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Published on February 22, 2015, by admin in Adventure.

I was thinking today that I have become like the ancient cliff dwellers of the west who disappeared without a trace hundreds of years ago. They knew how to write in a fashion. We have found many pictographs of symbols and art they left on rocks and caves, but nothing that really tell us why they just picked up and left. If someone stumbles on my blog in the future, they may think I left, too.

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Today I bought a new thermometer. It is one of the fancy kind that has a wireless sensor you hang outside and get a digital readout on a little monitor inside. I could have just hung a basic thermometer outside the window, but where’s the fun in that? The thermometer tells me what I knew all along – it is hot here in the desert near Yuma, AZ. Tomorrow should be cooler but windy.

 
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Published on December 4, 2014, by admin in Adventure.

I rode my Time Machine into the past today. Even though it was just a little bit, I do feel younger. The trouble was when I had planned to stop at 4, and then realized it was only 3, my head was all messed up.

I drove more miles today than I normally like. It was rainy and spitting snow across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois so I made a detour before I got to St. Louis and headed south towards I40. I think I am far enough south now to avoid any snow or freezing rain.

Last night I stayed at a state park near Dayton. It was way below freezing this morning but I stayed warm snuggled in my sleeping bags. When I wake up I kick on my heater and within minutes it is warm in my van. The park was basically closed but not closed. All the roads were open and I had my pick of many sites.
Tonight I am at a Walmart about 100 miles north of Memphis. It is still raining but way warmer than yesterday. Now that I am out of the worst weather I will slow down and take it easy for a few days.

http://goo.gl/maps/yT9yT

 
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Up until today there has been little excitement to write about. That all changed this morning as I rode my motorcycle into Alfred, NY, hoping to gas up and buy a few supplies.

For the last few weeks, I have been playing hopscotch in state forests in western New York, picking spots that are open enough for my media and secluded enough that I remain somewhat stealthy. No matter where I end up there always seems to be a few individuals that think the forest roads and campsites are their personal baja trails. A lot of the sites are torn up from 4×4’s doing doughnuts and many are littered with beer cans. It is no wonder many of our forests are being closed to the public.

There usually are a few trails near where I camp. Last week I camped in the McCarthy SF and used the Finger Lakes Trail for two nice day hikes. One day I rode to Little Rock City, a wonderland of giant rocks that form caves, mazes, and crevices. It is rather spooky to step across an 18 inch crack between rocks that is 50 feet deep.

In NY state forests there is a short time limit of four days that you are allowed to camp. I’m been pushing that limit a couple of times since I’ve been here but no one seems to mind. There has even been the occasional ranger pass by with only a wave. One thing I pride myself on is leaving the campsite cleaner than I found it. I will even pick up some of the trash left by others. Sometimes I think I should ask if it will be okay to stay longer but revisit the saying “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
Yesterday I drove to Palmers Pond, a nice camping area in the Phillips Creek SF, about 5 miles from Alfred, NY. There were several gorgeous sites along the lake but I chose one up a dirt road that was more open. This morning I explored more forest roads on my motorcycle and then headed into town for gas. The ride to town was uneventful and I rode beyond the gas station looking for a grocery store. Just as I turned around to head back to camp, I felt the unmistakable rumble of my back tire going flat.

With no tools to fix anything and no one close enough for help, I was more than perplexed, if you know what I mean? There was a Dollar General about 1/2 mile from me so I walked there and purchased a can of fix – a flat to see if that would get me back to the van. The tire held a little air so I started up the road. I got about a mile when the tire lost all air and almost caused me to lose control. I pushed the bike to a wide spot in the road, convinced I had a long walk home. I kept thinking about Jennifer when she was attending Alfred University several years ago and got a flat tire on the same stretch of road. Back then there were no cell phones and unlucky for her, caught here late at night when there was no one to help. She and a friend ended up walking 10 miles through the night to get back to her dorm. I figured if she could walk it then so could I. It would even be good for me.

On a whim I stood by the crippled bike and stuck out my thumb to a passing truck. It must be leftover karma from the AT because he pulled over and gave me a ride all the way back to my van. I tried to give him gas money but all he wanted was for me to do something good for someone else. Thank you my friend.

I picked up my motorcycle and drove to Arkport, where there is a large motorcycle dealer. He had to order another tire which I will get in about a week. So all my exploring for the next few days will be on foot.

I browsed around the showroom and talked to the salesman for a few minutes and he showed me a used, Honda 250, that looks like new and only has 2000 miles on it, and is less than I paid for my motorcycle new. I now wish I would have bought something with a little more power. There are times when I want to go someplace and decide it is too far on my bike. And it would be nice to get parts everywhere.

 
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Published on July 23, 2014, by admin in The Great Outdoors.

I have been camping in the Allegheny National Forest for the last few days. I found a road that goes to an oil well where I have occasional cell service and a clear view of the southern sky to point my satellite dish. There are a few trees that block the sun for part of the day and the sky has been filled with puffy clouds all week, so leaves and weather have been quite a challenge for my solar panel.

I’m really not sure if I’m allowed to park on this road. I’m pretty sure it belongs to the oil company that pays a lease to the government for the mineral rights. But they may not care. I have been gone every day and expect to see a note on my van if they want me to move. There are a lot of nice sites I found along a forest road near here but they are deep in the trees where I would lose cell, solar, and tv.
One time when I was parked in a state forest a few weeks ago, a man pulled up in front of my campsite and shouted, “Is that a Direct TV dish? That’s not camping!!!” It is futile to try to explain to someone that I live in a van part of the year, so I just smiled.

Most of you will remember a few years ago when Karen and I hiked the North Country Trail through the Allegheny National Forest. I rode my motorcycle back to the campground where we spent our last night on the trail and thought about the great times we had together. There was still a short 3 mile section from the parking area where we ended our hike to the border of the National Forest, so just to make our hike of crossing the whole thing official, I set out this morning to finish the last piece.

I rode my motorcycle to the parking area and found the trail near a shelter in the woods. The weather was typical for this time of year – hot and humid! The rocks on the path were wet with humidity, almost like it had just rained, and the mosquitos and biting flies were out in force. The trail followed the Salmon River for about a half mile and then turned up a steep hill with switchbacks. Once on top of the hill the trail was fairly leval, broken only by a couple of streams and two forest roads. Towards the end of the trail it became very marshy and I hopped about the mossy humps trying to keep my feet dry. The weeds had overtaken much of the path through the swamp, also.

Soon I came to the boundary marker and turned around. The sky grew dark and threatened rain but held off until I made it back out. It was so muggy that I wished it would rain. I was completely soaked anyway.

 
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Published on July 2, 2014, by admin in More Stuff.

I recently bought a new phone. I had been eligible for an upgrade for quite some time, but due to travel and the fact thar my Galaxy 2 was still working fine, I put the purchase on the back burner. For my lifestyle Verizon is the carrier of choice and I debated about switching to a prepaid plan that would let me use their towers. The options for phones and data packages were too limited however, so I stayed with AT&T where I am grandfathered into unlimited data.

I rarely use my phone as a phone. I probably make fewer than one call a week, preferring to text or email most of my communication. What I do use it for is: reading, writing, surfing, movies, video, maps, camera, and miscellaneous other apps. I realized that my phone is used more like a tablet than anything else, so armed with that knowledge I bought a Samsung Galaxy Mega.
So far I like the phone a lot. It is a inch wider and almost 2 inches taller, allowing me the advantage of a much larger viewing screen for these tired, old eyes, and still the convience of slipping it into my pocket when I go someplace. I thought that with such a large screen and quick processor the battery would run down fast. But I have to say that the battery last much longer than any of my previous phones.

It usually takes me quite a while to figure out all the things my phone can do, and to be honest, I never find them all. But one feature I particularly like is the ability to split the screen and run two processes at once. There is also a feature that allows you to move controls to one side for easier one – handed operation. I’ll update my opinion after more experience but so far so good.

 
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Published on June 8, 2014, by admin in The Great Outdoors.

The speed limit on major highways in most of the western states is 75. The police will usually give you 5 to 8 mph over before they ticket you. I would think 83 is fast enough, but apparently not. Oklahoma had many State Troopers working the roads, giving out lots of tickets. It never affected me as I travel well below the limit, but I had another reason to be glad when I crossed into Missouri – the end of Oklahoma turnpike toll roads.

I found a little RV park outside St Louis. There was a shower that was welcome after two days of scorching heat, and I thought I could set up my satellite dish to watch TV. All the sites they had available were under trees, so no TV. It was a cool night anyway and I slept well.

The next morning I crossed the Mississippi and immediately regretted not filling up with gas in Missouri. Illinois charges $.50 more per gallon.

My grandson, Nate, attends Antioch College in the little town of Yellow Springs just a few miles south of Dayton, OH. As long as I was going by so close I texted him to see if he was free to meet with me. He was!

I stayed at a state park only 3 miles from his school and we got together Friday evening to walk around the “hippy” town of Yellow Springs and eat at a local restaurant. The next morning Nate gave me a tour of his campus and then we went for a short hike into a scenic glen. It was a good time. I’m glad I stopped to see him.

I will be at Karen’s for a few days. She is going on vacation for a week and needs me to stay with Noah and take care of a few chores while she is gone. Then I will head to New York to see Jenny and family, Dave, Lisa, and a new Granddaughter.

 
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Published on June 6, 2014, by admin in The Great Outdoors.

June 3, 2014

When I pulled out of town at 7 am it was already in the 80’s. My van was not running well so I left the A/C off hoping to spare the engine any additional work. I usually don’t mind the heat as long as I can feel a breeze and let my sweat work as a natural evapoative cooler, but 100 degrees got to be a bit much. It wasn’t long, however, before the altitude of the Mogollon Rim gave me some relief.

Once on the Rim it was a straight shot to I40 and then an uneventful drive into New Mexico. I stopped for the night at a Walmart just outside Albuquerque, partly because I didn’t want to tackle the rush-hour traffic, but mostly because I was tired of driving.

It is not a recommended activity to sleep in a vehicle when temperatures are flirting with triple-digit numbers, but I like a challenge. My plan was to hang out in the store until the sun went down and then eat a slow hamburger at McDonalds until the air reached a more tropical degree. I can say that I slept well, but all the windows were open for the better part of the night, inviting any serial killers in the area full access to my home. There was a nice breeze in the night that helped too.

The next day I drove almost to Oklahoma City. I used my A/C part of the time. There was a strong wind blowing from the west, giving me exceptional gas mileage and actually helping the van run better. A good tail wind is the only wind I want with my top heavy rig.

As I drove Interstate 40 I noticed a strange phenomenon with my A/C. When I went up a hill the engine would start to miss and at the same time the climate control would change from blowing out the dash vent to blowing out the floor ducts. For the longest time I thought it was a coincidence but then deduced it was related. The vent uses vacuum to change and hold the selector so I may have a vacuum leak that is causing the engine to run rough when there is a load such as going up a hill.

I parked at another Walmart for the night. I checked out a State park but it was too expensive. It had a nice pool and various hiking trails but all I wanted was a place to park. I didn’t sleep as well the second night and awoke with a headache in the morning. It would be the last night I would have to bare such heat as Missouri finally gave me nice weather.

….to be continued

 
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Published on May 13, 2014, by admin in The Great Outdoors.

Last week I drove north into the Coconino National Forest to visit Richard and Dianna where they are volunteering at the Blue Ridge Ranger Station. Dianna has been in Texas helping Dayna start a new business so I won’t get to see her until next week.

It was good to get out of the heat of Mesa but I didn’t expect it to be quite so cold only two hours from the Valley. Once I climbed the Mogollon Rim and gained a few thousand feet in elevation, the temperature dropped from the 90’s into the 70’s. That would have been fine except that twice last week a cold front came through, bringing cold winds, morning and evening temperatures in the 30’s, and even snow on the ground one morning. Even though there have been some cool days, it is nice to get back into the forest. I can only take so much desert.

Richard and I had fun riding our two-wheel toys around the area. The first night we rode ten miles to Long Valley where Richard treated me to an AYCE fish dinner at the local diner. It was really good! I was afraid we would be eating things like canned food and TV dinners while Dianna was away but we put our heads together, shared our food, and made some good meals. And we even cooked and ate vegetables, Dianna!

While Richard was at work and the weather was warm enough, I would hike and explore on my motorcycle. I found some beautiful camping spots on some of the back roads. It would be nice to come back and boondock out in the forest the next time I’m out this way, but the major drawback is that there is no ATT cell service anywhere near here. I have been in lots of areas where I can’t get a signal but it is one of the plusses I look for for extended camping spots.

On one day we hiked a few miles on the Arizona Trail. We found a parking lot on a back road about five miles from the ranger station and placed one vehicle there. Then we hiked back to our home base where I hopped on my bike and retrieved the van. It was a pretty hike through nice forest with good trail.

Richard should write a blog about his work up here. It is really quite interesting to those of us who have little knowledge of how the forest service works. I was surprised at the complexity and work it takes to administer and care for our national forests. I won’t go into detail about the projects he has been involved in in hopes he will tell you himself.

Yesterday I left the ranger station volunteer parking area and drove to the Apache- Sitgreaves NF. I have been parked by R&Ds trailer with an extension cord running to their pole, enjoying my electric heater and water from the tap, but I wanted to check out some camping places east of Payson on the Mogollon Rim. We both drove down to Payson, got our fast-food fix at McDonalds, did some grocery shopping, said “see you in a week”, and drove seperate ways.

There is a road that cuts along the top of the Mogollon Rim – not surprisingly called the Rim Road – with several developed, free campsites. Right now it seems I am camped on top of the world. Only 25 feet from the edge of a thousand foot ledge it is truly a room with a view. I have good cell and the view is amazing but the wind today has been cold so I have been inside a lot. Sometimes it is good to stay inside and write something.

 
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Published on March 19, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/16/14 – 301 miles

Tired Hiker

Tired Hiker


I was up early and on the trail by first light, confident that I could reach the end of my section hike and fall back into the real world of beds and greasy food. It wasn’t so much that I was tired of hiking, although I had developed a couple of blisters, but that my body was ready for a rest. It had been six days on the trail with very little water to spare and food supplies running low, and the longest stretch of my hiking career without seeing a soul. I vowed to enjoy the day and not waste the beauty of this section by focusing only on getting done. But when your foot hurts, the pack seems way heavier than it ever did before, you smell somewhat worse than a billy goat, and you are partially dehydrated from not drinking enough liquid, it’s hard not to think only of the end.

The section above the Gila River really was beautiful. The trail winds up into high canyon cliffs with views for miles in several directions. There were awesome formations of jutting rocks and buttes that gave the area an almost other-worldly appearance. The canyon is so remote and isolated that few people ever get to see it. It was quite a taxing climb up and out of the section, and I have to admit I was a little discouraged that what appeared to be the top only wound around more formations and dropped me down through another ravine and back up again, but the sights made it bearable. I finally was able to get a cell signal and give Richard the heads up that I would arrive at the end that afternoon. From that point on I was down behind mountains and would not have another chance to update my eta.

It was a lot easier walking when I entered the last section and I made good time to a place called Trough Springs. I was really thirsty by that time and needed water badly. Trough Springs is a place I have been to before. When Daryl, Donna, and I did a short backpack trip a few years ago we chose a route that let us camp near the spring on the night of our trip. When we camped there a few years ago the spring was full with good water, but when I arrived this time the trough had about one inch of disgusting slime in the bottom. This was bad news. I had another 8 miles to hike and I was not looking forward to going that distance without water.

After some investigation I found a 24 inch round pipe sticking out of the ground above the cattle trough and went to check it out. When I removed the cover and peered down into the well I could see water about 8 feet down. At first I thought there was no way I would ever be able to get to the water, but with a little ingenuity I fashioned a bottle tied to a long stick and was able to dip water from the well. I left the stick and twine I used to tie on the bottle in hopes that the next hiker would be able to “fish” the same way I did.

When I arrived ad Picket Post Trailhead, I finally got a text to go through to Richard and Dianna and they were there shortly to pick me up. Someone had left several gallons of water beside the trail and I used some for washing up a bit. I know it was for drinking but every thruhiker will go into town when they get there and not be as affected by their water supply.

Most of the AZT was marked well and easy to follow. There were a couple of places where the markers were missing and the trail somewhat unclear where it went, but most of the way was easy to follow. I will probably send out a note to the Trail Conference telling them where I was confused and on one instance lost for a few miles. I used only the guide book for navigation and I would suggest getting the route on GPS along with detailed maps showing all distances and water sources. Each item you use for navigation and information cost more money – which I was reluctant to spend – but probably would be worth it in the long run. I’m glad I took a water filter because a lot of the water sources are stagnate ponds. Even though you can make water safe to drink with chemicals it is nice to run it through a filter to remove all the gunk floating around in it.

It was a good hike:
– On the AT I never had to worry much about water.
– On the AZT I never had to worry much about rain.

– On the AT the trail was almost always in the shade.
– On the AZT I could almost always get a good charge on my solar panel.

– On the AT someone was always around in case you were hurt or sick or just wanted company.
– On the AZT you could be alone and enjoy the solitude of being one with nature.

– On the AT it is easier to hitch into town from the trail.
– On the AZT I had two wonderful trail angels following me all the way.

 
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Published on March 16, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/15/14 – 284 miles.

Gila Monster

Gila Monster


In some sections of the trail industrious builders have created giant, stone cairns to mark the path. Some of them were waist high and one was almost to my shoulders. Every time I would pass one a little lizard would run to the top of the cairn, taking up a post like a guard in the watchtower, then diving to the safety of the rocks as I came close. I have seen hundreds of these little guys, but I was not expecting to see the big guy I came across this morning.

I spent most of the day walking beside the Gila River. The trail would climb up to the high ridge above the valley and give splended views, then descend into the flat land of mesquite forests with camping available everywhere. It was on one of the ridges when I rounded a switchback and came face to face with a Gila Monster. He was not friendly at all. He would open his mouth and hiss at me, as if to say: Get off my trail! I got off the trail and went around.

So I can add one more critter to my list. He did let me take a couple of pictures from a distance. I guess it is only logical to see a Gila Monster beside the Gila River. My book says there are mountain lions and bighorn sheep in this area. I would love to see a bighorn.

The trail left the river and wound up through a canyon. I stopped after a few miles of climbing and made camp in a wash. I should make it to Picket Post tomorrow. I hope I can get a signal and secure a ride.

 
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Published on March 14, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/14/14 – 267 miles.
I never did find the water tank that was mentioned in my guide. It was only 90 feet off the trail so it seems funny that I missed it. All the AZT signs say not to rely on cow tanks – they are the property of the ranchers and you are supposed to get permission to even use them.

I started out early while it was cool and rationed what remaining water I had left. The flat desert soon changed to canyons and tall hills. It was a lot prettier to walk through but the climbs made me more thirsty. I arrived at Florence – Kelvin Highway -where there is a water cashe – about noon and drank a half-gallon of water before filling up my bottles and moving on.

This next stretch follows the Gila River for 16 miles so I will have water for a while. The trouble with the Gila is that it is muddy. I filled my bottles and will let them sit overnight to see if any of the mud will settle before running it through my filter.

I have seen 4 snakes, countless deer, 1 wild pig, jackrabbits, 1 mountain lion, 1 scorpion, 1 turtle, and hundreds of cows. None of the snakes were venomous, I squished the scorpion, and everything else ran away.

The cows that are pastured in the desert sometimes make a mess of the trail. They are forever making their own path and breaking down the edges of the trail. And they cut switchbacks all the time. They think the shortest distance is the best route.

 
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Published on March 14, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/13/14 – 253 miles.
Today was a crazy day. I had planned on hiking 20 miles today so that I would reach the next water tank by evening. I made it to the Freeman Road water cashe about 8:30 this morning and the next water was 18 miles up the trail. I figured 20 miles over relatively level ground was doable so I filled my bottles and started out. I would have been fine if I hadn’t gotten lost.

Getting lost is unsettling enough but getting lost when you are low on water is frightening. The trail followed a powerline for a few miles and I made good time to a side road that was only marked with a stick. I finally figured out that I was supposed to go that way and I followed cairns for a mile or so. Then I came to an area where ATVs had cut through and made a mess of the trail. Somehow I got on one of the ATVs tracks and followed it out to the powerline again. Even though it didn’t seem right my GPS said I was on the trail. I must have gone three miles down the powerline before I was sure something was wrong and turned around. Once I got back to the end of the ATV tracks I found where I should have turned off.

I hiked until almost 6 trying to find the water tank but I had to stop and make camp before dark. I have no idea how far I am. I hope the tank is near and I will find it early.

 
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Published on March 13, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/12/14 – 233 miles.
Thank goodness for ranchers that have cow tanks along the trail. This section is so dry that without the occasional tank, you would have to cashe all water along this part of the trail. I found three gallons by the trail this morning with a message saying they were for backpackers on 2/22, which was two weeks ago. I didn’t need any water as I had filled up earlier at Mountain View Tank.

I haven’t seen anyone since I left Oracle. There were a lot of ants on the trail and I found myself stopping to watch them work. They didn’t seem interested in foraging away from the nest, just all carrying a piece of sand from their hole and then scurrying back down again. Maybe they are home builders. Maybe it says something about me because I would stand there and watch ants.

With all the cactus through this area, sometimes the only place to set up my tent is in a wash. The only problem with that is getting my stakes to hold in the sand. As I write this, sitting above my camp on a rock, a jackrabbit has come out and is nibbling grass. He is getting awfully close to my tent so I think I will make a noise.

 
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Published on March 11, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/10/14 – 219 miles.
I really miscalculated Sunday when I came down from Oracle Ridge. I thought Oracle State Park and Rt. 77 were close together, but in reality they are 8 miles apart. Richard and Dianna ended up waiting two hours for me to arrive. Richard even hiked a way south to meet me.

I really needed a zero day to rest my legs after 200 miles and it was good to see my support crew and spend a couple days with them. They had some shopping to do so it worked out well for my resupply too. We had enough time on Monday to drive through Saguaro NP and learn more about the Sonoran Desert.

Probably the funniest and most bazaar thing happened last night. We all felt like ice cream so after dinner Richard and I drove down to a nearby, new Walmart we passed coming home that afternoon. We thought it was strange that few cars were in the parking lot and even fewer in the store shopping. The shelves were all neatly stocked and everything was clean and bright. We found some ice cream and went to the checkout to pay and noticed a young lady at a table by the front door. We started questioning her about the lack of people in the store and she informed us that the store wasn’t open yet. What an odd situation that was. You would think they would have put a sign on the door, or had someone to stop customers, or even locked the door. Oh well, we found a better variety at the Fry’s down the road.

Dianna feeds me so well that I think I gained back whatever I lost since the
last time they rescued me from the trail. I have one more place I may need resupply but it might be difficult for them to meet me there. They have done so much I can’t ask for better Trail Angels!

I hit the trail about 10 am today and hiked about 10 miles. The terrain is mostly rolling hills with a deep wash to dip into every mile or so. The high desert is not as spectacular as the mountains I just came through but my body likes it better, especially since I’m carrying full food and water for this stretch.

I’m camped near a wash and a broken windmill. I think there is water a few miles up the trail so I will get up early and head there tomorrow. The temperature was perfect today and I’m hoping tonight will be as well.

 
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Published on March 9, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/8/14 – 193 miles.
When you’re hiking you have a lot of time to think. Usually I just daydream, which gets me into trouble when I come to an obscure trail junction, but sometimes I get a song in my head that I just can’t get out. For a while it was a song from the old movie Ghost, that I watched with Richard and Dianna last week, called I’m Henry the 8th. Its one of those songs you can’t quit because it ends with, “second verse, same as the first”. Then, embarrassing as it may be, those wild, college frat kids were singing some baudy, pirate song that starts out, “I put my hand upon her knee, yo ho! yo ho!”, and it gets more bawdy with each verse. I can’t get the stupid thing out of my head!

It was cold when I woke this morning. One of the things I wish I had remembered to pack is a pair of light gloves. Every morning these last days in the mountains I have taken down my tent with socks on my hands. Its not easy to do but better than numb fingers. The hike up to Summerhaven was through an awesome canyon. Giant boulders made for a mase of passages, tall trees shaded a gentle stream, and the best thing, it was nearly level walking. The trail finally entered a parking lot and from there it was an uphill walk for about a mile to reach town.

I entered the first restaurant and changed clothes in the restroom. I would have eaten there but they had things like cookies and pizza and I was really hungry for a hamburger. So I slipped out the back door and walked to the Sawmill
restaurant up town. It cost $20 for a bacon cheeseburger and Coke but I guess it was worth it. It tasted good.

I stopped at the country store and bought a couple supplies, and then went over to the Community Center and used their Wifi to upload to my blog and read my emails. Then I went in their restroom, changed back into my stinky hiker clothes, filled my water bottles, and hiked out of town.

It was an awful trail down the Oracle Ridge. This is the place where Kristen “Pockets” in her trail journal tells of spraining her ankle, and I can surly tell why. The path was covered solid with fist-sized rocks that left no place solid to put your foot. Imagine walking accross a truck full of potatoes. The views were spectacular but every seconds attention had to be on your feet.

It was so rocky and steep that it took me a long time to find someplace to put up my tent. I finally found a fairly level spot, moved some stones and cow pies, and bedded down for the night. Tomorrow I will meet R&D and take a zero in Oracle.

 
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Published on March 8, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/7/24 – 180 miles.
Today reminded me of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The trail dropped me way down into Sabino Canyon on many switchbacks and then turned up the West Branch Canyon on a 4000′ climb. For a while the trail followed the river but then the last few miles were almost straight up. In some places you had to use your hands to climb up through the rocks. For the life of me I don’t know how they could get pack animals through there.

I’m camped a few miles from Summerhaven. I’m looking forward to a hamburger tomorrow. It will be another cold night as I am high up in the Catalinas.

 
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Published on March 8, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/6/14 – 166 miles.
Another day without data signal. There was a brief spot coming over one ridge where I found enough cell to let Richard know I am still okay. I hope he passes the news on to everyone so they don’t worry.

I met a couple of day hikers towards the end of my hike today. They were the first people I have seen in two days. It was a long stretch accross the Redington Pass hills, and for as much water as I saw up in the Rincons, it was the complete opposite today. Everything was dry as a bone between the mountain ranges.

I crossed the Catalina Highway about 3:30 and walked into Molino Basin campground looking for water. There was none but some nice people gave me two bottles of water. Trail Magic!

I moved on to a campground a few miles further and pitched my tent for the night. This campground used to be a prison that held Japanese US citizens in the early part of the war. They were put here just because they were Japanese.

Along about 9:00pm, long after my bedtime, a bunch of roudy kids came into the campground and stared a beer party. I was sort of hidden so they couldn’t see me but their whooping and hilarity kept me up. After about an hour they all piled into vehicles and left. It was the only time I have felt apprehension in my tent. Give me the woods to sleep in any day.

 
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Published on March 7, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/5/14 – 152 miles.
Todays hiking was the reverse of yesterday with a little excitement thrown in. I got cold in the night and broke out my emergency blanket, which had deteriorated from years of carrying it around, and ended up being a clear piece of plastic. I got it spreed over me inside my sleeping bag, finally, and it warmed me up until morning. I crawled out a little later than usual with it being so cold and snowy and had a hot breakfast to warm up. By the time I got on the trail it was almost 8am.

The trail was very confusing when I left Manning Camp but I managed to find the AZT amidst several side trails. The guide book labels trails differently than the park does so it wasn’t long before I took the wrong turn. To make matters worse, the trail climbs another 600′ past the camp and right onto more snow. It started out with just a couple inches, but as I climbed higher and worked my way towards the north side of the mountains, it became 4″ and then 6″ deep. When I discovered my error, I had gone a half mile out of my way. I returned to the marker where I turned wrong and noticed someone had scratched AZT with an arrow in the right direction. I guess I’m not the only one to make the wrong turn. I’m pretty sure they want you to use a GPS.

When I finally started down the north face of the Rincons, I ran into more problems. The snow had thawed and frozen back into a sheet of glass. Sometimes I would break through with a bone crushing jar and sometimes it was so hard and slippery that my boots wouldn’t even make a mark. On several, long switchbacks, the snow was drifted across the trail in a smooth, glacier like accumulation with the path filled in with frozen snow. The only way to get across those areas was to kick foot steps into the snow and go slow. It wasn’t just the fear of falling because a couple places had dropoffs of a hundred feet. Who knew I would need an ice axe on the AZT!

I didn’t go too far today. I am camped only a few miles from the Redington highway. I just made a detour of one mile to get water. When I got back to the trail there was a nice camping spot so I am settled in for the night. This will be 4000′ lower than last night so it should be a lot warmer.

 
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Published on March 7, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/4/14 – 142 miles.
I’m camped high in the mountains at a place called Manning Camp. It was a strenuous hike up here and I’m glad that it was overcast as that helped to keep me cool. But with the relentless climb and humidity leftover from the rains, I was sweating buckets anyway.

When you gain 5000′ in altitude over a 13 mile hike the terrain changes dramatically along the way. It began as all cactus and sand for a few miles, then the landscape changed to junipers and tall grass, and finally at about 7000′ turned to Ponderosa Pine. Manning camp is at 8000′ and there are just a few patches of snow still around. I am the only one here so as soon as my campfire dies down it will be off to bed. I’m thinking it will be pretty cold tonight.

 
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Published on March 4, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

3/3/14 – 129 miles.
It was a fun weekend of exploring and relaxing with Richard and Dianna. We drove south yesterday on I19 towards Nogales to visit the old Tubac Mission and Tumacacori National Historic Park. There were tons of history and old relics at each location. Very interesting. And we also stopped at a decommissioned Titan Missile Site and toured the underground control area and silo. Richard and I really like stuff like that because we are both geeks, but Dianna was not interested in taking the tour again and waited for us.

Thanks again R&D for all you do for me!

After a quick stop at the Saguaro National Park visitors center to pick up a backcountry permit, Richard and Dianna dropped me off at the trail this morning and I continued north on the AZT. The hiking was easy and I only had 7 miles to the place I would camp for the night so I took my time and enjoyed the nice weather. After a weekend of storm and clouds, it looks like I will have clear sailing through the Rincons and Catalinas.

When I arrived at Rincon creek I was shocked to see no water anywhere. I had just assumed with all the rain there would at least be some pools in the bed. Wrong! This is serious! I have about twelve ounces of liquid to get me 8 miles in the morning, and then if the next source is dry, I am really up the creek without water. Don’t worry, I will be okay, just a thirsty boy.

Am: found water this morning, crisis averted

 
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Published on March 1, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/28/14 – 122 miles.
With the threat of nasty weather moving into the area, I hiked 7 miles to a picnic area below Colossal Cave where Richard and Dianna rescued me from the trail. It was a well planned and well timed pickup. I needed to resupply, replace a plugged water filter, do laundry, get a permit to hike through Saguaro National Park, and cleans the grime and sweat from my body.

After hiking for several days and eating dried food I am always hungry for something greasy, so the first thing we did was stop at a Carl’s and get a big juicy burger and fries. Then with my belly full we went to a Flying J where I could take a long steamy shower, much overdue after five days on the trail. The lady at the counter kept asking if we wanted a “team shower?”, but Richard and I assured her that we didn’t want to take a shower together. We finally figured out that she was talking about a truck driver “rewards” program for free showers.

We stopped at several places on the south side of Tucson where I looked for a new filter, but no one had what I was looking for. We ended up driving all the way across town to an REI in the Tucson Mall to find one. The detour to the other side of town gave us the opportunity to revisit the old neighborhood where we spent time growing up so many years ago. Even though things have changed a lot, it still brings back memories.

When we finally made it back to their trailer, Dianna fed me one of her delicious meals and we sat around watching TV until sleepiness overtook me at the abnormally, early hour for hikers. It has been so nice having them near to help me on and off the trail.

Tonight I am staying in Richards truck. The sleeper equipped Volvo he pulls his house with is a luxurious apartment compared to a night in my tent, and I will be warm and dry in the morning.

 
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Published on February 27, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/27/14 – 115 miles.
On a sweet fragrance meter I would be two levels below the cow pie. The flies flock to me over anything on the trail. It is sad to say but at times I can hardly stand my own smell. And my trail angels / support crew, Richard and Dianna, are coming to pick me up tomorrow to take me off the trail a day or two. I hope I can clean up a bit before I get in their nice clean car.

It is no wonder I’m tired tonight; I walked 20 miles today. The trail was pretty easy with only gentle hills and smooth path. I think this section was laid out with mountain bikes in mind because the trail wound around every knoll and wash like someone would drop spaghetti on a plate. There were a lot of useless turns and twists that didn’t get you anywhere, only to make it fun for the bikes.

The vegetation has changed now that I have come down out of the mountains. It was a garden of Prickly Pear, Ocotillo, and Creosote bush for many miles, so I couldn’t find a place to sit in the shade when I wanted a break.

I’m camped just north of I10 near the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead. Gabe was one of those killed at the event with Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 and this area is a memorial to him. The only other interesting thing today was the tunnel the AZT uses to go under I10. It is 6’W x7’H and very long. Cool!

I’m tired.

 
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Published on February 27, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/26/14 – 95 miles.
I will hit 100 miles tomorrow. I remember how excited and proud I felt when I passed that mark on the AT. All your hiking buddies shared in the accomplishment and congratulated each other for pushing on. And even though we felt bad for those who had fallen out, somehow we were a little better, a little more determined, convinced we would make it all the way. There won’t be any of that tomorrow because this is has been a solitary trek.

I’m not saying I haven’t met people on the AZT or that I feel lonely, just that the journey you share with your fellow hikers on the AT is a one of a kind experience. I have met bike riders and quite a few day hikers but not anyone that is going 100 miles.

Today’s hiking has been nice. The trail follows the foothills of the Santa Ritas for several miles, dipping in and out of canyons, and climbing ridges that give ominous glimpses of the Rincons and Santa Catalinas ahead. I passed a hiker today that told me the weather forecast for this weekend is rain and snow in the mountains. I’m not sure yet how that will affect my plans.

Tonight I am camped on cow pie hill. It was the only place level I could find. Apparently, the cows liked the spot too. I just hope they don’t come back tonight and move in.

 
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Published on February 26, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/25/14 – 79 miles.
It is nice to be finally headed north. For the first 60 miles the AZT travels almost directly west, leaving you with the feeling that you’re not getting any closer to your destination. I will definitely be glad to get a little farther away from Mexico.

The hiking today was pretty easy. The trail was many miles of level walking as it followed a ditch that was built in the early 1900’s to deliver water to a mining operation. The ditch, or flume some say, was an enormous project involving many workers and a lot of money back then. There was a tunnels dug through one hill that was 1000′ long, and one canyon was crossed by 24″ pipe buried underground. All this architecture is just a trace now as the land reclaims itself, but the nice part is that the AZT follows the route of the flume and tells you all the history with strategically placed signs. It was quite interesting. The project cost $200,000 to build and they took $3,000 worth of gold from the land before it went bust.

Tonight I am ay a place called Kentucky Camp. It is a few restored buildings to preserve the history of the old mining camp. I met the caretaker of the camp when I got here and asked him where I could set up my tent. He told me I was welcome to stay in the main building – kind of a restored ranch house turned into a museum – and sleep on one of the beds and use the kitchen facilities. I was glad to accept.

There is a faint odor of skunk in the building but I think I’m getting used to it now. I was glad to find a place to plug my phone as the solar charger I borrowed from Daryl didn’t get any sun today. At least I will be out on the wind for tonight and be able to make meals on a table. And water from a tap! What luxury!

 
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Published on February 25, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/24/14 – 66 miles.
After catching the latest episode of *The Walking Dead* in my motel last night, a relaxing slumber in a real bed, and a hearty breakfast at the local coffee shop, I felt rested and ready to hike this morning. The trail started out pretty easy for the first few miles, but then it started an excruciating climb, and it wasn’t long before I was hiking like one of those zombies.

Within a mile of town I met a man out for a run who told me he and his wife hosted a thruhiker last year. He said he was sorry he didn’t see me in town yesterday to offer me the same hospitality. How nice to see trail angels on the AZT. I met a Border Patrol vehicle a little later that slowed down long enough to realize I was 100% Gringo, and then passed by with a wave.

I stopped about 3:30 because the guide book says there are no good camping spots above here. There is a pool of water in the rocks above my camp that looks stagnant but at least no cows can get to it.

I will soon enter the Wrightson Wilderness and a section of historic hydraulic gold mining. I will be interested to see what’s there. I keep hoping to find an overlooked gold nugget. On second thought, I wouldn’t want to pack it out!

 
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Published on February 23, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

I was up at 5am and on the trail by 6. The trail town of Patagonia was only a short 7 miles ahead and I was looking forward to taking the afternoon off to rest and eat some restaurant food.

The trail into town was pretty easy with a three mile road walk at the end. I walked for about an hour with my headlamp,and shortly after it became daylight, I met four backpackers going my way. They were two adults and two scouts out to earn backpacking merit badges. I walked with them into town and even secured a slackpack down the road with their ride.

Richard and Dianna met me at my motel with resupply goodies, and we had a nice lunch at the local coffee shop. I don’t know what I would do without all the help they have been kind enough to provide.

The next section through the Santa Rita Mountains is longer and drier so I will be carrying even more weight. I will hike out in the morning, after breakfast of bacon and eggs, of course.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/22/14 – 44 miles.
I wondered why I was having trouble keeping warm last night. I had on all my clothes and still felt chilly towards morning. When I crawled out of my tent the cold hit me like an iceberg. The water in my bladder was frozen solid and I am lucky it didn’t crack my filter. It must have been I’m the low 20’s to freeze that hard.

The first thing I did was build a fire. I’m not certain they are allowed here but this was a desperate situation. Once I had a good blaze going I made coffee and sat very close to the flames. It was hard to move away from the heat but eventually I packed up while returning often to the fire to warm my hands.

When I had been hiking a few miles up to Canelo Pass, I met two men who crossed my path while I was sitting on a rock. They were both carrying large, canvas rucksacks, a gallon of water, and when I spoke to them, answered back in Spanish. Can we say illegals? They seemed harmless but I wasn’t going to pick up my phone and call Border Patrol, that’s asking for a confrontation.

Later that afternoon I met a Border Patrol Agent on the trail. I told him of my encounter and he said they were looking for them. He told me that this has become a popular crossing area, and just last night officers raided a group nearby.

I told the Agent about my lion encounter and he said he has seen many in this area. I thought it was rare to spot one.

This area has been tough for water. Even though I load all my containers I still struggle to find good sources. A place called Down Under Tank was another cow pond but I took some there to make it to the next tank. Tanks that are fed by a pump are much tastier than ponds – at least the cows don’t poop in them.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/21/14 – 31 miles
I started earlier this morning but it was really cold. There was ice in the hose on my water bladder, and every task froze my fingers. I kept wishing the sun would hurry up and warm me up, a complete opposite of what I would wish for in the afternoon. When the sky is clear in Arizona, the nights are cold and the days are hot.

I finished Passage 1 at 9am and descended into Parker Canyon. There was a nice stream that flows from Parker Lake and I rested and filled my water bottles. Then the trail starts into the Canelo Hills on a seemingly never-ending ups and downs. The steep downhill hurt my toes and knees, and the uphill hurt everything else.

After a few miles into the Canelo Hills, I came to a road the AZT guide book said to follow. After a few miles I became worried that I had missed the turn off the road and began to doubt the route. The guide book gives descriptions and turns but not distances. I wasn’t sure if the turn was in 100′ or three miles. Luckily, my GPS said I was on the trail and eventually found the turn.

Tonight I am camped in a nice shady area a couple miles from Canelo Pass. I’m hoping there is water at the road crossing – I will be pretty low when I get there. I took a liter from a cow pond half a mile back, but it was so gross that I’m using it only for cooking.

While I was eating my supper I looked up and saw a cow staring at me through the trees. She continued to stare for about 20 minutes until finally moving on. I guess she doesn’t see many hikers in her woods.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2/20/14 19 miles.
It was really late when I started hiking today. I woke up early but couldn’t drag myself out until the sun warmed my tent. Then I had oatmeal and coffee and didn’t get on the trail until almost 9.

The AZT was a lot easier today. For 5 miles it ran along the crest of the Huachuca Mountains and then dropped several thousand feet into Sunshine Creek. Not long after I started hiking this morning, I rounded a bend, and there 50′ ahead of me I saw what I thought was a large dog walking down the trail. When he turned and loped into the trees I realized I was looking at a large Mountain Lion. Well, as you can imagine, that really spiked my adrenaline. Every time I would come to rock outcroppings above the trail I would keep looking up.

Tonight I am camped just a few miles before Parker lake. It should be warmer here. I haven’t had any cell service since I left the ridge and I don’t expect to get any for a couple more days.

 
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Published on February 22, 2014, by admin in AZT Hike.

2-19-14, 8 miles.
First days on the trail are always hard. After only a couple miles into my Arizona Trail hike I realized how out of shape I am. A few extra pounds in my pack and a few extra pounds around my waist contributed to a very slow and tiring climb to Miller Peak. I had a conversation with my body that went something like this:
My body said, “This hurts! What would possess you to go through the agony of hiking into the mountains again?”
I replied, “Because it’s fun!”
And my body said, “Why you idiot!”

A couple of hours earlier Richard and Dianna had dropped me off at Montezuma Pass in the Coronado National Memorial where I would start my hike on the AZT. Thanks R&D! I had planned for an easy day up to Millers Peak and down to a camping spot where it would be out of the wind and a little warmer. The trail started out okay, but in a couple of miles as I entered Millers Peak Wilderness, the path turned steep. There were great views but the hiking was strenuous. By the time I reached the side trail to the peak, it was getting late and I didn’t have the heart to climb to the top, so I continued on to Bathtub Springs and made camp there.

I was so exhausted that I layed down in my tent for a rest, assuming I would get back up to make supper when I felt better. The next thing I knew it was dark. I grabbed a couple treats from my food bag, ate them, turned over and went back to sleep. The wind blew all night, and being over 8000′ I kept putting on more clothes to stay warm.

There really is a bathtub at Bathtub Springs. There is a pipe that trickles into the tub, but the flow is too slow to fill a water bottle, so you have to drink right from the tub. I think this is the first time I’ve drank out of a bathtub since I was a little kid.

 

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