3/16/14 – 301 miles
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.