3/10 – 3/16
Mile 113 – 198.2
Week two was rough, as you can see from our decreased mileage. The trail had some incredibly scenic sections. It also had some of the most physically taxing sections and the cumulative wear and tear has started adding up. This isn’t unexpected. The first couple of weeks are always especially tough while your body adjusts to the thru hiking life style.
Saguaro National Park: This national park is awesome. I had a certain expectation of what southern Arizona could be and most of that consisted of hot, dry desert with rolling hills, a lack of water, and prickly pear cacti spotting the ground. Saguaro National Park is probably the most ecologically diverse place I’ve been to, and this diversity is consolidated within under 20 miles. We began the day around 3000′, surrounded by Saguaro Cacti and other lower elevation vegetation. Over the course of the day we climbed 5000′ and traveled through a number of ecosystems. We spent lunch at the Grass Shack camp area which has a small flowing stream nearby. We continued up to Manning Camp, at an elevation of 8000′. There we caught our best sunset yet as we looked out over the town of Tucson.
Check out an awesome poem Chicory wrote about the Saguaros at aliedwards731.wordpress.com
Hutch’s Pool: Hutch’s Pool is a nice swimming hole in Sabino Canyon. We enjoyed the cold water and sandy beach while we waited out the heat of the day. We also saw quite a few other thru hikers here. One included a girl named Molly Molly who we met in 2015 on the PCT. We are now following a bubble of about 10 hikers.
High Jinks Ranch: Due to the high number of hikers ahead of us, the chalet in the town of Oracle was booked up the night we were planning to get in. As a result we decided to slow down and spend the night a few miles before town in a casita at High Jinks Ranch. This is a historic ranch that used to be owned by Buffalo Bill Cody when he had a couple mines in the area. Our stay there was great. The casita was perfect. It is a small two bedroom place with multiple glass sliding doors that open the room up to sweeping views of the valley below. The owner is extremely friendly and filled us in on the history of the place. We used her kitchen and all ate dinner and talked as we watched the sun set from her porch. Later in the evening she offered us hot tea and even had a group story time where she read us some of her favorite insightful children’s books.
Marny: The following day we had a room booked at the chalet in Oracle. Pops had made the reservation and mentioned that the woman he spoke to sounded very welcoming and supportive. It turns out that that woman, Marny, is as good a trail angel as you’ll find anywhere. She and her husband own a cute 10 unit chalet made up of small A-frame units. They have one friend help out during the hiking season so he can escape the cold of Ohio.They all genuinely care about hikers and the trail, and their generosity seems endless. They drive hikers all over town, all day. Marny saw a hiker walking down the road as she was driving though town and stopped to see if he needed a ride or a place to stay. He declined so she asked if she could at least let him come take a shower in one of her units. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time on trail, or has spent any time with a hiker knows that we can’t pass up showers when they’re offered. Thank you for being awesome Marny!
Low Lights –
Blisters and fatigue: Our bodies were aching this week. We traversed a number of sky islands which included multiple thousands of feet of climbing followed by thousands of feet of descent. The best word to describe our current hiking style is trudge. We’re not always moving far or fast but at least we keep moving. Van’s blisters have continued to get worse. As someone who has been lucky and not had to deal with blisters, I’d say they’re pretty gnarly. But then again so is Van.
Van’s off-trail adventure: Just before we reached the ski town of Summerhaven we traversed through the Wilderness of Rocks. It was an awesome spot that almost took me back to the Sierras. We climbed up from the sandy desert to a rocky trail in the pines. At one point in the day we all stopped ffor a break at a creek. Well, all of us except Van who should have been somewhere in the middle of us. We waited with no sign from him and eventually decided to split up. Pops headed up the trail in case Van had snuck past us and Chicory and I turned around, heading back to a previous trail junction while searching for his footprints. Four miles and an hour and a half later we were back at the creek, still without a clue of where he was. Naturally we feared the worst. We knew he had GPS and is a capable hiker, so the fact that he had been missing for nearly three hours was worrisome. Fortunately, he eventually walked up to the creek, looking disheveled and tired. It turns out he had walked off the trail within a mile from the creek and spent a few hours trying to find his way back. His stories included climbing and falling over rock formations and he had the scrapes and dirt to prove it. Everything ended up being fine, but chicory and I were worn out by the tense few hours.
I’m optimistic that Oracle will be the recharging station we need to recover from the week. We certainly have a couple kinks to work out but I think we’re close to hitting our stride.