After testing my Gossamer Gear The One tent out two weeks ago, I decided I was not 100% comfortable with the tent when a storm came through with 60mph wind gusts and hail. After the first hour my tent just blew over and I had to run over to catch it before it blew away!
During the same storm, a guy was starting starting out his AZT NOBO (north bound) thru hike at the Southern terminus into his first day when 3 feet of snow fell. He did those first 3 miles while postholing (when each step into snow reaches mid calf and higher) and he became too exhausted to continue so he set up camp right on the trail to rest. His boots became frozen to the point he could not put his boots back on and ended up signaling to search and rescue due to hypothermia and frostbite.
I am so happy this person was rescued and is safe. Thank goodness for bad storms like this because I realized that was not the tent for me… at least for now as I do not want to be in the same situation! I ended up purchasing the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 instead. It requires one pole to stand and does not require to be staked down to stand up like the Gossamer Gear tent. To really test it out I ended up backpacking part of Passage 18 along the AZT this week. Not only did I test the tent, but also tested everything!
Passage 18 along the AZT begins outside the town of Superior, AZ at the Picket Post Trail Head. A quarter mile down a dusty road I found the large parking lot that was already full on a Thursday late morning. After locating the site host’s RV parked in the corner, I walked up and knocked on the door and much to my surprise he was inside. I asked him if it was okay to leave my Jeep parked there over night since the gate gets locked sundown to sunrise and he directed me to park in the middle near the bathrooms so he knows who is intentionally staying overnight.
As I walk out of the parking lot start to heading North along the trail, I double check to make sure I have all my essentials: car keys, water, phone, GPS. When I bring up the Guthook app on my phone (this app is updated by users for trail conditions, water sources, trail Angela, trail maps, etc.) it suddenly says I am logged out. Great. I have one bar of service on my phone and manage to get logged back in only to see my offline map I had downloaded months ago it deleted. Great. So I find a shady spot behind a small tree and wait the 15 minutes it takes to re-download the map before leaving a cell service area.
The first mile was slow moving as I was warming up to the trail, the surroundings and the weight on my back. I read there was a possible water source 4 miles in and a reliable water source at mile 8 so I only carried 2.5 liters of water since the temperature was in the cool 60s and windy. Soon I picked up the pace while taking in the scenery and before I knew it I was at the mile 4 water source which due to the drought this year was bone dry. I took a little break there and sipped some of the water I already had before moving on and into the canyon.
The canyon crossed several time over the dry creek bed under the shade of large trees and rock formations for a few miles before spitting me out into direct sunlight and no wind. Before I knew it my 1/2 liter bottle was gone and I still had 2 more miles until the next water source. Not a big deal since I still had 2 liters remaining but I was unsure if there really was water win the cement trough like the app was telling me. Around 3:45 in the afternoon I found the windmill at mile 8 and followed the forest road a little ways down to the clearing. There I found four women on horseback taking a break and we chatted for a few minutes before they turned around to go back to the trail head.
There was a little makeshift picnic table under a tree so I took my shoes off , sat down and asked myself what I was doing and why I was here. I had no cell service, felt like I was in the middle of nowhere by myself and the sun was going to be setting soon and realized I needed to hurry up! I walked over to the cement trough with my water bottle and filter and took a peek inside. The horses had just drank from it but that part was okay with me. It was the green algae and all the black bugs swimming around below the surface of the water that I was unsure of. I ended up filling 1 liter and the water felt surprisingly ice cold so I was satisfied before headed onward to Reavis Trail Canyon Trailhead at mile 310.7 where I planned on camping.
My first experience with filtering from cement troughs.
From here I continued North West noticing quickly at mile 9 that not many people come this far because the trail suddenly became uncomfortable. As soon as I had this thought, I spotted a javalina not far ahead and froze as I watched a second javalina and its juvenile dart off into the brush and (thankfully) away from me! It’s pretty exciting to see these strange animals in the wild.
Just before 5pm I walked across the dirt Forest Road 650 and couldn’t help but to smile when I see a riverbed with running water AND noticed a Trail Angel stashed almost a dozen full gallon water jugs. What a delight! Even thought the sun had started to set behind the mountain leaving the area chilly, I sat down and soaked my feet for only a few seconds each. The water was freezing but refreshing. After filtering some fresher water (I decided to leave the gallon jugs for the thru-hikers) I continued up the trail to an area the Guthooks app said was good for camping.
This area was an old corral with a stone wall surrounding a perfectly flat area and offered a nice protection from the wind that was with me the entire day. Even though I just received the Big Agnes tent two days prior I was able to quickly set it up and unpack everything to get settled in. By this time, the temperature was dropping quickly and I started to shiver even with my hiking pants and puffy coat on. For dinner I heated up a packet of garlic mashed potatoes and enjoyed the scenery while I ate.
After cleaning up dinner and myself, I brushed my teeth, changed into my night clothes and tucked myself away into my sleeping quilt. The forecast called for a low of 39 degrees at the lower elevation so I figured it would be a few degrees colder up higher. I brought a few extra things in case I got too cold and thank goodness because I did use them! As soon as I was in my tent the wind completely stopped. Figures! Oh well, it was peaceful! In fact it was so peaceful there were zero sounds outside to the point it was almost eerie. Normally when the sun sets in Arizona you hear the sounds of quail, crickets and wild dogs but not on this night. I watched the sky slowly turn dark and the most amazing scenery came to life. Millions and millions of stars came out shining so brightly without the city lights drowning them out. I’ve never seen a more beautiful night sky before and I wanted to badly to stare up at them all night but the cold air became too much and was forced to shut myself into the tent to keep warm. Near midnight I finally heard the soft sounds of an owl and it eventually put me to sleep for a few hours.
When I wake it’s still dark outside and the air is cold all around me but I’m cozy in my quilt so I lie there until it starts to get light outside. I force myself to get up and grab my food bag which I stashed a couple yards away from the tent held down with a rock. Luckily no wildlife tried to get it! I crawl back in my bag and heat up some water for oatmeal and tea while watching the sunrise. I had nowhere to be so it was nice to enjoy it.
While I ate breakfast I shoved my hiking clothing into the quilt with me so they were warm when I changed into them after eating. I then cleaned up all my gear and packed all my belongings back into my backpack for the day.
TOP take aways from this trip:
- UPF chapstick- regular chapstick did not prevent sun/windburn on my lips.
- Use sunscreen in a resealable container- I only took a packet of sunscreen that didn’t reseal. What a mess!
- Use my smart water bottle to fill the water reservoir instead of directly trying to fill the bag- the bag only allowed about 1 liter to be filled rather than the 2 liter capacity.
- Reduce caffeine intake before another trip- after day 2 I had a massive headache behind my eye and it took a few days to go away.
- Carry backup maps- I was lucky to be able to download the Guthooks map but it might not always be the case!
- Drink more water than you think- even though the 68 degrees felt much cooler to me I was still sweating it all out without realizing and ended up with slight dehydration
- 2 hiking poles is always better than 1- it will save knees, toes and evens out balance! Also, it helps to reduce snake encounters with all the clack clack clacking against the rocks.