The Arizona Trail

Passage 4: Temporal Gulch, Part 2

Day 6 – 5/12/17

Last day for this trip. I got up a little after 6AM and made my coffee and had the Mountain House granola with blueberries for breakfast. I still had plenty of water and was at about mile 10.5 of this passage. I had a long, committed climb ahead of me.

I wore my long sleeve shirt to start out the hike because it was still a little chilly in the morning. That went away very quickly after less than 30 minutes of uphill hiking, I stopped to take off the long sleeve and unzipped the bottom halves of my pants and then sprayed my pasty white skin down with plenty of sunscreen.

The climb to the top of this high point was pretty tiring and slow going, but I felt strong and energetic and just wanted to get to the Jeep. The trail/road was rocky and at points so steep the trail circumvented the slope through the trees. I made it to Walker Basin at about 8AM. At least, I think it was Walker Basin, or maybe Upper Walker Tank. I never really knew exactly where I was on the trail most of the time. It’s not like there were signs at most of the places coinciding with the maps. According to the sign, I only had a mile to go to the top!

Walker Basin

Shortly after I passed through Walker Basin, I came to somewhat of a Y in the trail. There was a wooden post with one of the small, square, metal AZT arrow signs completed faded from the sun and hanging by a piece of cattle guard wire that someone had used to keep it attached to the post. But it was just dangling there. Someone had also scratched an arrow into one side to make up for the faded sticker. It was very confusing which way it was pointing. Another scarecrow pointing in opposite directions. So, I went left.

What the shit is this?

I hiked on for a while, maybe half a mile, before I second guessed myself and turned around and went back to the Y. I kept thinking I was on the wrong trail again. This time I went right of the Y, but that only led to a small camp spot encircled with Junipers about 15 yards up that hill. Turned out I was on the correct trail. So I had to triple back. But before I left, I built a pile of rocks to mark the correct way. I also noticed that there were sun bleached branches laid across the path to the camp site someone had put down so people like me could avoid going that way. I think I was too concerned with the mangled sign to notice the branches.

Notice the branches across the path? I didn’t.

After that little faux pas of double guessing my pathfinding decisions, I increased my pace so as to make up for lost time. I finally reached the saddle that connects to Trail 136 at about 9:45AM.  The high point of the trail! Approximately 6,560 feet. I could look back at how far I had come and see Patagonia, the Canelo Hills, the Huachuca Mountains, and Mexico. It’s hard to explain what that feels like, to see all those hills and mountain tops where you were traversing just days prior. The word accomplishment comes to mind, but that’s not right.

I sat here and rested for about 15 minutes, took off my pack and hung it on a branch on an oak tree and ate jerky and trail mix. I afforded myself in drinking a little more water than while hiking, because according to the rusted metal AZT sign, I only had 5.5 miles to go! That knowledge gave me so much energy. I was so excited to get back to the Jeep I didn’t even write down trail notes. I obviously took pictures though.

From here, Trail 136 will bring you to higher elevations at Josephine Peak and Mount Wrightson, but for the AZT it drops in elevation. There was much more pine on this side of the mountain as the trail  descended and switch-backed down into Big Casa Blanca Canyon. I came to a sign marking Bear Spring (Hey! That’s on the map!). There is supposed to be a dependable water source here, but I did not see it, unless it was off the trail a ways.

The land evens out a bit after this and it was quite pleasant walking through the woods. I did cross over a few creeks that had water, but it was pooled and stagnant. By the second one I found I dipped my cooling towel in one that looked clean enough and wrapped it around my neck. It was becoming incredibly warm. I didn’t see any more water after that.

The trail seemed to be getting longer and hotter. I thought I was never going to finish this thing. I almost stepped on a small snake at one point. I was so exhausted and dragging ass that it was hard for me to stop my momentum, but the little critter slithered off the path out of my way and I had a mini panic attack. No rattler, so that was good.

I stopped at one point to eat a little and take a few sips of water near where the Casa Blanca canyon portion comes to an end. I was running low on water. I used too much when I tripled back on the trail when I was going the right way and thought I wasn’t.

After that, the trail whips around a hill and brings you to a historical sign talking about the old mining days in the Santa Rita Mountains. There was an old mine shaft beyond the sign. I took a picture from the trail but did not feel like exploring it. After that, the trail dropped down to the Tunnel Spring TH where it met with Gardner Canyon Road. The trail follows this road for the most part all the way to the passage 5 trailhead.

Old mine shaft.

It was a nice walk in this area. A lot of campground sites surrounded by mature oaks. It was very shady and the road even, but after a short while the shade went away and I was walking in the sun again as the big oaks became sparse along the sides of the road. The trail left the road and followed the contours of the hills parallel to the road. I realized it was just adding steps to my aching feet, so went back to the road where it was a straight shot.

The road intersected with the trail again, and then brings you through some fenced off cattle grounds of grass and soft red sand. I saw some deer grazing in here, but no cattle. The trail comes back to Gardner Canyon Road and down to the next trailhead. I was so close. But I ran into a carsonite AZT sign pointing up more hills away from the road. For a moment I thought I was lost again, or that maybe I overshot where I parked and was a ways into the next passage.

I looked around and couldn’t see any other landmarks or signs. I would have thought the road would send you right back to the trailhead. I figured, I’d just stay on the road and keep going. I decided to follow the road and hoped to find Apache Ranch or other drivers. But as I walked about 50 more feet and crested the road a little I saw the back end of my Jeep where I parked it under some trees. The sun was gleaning off the back window and it looked almost black in color. Such a foreign sight in the surrounding wilderness, and it was beautiful.

I immediately went to the back hatch and shed my pack. I left a full Hydro Flask on the front seat with a clean set of clothes for my return. I had finished my Camelbak much earlier and was down to about a quarter of a liter in my Smart Water bottle. I finished that water and then drank about half of the Hydro Flask.

I took a victory selfie of the end of this 75 mile trek. I finished at about 2:20PM. I felt so good to have finished, but I was in a lot of pain, and sweaty and dirty and tired. I then changed into the clean clothes I had in the Jeep and fired it up and drove home. First gas station I saw coming back, I stopped and bought a Snickers, a coconut water, and the largest fountain drink of Powerade I could.

It was quite the adventure and a great learning experience. I have another long stretch of the AZT planned, but it will be in the north sector this time, in Flagstaff, due to the heat. But I definitely plan on coming back and picking up where I left off at the beginning of passage 5.

The Arizona Trail

Passage 4: Temporal Gulch, Part 1

Day 5 – 05/11/2017

Walking out of Patagonia midday with a full pack might not have been the best idea, but I really wanted to get to my Jeep. Sure, I could have stayed at the Ovens of Patagonia and popped up my tent in the back, or stayed at the hotel, got a good night’s rest before I left the next day, but I live dangerously. Or stupidly. Probably the latter.

Passage 4 of the AZT, Temporal Gulch, is approximately 22.3 miles with an elevation gain of about 2,500 feet from 4000 to 6500 at its highest point near Mount Wrightson Wilderness. The incline is gradual for the most part, then really climbs around mile 10.5.

I hit the trail out of Patagonia about 1:20 in the afternoon and did a zig zag through the neighborhood to get to 1st Avenue, so I never saw the official trailhead. Once I got onto 1st Ave, it was pretty easy going from there. It’s a paved road up the hill out of town, and then turns into Forest Road 72, which is a maintained dirt road. The only hardship was the heat. I had five liters of water on me, plus that bottle of Gatorade. By the time I was up the hill by the landfill, I finished the Gatorade.

I took another detour at the landfill. Again, the ATA felt it was unnecessary to put up signs pointing which direction to go. Also, the folks back in Patagonia told me I needed to pass the landfill, and the only sign I saw was pointing left at a Y in the road towards the landfill. Turned out, that was wrong. That road was taking me back towards Patagonia. There went another mile lost. Once I got back on track, following the road straight where I went left, it was pretty smooth sailing.

Remember how Bonnie said I’d see stuff stashed on the sides of the road? Sure enough, not far past the landfill, I saw a camo backpack, a blue hoodie, and a few cans of tuna in a neat pile on the side of the road. I just walked past it. Could have just been some necessary supplies for an illegal alien to make it through the desert, or it could have been filled with cocaine. I’ll never know.

I made it to the Temporal Gulch trailhead at about 4pm, which meant I just hiked seven miles from Patagonia. Well, eight because of that stupid wrong turn. I was very elated to see that I only had 15.3 miles left to go to Gardner Canyon road trailhead. I originally thought it was 22 from TG trailhead. I was pretty fucking jacked at this realization. I stopped there for about ten minutes and took off my pack to eat some trail mix and drink water before I hit the trail again.

Only 15.3 miles to go!

I pushed myself pretty hard from there. Uphill too. I had the intention of getting as far as I could before sundown so that I had less to hike out in the morning. More today. Less tomorrow. I was repeating that over and over as I hiked up that road.

FR 72 changed from a maintained road to a rugged, off-road, Jeep track at the trailhead, and it only got worse from there. There were plenty of cattle on the way, which of course meant any clearing of ground was covered in shit. Also meant I had a few moments where I had to shoo them out of the way so I could get by. The only good thing about all of my future steak getting in my way and stinking up the place was that I was in mountain lion country. I’m sure a mountain lion would rather eat one of those tender, innocent calves than a smelly hiker.

But still, mountain lion country…

I had pushed myself up to the decision point of making camp before nightfall, or keep going just a little bit further. There was a nice, high, flat spot off the side of the rugged jeep road in a wide clearing that had a massive mesquite tree in the center of it, dead logs laid out like benches near the camp fire, and pieces of sheet metal pierced with bullet holes lying about. It looked like this was where all the local yahoos would come out and camp and drink and shoot. Of course, the ground was covered in cow pies.

I went up the trail a little further keeping an eye out for a better spot. More today. Less tomorrow. I kept repeating that. I needed to make up for all the lost time during the rain and hail and getting lost.

My feet were hurting pretty bad. Most of the moleskin stayed in place, but some of the pads fell off and balled up in a gummy lump at the toes of my socks. My legs hurt as did my back, but I wanted to get further. Just past the possible camp site of sheet metal and cow pies, there was a rusted metal sign showing the various trails and distances. I misinterpreted the sign. It looked like the AZT arrow was pointing at the Temporal Trail arrow indicating to follow that. Turned out to be the wrong turn. Again.

Misread sign.

The Temporal Trail eventually turned into a canyon with high walls of boulders and rocks to each side of me, and maybe about 20 feet at its widest point. There was some stagnant pools of water, but nothing I’d drink from. As I was pushing through this draw, talking to myself, cursing, repeating my mantra, I passed a cow at a turn and hopped over some large rocks. I kept thinking this didn’t feel right.

I came to a wide point that had a nice spot for a tent underneath some oak trees just past a cattle gate that stretched from each side of the canyon wall. I went through the gate and stopped for a moment. I should be going up, I thought to myself. I looked up to Mt. Wrightson Peak that I could barely see from this point and realized I should be going that way. I looked around this little, shady quiet spot in the canyon. There were clothes on ground. A baby’s small, pink sweater lay out flat and dirty. There were some empty food cans.

I turned around and made my way back. Once I got to the point where I passed the cow and had to hop over the large rocks, I saw a serape poncho on the ground I didn’t see on the way in. I also saw what looked like human feces on one of the rocks. Fresh. I first thought it was mountain lion, but it didn’t look gamey. And beyond that, a can of tuna with the lid pulled up and still had scraps of food stuck to the inside. I think there was someone in that canyon with me. He probably heard me cursing and talking to myself and hid.

You might be thinking I didn’t notice this stuff the first time I passed, but I would have had to step over the poop coming in because it was right in the middle of the trail. And there was no way I could have missed the poncho and discarded tin can. The trail was too narrow, and they were right off the side of the trail. A chill ran through me as I stopped there for a second and listened and looked around for anybody. It was eerily quiet. I then got out of there as fast as I could. At least tried to get out fast. I had to make the cow I passed earlier get out of my way, because now she was standing in the trail chewing grass and staring at me.

That’s the other thing that makes me think there was a person in that canyon. The cow was obviously used to people and not threatened by me, and wouldn’t have been threatened by anyone else. I think she would have run away if it were a mountain lion.

Probably lost only a half mile this time down that mistake. I looked a little more closely at the rusted metal sign and figured it meant to keep following the rocky road. By this time, the sun was going to set behind the mountains and going to be dark soon. I went back to the camp spot with the sheet metal and set up camp for the night. I ate my leftover pizza from The Velvet Elvis, which was nice not having to cook anything.

I couldn’t shake the thought of someone in that canyon with me, which meant they could still be in the area. There were probably illegal aliens all around. Sign of them were up and down the trail, but this was the only time I really felt uncomfortable about it. You never know what a desperate man is going to do for food and water.

There was a full moon that night and it illuminated the inside of my tent fairly well. I laid there listening, trying to sleep, until I saw a shadow pass over the the outside of my tent. I couldn’t hear anything much past the sound of the wind in the trees. I didn’t have any weapons on me except for a small pocket knife. I had the Gerber collapsable shovel, which I left open and had it in the tent with me. I gripped the handle and slowed my breathing and listened for any footsteps, and at one point, I could have sworn I heard something. But it was probably my imagination.

I only got a few hours of sleep that night.


The Arizona Trail

Patagonia, AZ: Gateway Community, Part 2

Day 5 – 05/11/17

After I cleaned up, I put my pack in the storage closet next to the bathroom and took a walk around town and snapped a few pictures. I then walked across the street to the grocery store next to the gas station. Inside I bought two 1-liter bottles of Smart Water, another Gatorade, an Amp energy drink, and Advil.

Outside of the store I stood on the porch next to the ice box and popped open the energy drink and sipped on it while I watched people drive by. Next door was a trellis of vine and I peeked through the vines to see a patio of tables. I walked around to the front and it was a pizza place called The Velvet Elvis. It wasn’t a thick, juicy burger, but pizza would do just fine.

I walked into the patio underneath the arbor that had vines that spanned and connected to the pergolas and curved and rounded up on each corner of the patio. I sat in a corner under the shade of the vines and the waiter came out and brought me a glass and a large bottle of cold water. I ordered a pizza called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It was delicious.

I sat there and enjoyed the nice weather in the shade while I drank a full glass of water and then refilled it from the bottle. I watched the beads of sweat fall down the sides of the bottle and thought to myself I will never take water for granted again. I finished drinking that whole jar of water, ate most of the pizza and saved a couple slices for dinner, finished my Amp, then headed back to the Trail Angel’s to get my pack.

There I pulled my pack out of the storage unit and readjusted some stuff. I had to tighten the straps around the waist because I had lost some weight the past four days. I removed my leftover pizza from the restaurant container and put the two slices into a Ziploc bag. I then refilled the Camelbak from the garden hose. I went inside and my phone was fully charged, and wouldn’t you know? No service. T-Mobile needs to get their shit together.

While packing up, I talked with the owner of Ovens of Patagonia, a nice woman named Bonnie. I talked about all the Border Patrol presence and she said it’s something you get used to. She told me most of those people coming through Patagonia weren’t bad. It’s the drug running that’s the problem. She told me I’d see stuff stashed on the side of the trail and to just leave it alone. She told me if I saw anything happen, any exchanges, that I didn’t see it happen. And to make sure they knew I didn’t see it happen, if you get my meaning. Happy hiking.

Just then, two women came walking up to the patio wearing packs and hiking attire. They said they’ve been following me for a while, my tracks at least. We exchanged some hiking stories of the trail, like how I got stuck in the rain, and how they have been doing just fine. One of the girls introduced herself as Sauce, like hot sauce, and the other as Fun Bags. I told them I didn’t have a fun name. Just Dave. They asked where the good places were in town. I told them about Velvet Elvis and of course, Ovens of Patagonia. I then told them I didn’t have any service and needed to get a hold of my girlfriend. They asked what service provider I had and I told them T-Mobile. They nodded like, there’s your problem right there. We then said our goodbyes.

I thanked Bonnie, grabbed my pack and headed out of town to start Passage 4. It was about 1:20 in the afternoon. It was a little warm, but I felt rejuvenated and strong, and my pack was heavy again with water. I was looking forward to finishing this hike.

I didn’t see the Passage 4 trailhead out of town because I took a zig zag through the neighborhood to get to the trail. You basically follow 1st ave, which turns into Temporal Road, and you stay on that until it turns into FR 72, and stay on that all the way up the mountain.

The Arizona Trail

Patagonia, AZ: Gateway Community, Part 1

Day 5 – 5/11/47

Finally got a full night of sleep. I woke only a few times, but fell right back to sleep. I was so close to Patagonia, I had comfort in the thought of eating and drinking and calling my girlfriend. I was so anxious to get into town that morning I didn’t even eat breakfast. I didn’t even have coffee, but that was because I needed to ration what little water I had left. On the way, I ate a Clif Bar and a packet of Justin’s Almond Butter.

It turned out I had about 5.5 miles to Patagonia from where I camped and I was glad I didn’t try pushing through in the dark. The landscape was nothing different the few more miles out to Harshaw Road Trailhead. The AZT follows Harshaw Road for about three miles and brings you into the little town of Patagonia. It felt weird walking on pavement after walking on dirt for so long, like I had to readjust my balance.

By this point, I was out of water in my Camelbak and well into my bottle of purified water from the spigot I found. That water didn’t taste bad, just had a weird, milky color and film from the purification tablets. By 10am I was sipping on the last quarter of it as I made it into town.

There was a heavy Border Patrol presence here. The little motor I kept hearing the night before was a drone for night surveillance. There were patrol SUVs on the hillsides, and the agents were a common sight in town.

On the way into town, I passed adobe and ranch style homes. A little old lady riding a bicycle up the road stopped and asked how I was doing and told me how much further I needed to go. People driving past me on the road waved to me. There were plenty of local businesses of the New Age/Hippy sort. I passed the post office, which marked the end of the trail, and immediately kept an eye out for a diner or cafe. I stopped at the first place I saw with a banner advertising “bakery, coffee, ice-cream.” It was called Ovens of Patagonia, and they just so happened to be AZT supporters, or Trail Angels.

I removed my pack outside on the covered patio, walked inside where there was a cooler of deli sandwiches, and another cooler of bottled drinks. I grabbed a roast beef sandwich, a bottle of red Gatorade, and a bottle of coconut water. I also needed to charge my phone. My phone had been dead since I left Parker Canyon Lake and my solar bank would not charge enough to charge the phone. I had been letting the bank soak up as many rays as it could as I hiked and tried to recharge my phone a few percentages at a time. So in the deli, I bought a wall to USB charger and the employees were kind enough to plug it in for me behind the counter.

Outside, I sat down at one of the tables with my pack next to me, stretched my legs out and drank most of the ice cold Gatorade bottle without taking a breath. I then ate the entire sandwich, finished the Gatorade, and then drank the coconut water.

While sitting out there, I talked with one of the employees. He told me they love the AZT hikers here and that I’m welcome to use their facilities as long as I need. They had a fenced off backyard where I could pop up the tent for the night if I wanted, and also use the bathroom and garden hose, etc. The bakery was part of a small business complex with a small court and fountain in the center. The man gave me the code to the keypad lock to gain access to the shared bathroom.

After I finished my coconut water, I brought my pack into the single restroom. I wiped down with body wipes, washed my face in the sink, and brushed my teeth. I took off my shoes and socks and washed the dirt off one foot at a time in the sink. I dried them the best I could and inspected the painful blisters that formed on my heels and center of my right foot. I applied Moleskin to them again and put on clean socks.

I felt human again.

The Arizona Trail

Passage 3: Canelo Hills West

Day 4 – 5/11/17

The Passage 3 trailhead was the best place I’d have to stop and rest for a long time. I sat on a large rock near the parking area where there was one vehicle and took some time to eat and drink. I removed my shoes and socks and reapplied moleskin to the blisters that had developed. I wrote down some notes.

It was a quarter after noon. I had just finished Passage 2 and covered about seven or eight miles, and had about 16.5 miles ahead of me until the town of Patagonia. I was determined to cover some ground that afternoon. I was starting at an elevation of about 5500 feet and the trail dropped in elevation all the way into town. The skies were clear by this point. Everything was dry, but it was getting hotter.

Canelo is Spanish for cinnamon, on account the hills are a brown, cinnamon color. You would think they would be called Cow Shit Hills, or Radioactive Ant Hills, because there was cow shit everywhere, and even more giant ant hills and huge red and black ants crawling up and down the trail. A great motivation to keep going.

The Canelo Hills West were mostly cattle grazing land, more so than East, and also a nature preserve popular for bird watching.

The trail makes a committed climb up a prominent hill then drops down into a meadow of long, tan grass. I ran into an older couple who owned the vehicle at the trailhead and were out there bird watching. They asked if I got stuck in the rainstorm. They said they heard over a birdwatching CB channel that there was about every kind of weather in the hills the day before. I said that sounded about right.

I continued through the tall grass and up and down the hills. I saw a waterhole that was surrounded by cattle. Nothing I’d drink from. I wasn’t worried about water, but kept an eye out just in case. That’s when I came across this concrete barrier that was built in a draw and had a metal spigot with a red handle on it. Water slowly dripped from the faucet and the moisture on the rocks below formed a rancid puddle with flies and mosquitoes swarming about.

I took one of my empty bottles and held it under the spigot and turned the knob which only made the water drip slightly faster. It took about 20 minutes to refill one liter. I then took out a cooling wrap and wet it and wrapped it around my neck. It was warming up rather quickly by that point.

The trail then lead to a dry creek bed of daunting soft sand and pebbles which I followed for quite some time before it finally led out and back into the tall grass. I eventually came to a dirt road that had a sign that said it was the National Forest boundary. I looked at the trailhead map on my camera I took a picture of, and the only boundary it showed was close to Harshaw Pass, and if that was right, I only had about three more miles until Patagonia. I picked up the pace, hoping to make it into town before nightfall.

Well, six o’clock came around and I was still on the trail. I had been hauling ass, too. Now, after I have access to detailed maps, I learned that it was Red Rock Road I crossed at about mile 9.8. Ended up not being as far as I thought I was. Feeling a little defeated, and didn’t want to be stuck out there in the dark, I decided to make camp on top of a small hill away from the trail. It was on a little bit of a slope, but there were no ants or cow dung.

Even though, I didn’t make it into Patagonia that night, I still felt awesome for having hiked so far that day, especially after the luck I had been having the days prior. I think by the time I set up camp I covered about 19 miles that day. Approximately eight of Canelo Hills East, and 11 of Canelo Hills West.

I methodically set up camp. I unrolled the tent that dried quickly from the dampness that morning. Set out my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, inflated my travel pillow, folded my shirts and sweater for extra padding, made dinner, and wrote down some notes. I was down to about a liter and a half at that point and not sure how much further from town. My feet and back hurt and I was exhausted.

The night was warm and quiet, save for a faint motor I kept hearing every now and then, and I fell asleep thinking about the burgers I would eat in town, and how I was going to get some water.

The Arizona Trail

Passage 2: Canelo Hills East, Part 3

Day 4 – 5/10/16

Day three was a hell of a bitch. All that rain and hail set me back. With as easy as the Canelo Hills are, I could have covered at least 15 miles a day through that stretch, if not more.

I didn’t sleep much that night. It was cold and the rain seeped through the fly and dripped down on me, and the condensation from my breath built up on the insides of the tent and dripped down on me. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to move forward. I couldn’t stop thinking about getting to my Jeep at the end of these 75 miles and driving home to see my girl.

I got up about 5:30 that morning. The rain had stopped earlier in the night, and as soon as I saw daylight I was up. I draped my sleeping bag, towel, and clothes across the trees in the morning sun to dry them out. I made my coffee and last pack of scrambles eggs with bacon with a sideways look on the same heavy clouds lurking about. I was fully prepared to throw everything back into the tent in case it started raining again.

While waiting for my things to dry, I wrote down some notes and took inventory. I was down to about 3 liters of water at this point. I think I had only covered about seven miles before I made camp the day before. I had much more space in my pack with the diminishing food and water.

The ominous rain clouds were dissipating and the morning sun was much welcomed. I left camp at almost 8am. Wanting to get going, I packed up everything, dry or wet. I didn’t like doing it, but rolled up my tent while it was still a little damp. I just wanted to make up for the miles lost the day before, and with as little sleep as I had the past three nights, I was surprised I felt as good as I did to get started on that fourth day.

The rest of the hike through the Canelo Hills East wasn’t very exciting. I passed a large, plastic, blue tub that had a small stagnant pool of water in one corner. After all that rain, that was it, and it didn’t look safe enough to drink even with purification tablets. I was doing a pretty good job of conserving my water, so I wasn’t worried. I think that was the Stock Tank on the map at about mile nine.

The rest of the hills were mostly high desert landscape except for one stretch after I left the old forest road 4633 and switch backed through more barbed cattle fences with signs that politely asked to keep the gates closed so cattle would not roam free, in English and Spanish. At that point I entered an area of tall pines, juniper, and oak that made for a nice stretch of forest to walk through.

It was basically the same terrain for the rest of the morning. I was gaining much more ground and I was going a faster pace as well. There was not as much incline in this area to slow me down. I only made one committed climb up to a ridge where I could look back at how far I had come in the past three and a half days, and look forward at so much more I had to accomplish.

I eventually made it to a paved road, which was Forest Road 799, and the trail paralleled that until it finally crossed over the road to the next passage. I made it to Passage 3 at about 11:45 that morning and I’m guessing I covered about seven or eight miles since I left camp. I only stopped a few times to this point for quick breaks and took the opportunity to sit on a big rock near the parking area to eat and drink and write down some notes.



The Arizona Trail

Passage 2: Canelo Hills East, Part2

day 3 – 5/9/16

I finally started Passage 2 well into my third day. After hiking through the little town (I still don’t know what it is called), I got back on track and found the trailhead to passage 2. The ground was wet and the skies were gray and cool enough that I had to wear my sweater. Off I went.

The trail through the Canelo Hills is pretty much uneventful and not very strenuous as it takes you up and down the hills and through and across arroyos. Where I started from, the landscape was a high desert: a lot of Junipers and Ocotillos and small brush. I saw far too many giant ant hills with big, fat red ants swarming them, and their numbers only increased the further I went through the hills.

Even though this stretch of hills only reached an elevation a little over 6000 at the most, it was still pretty cold at times. I was wearing my long sleeve running shirt and a rain poncho, which helped keep me warm, but had to take off the hoodie because it was making me sweat, which made me colder.

Not far into the trail I came across a small creek of water, which I think was Parker Canyon. I didn’t need to refill any of my bottles at that time, but that was the last of the water I’d see until the next day. Even after all the rain.

I trudged on happily through a few more sprinkles of rain. I stopped only a few times to rest and snack on trail mix. I felt like I was covering a lot of ground and making great time. The signage was much clearer through this passage, making for an easier trail to follow.

At about 3:00 PM, I heard what sounded like a rush of wind coming through the trees. I stopped, closed my eyes, and listened as the sound got louder and closer. I thought to myself, “I hope that’s wind.” But of course, it was not. It was the sound of a downpour rushing at me. A few drops of rain hit me, followed by a wall of hail.

Yep. Hail.

I got the idea of getting underneath a tree for some cover. Problem was, most of the junipers produced scarcely any boughs. I stood underneath the thickest one I could find away from the trail, but the hail cut down right through the branches and covered me. The whole landscape was covered white. The trail a snake of little white ice pellets.

I abandoned that endeavor and started hiking as fast as I could to outrun it. The ice stung my knuckles and my face, but I kept on. That lasted for about an hour. Just shortly after it broke, I hiked on for about 15 minutes more until I found a good camp spot, right where the single track of trail ended and turned into an old Jeep road that climbed a hill.

I really wanted to keep hiking until 6:00 PM, but I also thought I should set up shelter to get out of the rain if it started again. I hated stopping, but made myself do it anyway, which was a good thing I did.

I found a nice, flat spot between two trees where their branches connected and made somewhat of a cover. Before I set up my tent between these two trees, I remembered that I still needed to mend the tent pole that broke. I’m glad I brought that small roll of Scotch duct tape. I wrapped it around the center pole in three places and it worked great, and not too soon. The rain started coming down again.

I pitched the tent as fast as I could, threw all my gear inside, and climbed in soaking wet. Now, I have the Eureka! Solitaire tent. There isn’t room to stand, kneel, or even sit up. I had to roll out my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, situate my stuff, and undress while lying down. I shoved everything to one side as best I could and climbed into my sleeping bag to warm up. I was shivering by this point, and in the back of my head thought I might get hypothermia.

It was about 4:45 PM when I was finally settled in. I wasn’t tired enough, and too uncomfortable to sleep. I ate a granola bar from my pack for dinner. The rain came down pretty hard for most of the night, and I laid there for the next 12 hours, wet and miserable and doubting why I ever wanted to do this trip.