Day 6: Magic and miles

I had no intention of this being a long day. But I woke up to good weather, and got several good miles in before the sun crested over the hills. I love morning hiking. I feel most hopeful and alive.

Every self-respecting trail has a cool rock.

At the three mile mark, I ran into Trail Magic. I didn’t even know I needed pudding for breakfast but I did. I really did. Shout out to Mudhole, Matt, and Grandpa for their kindness.

Ziplocs? My good sirs, you are geniuses.

It was at that moment when I met the first runner. Little did I know that I was about to become part of a major race. The Old Pueblo race was happening and every 1.5 minutes I was jumping to the side of the trail and cheering on another runner.

For the next half a day, runners were a major part of every hour. And because the course is some kind of loop, I was able to see some people multiple times. I’m pretty sure Jason Momoa even offered me water, twice.

Here’s a typical lunch.

I just kept walking.

I got too low on water because one of the water sources looked terrible and I couldn’t do it. So I just kept hiking.

I eventually made it to a stock tank where I caught up with Mr. Clean and Thibaud. They warned me about intense winds coming so I took off a little farther and set up in a protected area.

This was a 20.9 mile day.

Although I was sheltered somewhat, the grass I was camping on was incredibly noisy and so it was hard to sleep. I know that sound ridiculous but I swear the grass was intensely loud.

It was a really lovely day.

Day 5: a Wright way to spend a day

Carrie in Patagonia gave me a much needed pep talk as I went on my way. I am very very tired and don’t really feel ready to tackle the trail each morning when I wake up. Oh how I would have loved to zero.

Who wouldn’t love some goat time?

The climb up out of Patagonia goes on and on but at least there was lots of water. And in some places, shade.

So many little water crossings!

The trail kept getting closer and closer to Mount Wrightson. The trail does not summit the mountain but goes over a saddle right next to it.

Looking ahead

And soon I entered the Mount Wrightson Wilderness, the second Wilderness Area of the trip so far.

Cute lil Wilderness sign

After getting over the saddle, it was a long downhill to get to my campsite. I pulled over at 4:30 which is too early usually, but I needed to take a break. I set up next to a little creek that seemed totally out of place in the desert.

Day 4: The heat, the food, and the rebound

Ever since I started hiking, I’ve barely been able to eat. It was so alarming that I even began writing everything down so I could track just how few calories I was consuming.

In the cold, stopping to eat didn’t feel like an option. In the heat, my body just wants nothing to do with foods. The thought of food makes me nauseous. I can’t even choke down chocolate.

But I’m doing great at staying hydrated. Lots of sources for the first half of today.

This photo would be better if I’d stood up, but that was waaay too much effort.

Today I decided to push a little and get to Patagonia. It was so hot today I could feel my skin burn and no matter how much water I drank I was always thirsty. The final push to town was flat on the elevation map but was actually a series of many many many oh my god many little climbs and descents. And it was so hot.

You know, I didn’t cry once during the snow madness or the rainy aftermath, but this section made me cry a little. I’m exhausted and only 50 miles in. Meanwhile the world appears to be falling apart, Elliott might cancel his trip to visit me due to travel concerns, and I missed his grandmother’s funeral. It’s a lot.

But Patagonia! This town changed my apocalyptic worldview, if only for a night.

This is the best little trail town, thanks to Carrie who is letting me camp in her yard.

What? Yes please.

There are 4 hikers here, 3 who began a day after me and had to bail out of Bathtub Spring due to intense weather, and Eeyore with whom I shared this:

I only ate 2 slices. 2 are for breakfast.

Thanks to Carrie I got to shower and do laundry. Elliott is missing out on all this:

It’s the official hiker doing laundry get up.

There are goats here and a dog named Etta and 2 cats. It will be hard to not zero tomorrow but more iffy weather is moving in on Sunday so strategically I should get a move on. After I resupply. And eat my pizza.

After getting some calories in, I no longer want to cry. But I’m still very very tired.

Next stop: Colossal Cave.

Day 3: The pendulum swings

I awoke to a silent world.

No rain. No snow. Sunshine. So although my best hiking hours are before 9am, I let everything dry out first and didn’t get on trail until 8:30.

The day felt long and rollercoastery. I got reception atop a saddle and called home. I needed to cool down: it was so damn hot.

The rest of the day was kind of sloggy. Even without elevation change, miles are hard and hot and rocky and mostly unpleasant. So were my water sources.

From whence I came

I was too focused on getting to passage 3 to take many photos. I was also kind of crabby.

Bye Miller Peak Wilderness. TBH not gonna miss you. xoxo

I set up my tent and realized I hadn’t seen another human since I was passed in the snow by my trail breaking angel. But I did hear them: all night long planes flew back and forth in a grid looking for migrants I guess.

Oh also there are blimps along the border. Yeah. Cuz that’s not creepy.

Day 2: Just, yikes.

It may shock you to learn that this wasn’t fun.

All night I’d wake up, hit my tent walls, and make sure I still had air pockets so I wouldn’t die. Whatever the snow equivalent of raining cats and dogs is, that’s what it was doing. If the Miller Peak Wilderness Area had school, it totally would have been cancelled.

I wanted to zero. I wanted to stay in my tent and do nothing. The last thing I wanted to do was move. But the forecast said more snow. The only way out was through.

It was still snowing but I bundled up and began breaking trail. Uphill through ankle + deep snow (a few patches of knee deep, but not many). The snow was so thick and heavy that at times I could go only 25 steps before taking a break.

There was a delightful (sarcasm) stretch along a ridge that I butt-scooted across because, NOPE. Big cheers to my dad for his great job patching my FrogTogs, and also to Gayle C from whom I inherited the Yak Traks that made the whole endeavor possible.

Play my favorite game, Find the Trail.

It was pretty dramatic. And when I was feeling super low, along came a woman moving quickly who passed me and said “We’ll make it.” It was exactly what I needed.

The psychological benefit of following someone’s footsteps was even greater than the physical benefit. That woman was who I needed, when I needed her. I have no idea who she was.

Hike in the desert, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

Finally I crested the last peak and began the slog downhill. As I descended, giant balls of snow fell from the trees. When I reached the canyon at the bottom, a cold rain had started and kept up the rest of the day.

I made it out of passage 1 and into passage 2 and I shivered for 2 hours before I was warm.

Day 1: Miller Peak

I got a shuttle from Sierra Vista to Coronado National Monument and easily hitched up Montezuma Pass. Because the Arizona Trail begins at the border I hiked south 1.9 miles to Monument 102.

Yes that’s my hand. It was really bright, okay, and hard to see.

From there began my 3500 foot climb up Miller Peak and into the Miller Peak Wilderness Area. It went about as well as you’d expect for someone from the flatlands who hasn’t been able to move much due to ice.

So long story short I soon realized that I wouldn’t make it as far down Miller Peak as I’d like. At least I made it past the existing icy sheet of death.

It was on a stretch like this where a rock I stepped on gave way. The saturated soil slid down a fairly steep incline. And so did I.

I would like to point out that it’s been 3 years since I’ve slid uncontrollably down a mountain. If it happens only once every 3 years, I’m good with that. I scuffed up my hand, put a dent in my knee, crawled up, and kept going.

Bathtub Spring is only 8.1 miles from the border but it was a 10 mile day including the hike down to the terminus.

Yep. Aptly named.

I considered hiking farther that night with Moonie and Ponykeg but I was wiped and it was beginning to snow. By the time my tent was set up, it was dark but coming down white.

For the next 2 hours I tried to sleep but mostly watched in dismay as my tent got more and more buried.

The up and over day

Well, I am so grateful that I didn’t delay my hike by a day. I won’t claim that today will be pleasant, but I should be able to get up and over Miller before any weather blows in.

I’m hoping to camp tonight around 6000 feet and tomorrow I should be even lower. That’s good and bad; I would rather deal with snow than rain usually, but it doesn’t look like it will get too dramatic and I have enough layers to be safe whatever happens.

The day before…

Miller Peak (tomorrow’s goal) from the sprawl of Sierra Vista

There’s always something especially hellish about the day before start dates.

It could just be that the day started far too early at 5:30, when my wonderful mother drove me to the shuttle. (Thanks ma.) Despite an unethically long line to check my bag, the airport was a mostly uneventful experience, as was my flight to Tucson. I even got to watch Frozen 2, hashtag don’t judge.

I was relieved to have the shuttle guy waiting for me at the airport, even though this was a more expensive luxury than I had anticipated. When I booked in November, I just figured that with so many hikers starting around this time, I would find someone to share the shuttle with and then split the cost. That didn’t happen, but I was grateful to not have to deal with figuring out a bus network or putting strain on a trail angel.

The $50 motel room meets expectations. Miller Peak photo taken from same place as this one, looking opposite direction.

The last couple weeks have put a strain on me in pretty much every category of my life so I’m looking forward to getting on the trail and sleeping well.

The forecast looks a lot better than it had looked. I should be able to get up and over Miller Peak before the snow starts. My second day on trail will have snow (2 inches or so) or rain depending on the freezing elevation, but after that it will be lovely.

I’m immensely grateful to be here, and as exhausted as I am grateful.

The joy of forecasting

I wouldn’t say I have been obsessively checking the weather forecast for Miller Peak, but I am sure Elliott would say I have been obsessively checking the weather forecast for Miller Peak.

If this forecast holds out, I will consider myself extremely lucky. In past days the forecast has included as many as 8 inches of snow and winds up to 60 miles per hour. While I will not be camping at this elevation, I won’t be significantly lower my first night on the trail. Long-term, I have no major concerns. It’s just that first day.

Worst case scenario, I hole up in my cheap motel room and lose some money on a shuttle. It’s not the end of the world.