. I normally can’t drink it without getting jittery or anxious, but if I’m on the move, it really helps. So I look at the map and see that it’s really good terrain for cruising, it’s also really cloudy and cool. This with the caffeine, all the water I need and lots of food make for the perfect recipe for big miles.
So I cruise on out into the flat lands called the tortilla mountains, which as their name implies are about as mountainous as a tortilla. The place was almost dead flat! I was moving nearly 4 mph out there! Listening to Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, MGMT, and other uppity high energy songs also kept my morale high. By noon I had already gone 16.5 miles! I though oh hell I’m going to go over 30 today fo sho. Maybe even make it to the Gila River. ´╗┐

A parasitic plant in the broomrape family´╗┐´╗┐!´╗┐´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐a widdle baby saguaro!´╗┐this is a massive cow killer species. Almost 2 inches long!

The day went by pretty fast and around 4 pm it started raining again. I was up on an exposed ridge for a few miles and was pelted by strong winds and light rain. This lasted about 30 minutes as usual and then the sun even peaked out for just a few! Enough for me to takes some neat photos. At 5 pm I ran into my first and only human of the day. Some guy walking up the mountain with a pistol and a camo fanny pack. ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐

I made it to the kelvin bride over the Gila River at 6 pm. It’s also where I’m camping tonight because it was getting dark and started raining again. It’s been lightly raining for about an hour now and it’s an easy way out of it. I just hope no hoodlums come down here. 
36 miles in 11 hours and 20 minutes! That’s 3.18 mph for the whole day including breaks! You still got it Woody! Superior tomorrow night if I can pull of 30 miles tomorrow. 
Well exactly what I didn’t want to happen happened. At About 7:30 PM a car with loud music came flying on to the bridge with their brights on, parked on the bridge right over me and the people got out, yelled and started throwing shit into the river and on the ground near where I was trying to sleep. They fucked around about 5 minutes and then did a burnout on the bridge and took off. I’m just glad they didn’t come down under the bridge. I thought for sure they were. 
I said fuck this, packed up all my gear and walked back up the trail a little ways with my headlamp and set up my shelter near he trail. I saw an owl in a tree and man, do their eyes reflect light! 
I hate camping near roads or towns but I’m too tired to keep walking the trail which follows roads through town a few more miles. There is also a very active railroad by the river. Ughhh. I wish I was camping somewhere in the wild. 
It also stopped raining and it looks like it rained enough to soak the ground a bit! Should make for some increased greenery! A little silver lining to the crappy turn of events. Back to sleep for me. 

Day 11. The Marathon Burrito.

Mile 201 to 229. 28 miles.
Woke up and got my stuff packed. Marney came out and asked what I’d like to eat from the Mexican restaurant for breakfast. They told me about a huge breakfast burrito last night so I ordered that. Jim swung by and picked me up to go get the food. We brought it back to the RV and ate in there. This burrito is a monster. It puts chipotle burritos to shame in size. The thing must weigh at least 2 maybe 2 1/2 lbs. I can only eat less than half of it before I’m stuffed so I wrap the rest in foil and save it for he trail. Jim showed me videos of him and his buds rock crawling in their jeeps as we ate. ´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐

´╗┐We set off for the trailhead. I hit the trail at 7:40 and cruised on through Oracle State Park. Just before the tiger mine trailhead I saw an odd colored lump on the side of the road. It’s a Gila monster! This guy is a little skinnier and smaller than the first but still so cool! ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐sweet sweet water cache

I fill up on water at the cache by the trailhead and keep on cruising. I come across a big bunch of people doing trail maintenance and chat with them for a moment and say thanks. Then I take a 20 minute break to finish off that burrito around 11 am. Only a few minutes to gobble the rest and then some time to let it digest so I don’t puke the thing while hiking. 
I thought the walk today would be flat and hot and boring but was I wrong! The black hills are beautiful. Lots of wildflowers everywhere, saguaros here and there and dominated by teddy bear cholla. The walk was mostly rolling hills and it was cloudy most of the day so I didn’t get too hot! Saw some super fast fat little lizards that I haven’t gotten a good look at yet. Too fast to identify!´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐desert mariposa lily´╗┐´╗┐cactus wren nest!

hmmm . Phallic. ´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐poppies!

Around 2 pm I was stopped in my tracks by a fat thing moving in my peripheral vision. ANOTHER Gila monster! This guy was less than a foot from the trail in the open digging a little hole out. I didn’t even see it till it moved! They really do have good camouflage for this red rocked desert. I got some great photos and videos of this guy since he was in the open! ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐

Not 2 minutes after taking pictures of the 3rd Gila monster it started to rain. And it rained pretty hard for about 30 minutes, just enough to moisten the ground but not soak in. It felt very good to cool off and the desert came alive with smells. Smells like rain on asphalt, earthy soil smells, and´╗┐ the smell of all kinds of vegetation. Minty smells, leafy smells, smells I’ve never smelled before. It was really neat! 
After awhile I was running low on water and was pretty sure I was close to beehive springs which is right on trail. I still had a liter left but wanted to save it just in case the place was dry. Once I got to where my data book said it was and I couldn’t see it anywhere I got nervous. I was really thirsty and didn’t want to down the last of my water without finding more. Literally where my book said the water should be there was a cow skeleton with some of the flesh still on. Looks like his data book lied too. To make things more frustrating, the air is filled with little flying aphids. They keep flying into my eyes and dying and I can’t get their little corpses out and I also keep breathing them in and eating them. Come on!!!´╗┐

´╗┐

Finally I looked at the water report and there was a .9 mile discrepancy in the same water source. Ughh. Had me worried. So I walked to where the water report said the water was and found it! A whole thing filled with water! As I got closer I see why it’s called beehive spring. The place is just swarming with bees trying to get some water. Then I look into the tank. Green, nasty ass water filled with drowning bees and a rotting bird corpse. This is the Arizona Trail water I heard about! I filtered a liter of the water and it actually came out looking nice. Haven’t drank any yet though. ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐rotting bird in the water covered with bees´╗┐´╗┐before filter´╗┐after filter

I walked about another half mile to where the trail leaves the wash and set up camp. 28 miles and the only food I ate today was that burrito and donut from circle k. That freaking burrito fueled 28 miles of backpacking. I didn’t even open my food bag until camp was set up. 
I take some pictures of the sunset and now I’m in my shelter. I decided to set it up because it’s still cloudy and I heard it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. ´╗┐

´╗┐Not bad right?

As I am writing this entry there is some big ass creature right outside my tarp walking way too close for my comfort and taking in big sniffing noises. It’s freaking me out pretty good. I yelled and shook the tarp and that made it stop moving but I think it’s still around. Please just be a cow. Pleeeease just be a cow. I’m glad I’m in my tarp tonight. Not that a thin wall of fabric is going to save me but it makes you feel better that you’re in here, and it’s out there. Wish I wasn’t alone. 

Day 10. The Oracle Ridge

3/16/15

Mile 179 to 201. 22 miles.
Around 10 PM the wind really started blasting but luckily I was sheltered from most of it by rocks on the prevailing sides. The tree above me though was really moving and making noise. The wind died down around 3 AM and I slept a little better after that. Out here you wake up a lot at night just from sounds or wind and I often check what time it is, hoping it’s almost morning. I mean I sleep almost 12 hours a night every night which is so much more than what my body is used to so by 3 AM I am really just waiting for the sun. I was a bit nervous throughout the night since it was my first night alone and I was cowboy camping in an area I knew had high mountain lion and bear activity, but nothing ever bothered me. 
I hit the trail at 6:50, glad to be back in daylight and cruised up a thousand feet or so into the wilderness of rock trail. It’s a beautiful winding trail through large boulders and rock formations and the area is littered with streams and deep pools of water, all a bit brown from the ponderosa pine’s tannic acid leaching into the water. Still tastes great though! I also saw what I thought might be mountain lion tracks going in the opposite direction of me in the trail that appeared regularly for about a half a mile and then disappeared. ´╗┐

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I got to the trailhead and road that leads into the tiny community of Summerhaven. After a half mile or so of road walking I saw a sign that said PIZZA. Whelp, I want something. I walked up to the Cookie Cabin which is a little bakery that has stuff like cookies of course, pizza, hot dogs, etc. They didn’t open until 10 and it was 9:45 so I chilled on their patio until they opened. I got a bratwurst on a pretzel bun with cheese and onion and a bag of chips for a good price and stuffed my face with the delicious protein. They also let me charge my phone and they even filled my water bottles for me. Very hiker friendly apparently! ´╗┐

´╗┐the cookie cabin!

I then kept on walking down the road until it hit the oracle ridge trailhead. From then on out it was a beautiful hike down the ridge with killer views on both sides! Off to the left of the ridge heading north I saw a bunch of buildings and domes and knew just what it was! It’s biosphere 2! The enclosed ecosystem meant to mimic biosphere 1 (the earth) was the site for many different experiments such as extraterrestrial bio domes on other planets and seeing if people could survive cut off from the outside world for 2 years. Very cool, I knew it was somewhere along the AZT.´╗┐

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´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐Coues deer buck just watched me walk by. They’re a tiny white tailed deer subspecies.´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐now that’s just a good cacti cluster´╗┐´╗┐I’m not sure what this shrub is but its flowers are beautiful and are so intensely sweet smelling it’s almost nauseating.´╗┐

When I was about 5 miles from the American flag trailhead I called Jim and Marney, owners of the Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, who I was told would pick up hikers, take them to post office and then to their motel, and back to the trail the next day! Jim said he would be happy to come get me but that all the rooms were booked, but if I wanted I could camp in their back yard. I said sure! I needed to pick up my box from the post office anyway. 
I got to the trail head and waited for their arrival. Just on time, Jim and Marney pulled up in a jacked up jeep rock crawler and said hop in! They looked like cool people already. They also had an ice cold water bottle still partially frozen waiting for me! They took me to the post office and then to circle K where I bought a pint of half baked Ben and Jerry’s and a big ass donut. Then we went back to their place and they chilled with me in the backyard for a bit. I downed the ice cream and we checked out the hiker box. Lots of goodies here. A few 2 liters that were just opened yesterday and a whole bag of lays potato chips! I sat and had me some purple fanta and listened to Marney tell stories of the javelinas, bobcats and coatimundis that have been in their yard. She has a few horse in a barn right next to us and she rides them on the AZT frequently. She also told of a story where a bear attacked a person in the camp next to her near Kentucky Camp! 
Jim swings by a little later and says he fixed a water leak in their RV if I want to stay in that instead of the yard. Sure! It has a TV, DVD player, shower, heat, a nice bed and everything anyone would need. I charge my stuff and get talking to Jim. He’s all about having fun, he’s obsessed with the sport of rock crawling and he’s got a bunch of friends who do it with him. He’s also got a lot of mechanical experience and his friends all have machine shops. These guys literally machine their own car parts and make crazy modified jeeps for the sole purpose of rock crawling up flowing waterfalls and dry washes. He’s so passionate about it that I get excited about it too. He’s naming all these parts he’s modified that I don’t even know the name of even less the function of. He also modifies bikes and sand cars for flying up the dunes in the west. Sounds like a blast. 
He also is a locksmith and owns his own high end locksmith business alongside owning the motel. He tells me how he used make vault locks for many of the banks in Arizona and that he also made all the locks for biosphere 2! He used to go over there all the time and walk around the different biomes and had keys to every door in the building. So freaking cool. All of his other friends in this small town seemed to work there too. Doing different maintenance work on call. Pretty tight community here! Also nice to have a billionaire’s project on your hometown. 
I went through my resupply and got ready for tomorrow’s hike. Its gunna be flat and hot and I’m going to try and push some serious miles. I’ve been trying to catch up with someone who has been leaving Brooks Cascadia shoe prints since day 1. I watched the movie Spider-Man on DVD and am about to go to sleep. There is a great horned owl hooting in a tree right by me. I got a good picture of it earlier in my canon camera. Jim says yea there are two of these things that have lived in my trees for years and they keep fucking on my roof.  

Day 9. On my own!

Mile 173 to 179 + 3 miles up Sabino Canyon. 9 miles. 
Woke up to Sagan leaping on me wanting to be pet around 6 am. Todd made some coffee and Irish oats with figs and agave nectar. So freaking good and filling. ´╗┐

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Todd offered to take me back up the terrible Redington pass road but I didn’t want to make him take his truck up there again. I’m not kidding, it is a BEAT road. He suggested I take the Sabino canyon route up. Its very popular with locals, especially since it’s a weekend. It’s a very scenic steep climb up to the AZT but you walk past tons of pools, waterfalls, saguaros, etc. I say sure! It skips some trail miles for sure but I am no purist. I am out here to have fun and enjoy the beauty of Arizona, if someone has a problem with that, then they can shove it. ­čśŐ
Then we went out for some supplies. When we got back I packed up my bag to get ready. I say bye to Bill Muarry as she leaves for the Tucson hostel because she needs to wait a day for her flight back home as her spring break ends.
Todd takes me towards Sabino canyon and on the way we stop at a famous Sonoran Dog restaurant. A Sonoran dog is a hotdog wrapped in bacon on a bun with mayo and mustard, with pico de gallo and onions on top. It was absolutely delicious. 
We hit the Sabino canyon area around noon and I said bye to Todd and thanked him for some of the most epic trail magic I’ve ever experienced. At the park you can either walk up a few miles of burning pavement, or for $8 take a tram up with a guided tour telling you about all the plants and animals in the area. Let’s think on that… Yea I took the tram. ´╗┐

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Once I hit the top of the tram ride I was the only one of 40 or so people who took the tram who actually got off it. I switched into my Merica shorts which made some folks next to me snicker. Then it was climbing all day. Went up about 3500 feet or so along a stream mostly and called it a day just after Romero pass on a ledge off the trail nestled in some big rocks which block the wind. Just big enough for a cowboy camper and soft duff underneath from a tree leaning over the spot. This is a killer campsite. I am a little nervous though, first night out here all alone and cowboy camping. But it was just too good to pass up! ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐nice sunset at my site!´╗┐my view falling alseep

Day 7. A Magical Friday the 13th in Saguaro.

Mile 122 to 138. 16 miles.

This was my favorite day on the trail so far. So much wildlife! Woke up to the dog running around and the family’s kids talking. Drank a Pepsi, ate and then hit the trail. The dog followed us up the trail a ways until she came across an all you can eat horse shit buffet. She literally was swallowing big horse turds. Nasty, but it stopped her from following us.´╗┐

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Since we only have 16 miles to walk today we decided we will take our time through saguaro national park with lots of breaks and pictures. I put away one trekking pole and had my big canon PowerShot sx 50 hs with a raynox 250 macro lens on for close ups. Holy balls, this was the right day to do this. ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐ocotillo about to bloom´╗┐desert morning 

The morning was cool and wildflowers were everywhere. We ran into 2 older guys walking their dog near a trailhead and we got talking. Turns out one of these guys and Bill Muarry went to the exact same high school in Pennsylvania, but 64 years apart. Crazy small world!
We got to Rincon creek which was still flowing nicely and took a break. Less than a mile after that we came across a big western diamondback rattlesnake stretched out next to the trail! I got close and took some pictures and it didn’t move a muscle. I was just a few feet from him and its tongue never came out and I couldn’t see it breathing. Looked like he dried out and died… Until I poked him with my trekking pole and out popped his tongue! But still didn’t move an inch or rattle. Then I got closer with my big camera and he moved into coils and backed up towards some prickly pears. He gave out a hiss but no rattling. Took a bunch of pics and a video then we went our separate ways. ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐is he alive´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐

We saw a few desert cottontails, a ground squirrel and some lizards in the flat areas around hope camp. Then we saw this big leggy creepy creature walk by us. When it stopped moving we saw that it was a huge jackrabbit! They are so goofy looking! Like a normal rabbit got stretched in every way. And the way it moved was just creepy looking! Hunched over and moving fast like some golem. ´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐normal desert cottontail ´╗┐creepy ass jackrabbit.

Then we started up the mountainside and the park just came alive. Flowed everywhere! Saguaros everywhere! It’s insanely beautiful. It also started getting really hot. We could feel ourselves roasting in the sun. The only shade most of the day was the narrow strips of shade behind large saguaros. These cacti are amazing. They’re just massive and stand there perfectly balanced no matter how weird their branches twist out of them. They feel like a hard plastic with a waxy coating, the spines stiff and sharp but easily avoided. ´╗┐´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐gilded flicker on the lookout!´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐lupine ´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐chia!´╗┐´╗┐delphinium´╗┐´╗┐first blooming ocotillo I’ve seen! Yall a week or so behind will probably see tons! ´╗┐´╗┐the only aloe plant I ever saw in saguaro´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐

Around 1 pm or so it started getting cloudy, giving us a break from the burning sun. We walked along pretty mountainsides and occasionally crossed happily running streams not in our data book. Found a cute little horny toad! ´╗┐

´╗┐Like a little dinosaur

Then it happened. Bill Muarry said the words I needed to hear. Gila monster! Right on the trail! I was so freaking stoked. A lifetime goal to see a Gila monster was finally achieved! And he was a big fatty! I got some good pictures and video with my big camera which I so conveniently decided to have on hand all day! They’re a fat, slow lizard and only one of two venomous lizards on earth. The other being the very similar mexican beaded lizard. The bite won’t kill you but it will hurt like no other. Also to be bitten you’d have to try and grab one. They are quick to go away from you as the fella we saw today did. Now I just need to see a scorpion and a tarantula and I’ll be satisfied for a long time.´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐just walking down the tail! 

We finally made it to grass shack camp at about 3 pm just as it started to rain a little. It’s got a nice sized stream full and running right next to it. We met another thru hiker already set up here named Jules. She’s a nice gal who’s out to enjoy all the beauty out here. She also saw TWO Gila monsters today! We ate some food together and about an hour later Slugger showed up. He also saw two Gila monsters today! Must be a nice day for them! Or there are just lots here. 
As the rest of the crew chatted I decided I would use the remaining daylight to look for more critters under rocks, and boy did that produce!!! I found some crazy mole crickets and these two killer dreaming awesome centipedes. Then I flipped a big rock and bam! Scorpion! And a black widow spider! Under the same rock! Some peoples nightmare, my dream! Took some pics of them and kept flipping rocks. Bill Muarry and Slugger walked around with me enjoying the finds as well! Found probably 10 scorpions in this little area in just a few minutes! Also lots of other beetles, spiders and lizards. Talk about an awesome wildlife day! Especially venomous animals! Rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, centipedes, scorpions and black widows, got them all! 
Enjoy the pictures!!! ­čÖé´╗┐

´╗┐´╗┐mole cricket!´╗┐´╗┐these are called cow killers. They look like big red fuzzy ants but are actually wingless wasps that parasitize other ground nesting wasps. And they pack an otherworldly sting.´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐black widow! ´╗┐´╗┐how cool is that!?´╗┐´╗┐i love them!´╗┐

Day 2. The Arizona Weather is Confused.


3/8/15

Mile 11 to mile 37. 26 mile day. Our first marathon! 

Woke up at 6:20 after some reasonably good sleep. 12 hours of off and on sleep only bothered by the fact that so much condensation has formed in my tarp that it actually rained ice cold water all over my bag and my face for much of the night causing me to get just a little clammy. Finally this stopped right before sunrise because all the condensation froze to the top of my tarp. It got pretty cold!´╗┐

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With hands freezing we packed up or ice laden shelters and got walking just before the sun rose over some distant mountains. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the air was crisp and clean with the smell of pine! 
The walk down from the miller peak area was very steep and finally gave way to some nice ponderosa pine forest and then down farther along a flowing creek that was lined with sycamores! Still saw some immigrant trash every now and then, a milk jug here, some candy spelled in Spanish over there. ´╗┐

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We were spooked when two quail or pheasants exploded into flight some 15 feet in front of us. It’s crazy how loud a bird can flap its wings. Before you can even register what just occurred, they’re long gone. Also saw a lot of cows around! 
We ate lunch near another creek and dried out gear out from the moisture last night. Then out of nowhere it got really windy and cloudy. A few minutes later it was raining. Not hard but annoying. Then it stopped for about a half hour and then it really started raining for about 20 minutes and then it was back to warm and sunny. Throughout the day it was on and off sprinkles and sun. ´╗┐´╗┐

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Drying the condensation at lunch.´╗┐

Most of the trail today was a beautiful open savannah. Grassland with trees spaced out from one another, none more than 20 feet tall. Water sources more numerous than in the data book. Lots of containers of water for cows, and every creek was flowing. 

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´╗┐´╗┐Manzanitas!´╗┐

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´╗┐´╗┐All listed water sources are flowing and full! 
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Set up camp around mile 37 and watched the sun go down. Body feeling pretty good, not one blister and just the usual sore feet after a long day. Patagonia tomorrow! Our first trail town! Here’s our campsite! ´╗┐´╗┐

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