Oracle to Mile 219.2 (21 miles)
This morning I woke at 6am and we all packed and somehow fit 4 days of food and 4.5 liters of water into our bags which was ridiculously heavy after carrying light for the past few days. Tik Tok was able to get ahold of a nice woman named Carol who picked us up at El Rancho Robles and drove us the couple of miles to the trailhead. Thank goodness because I was not looking forward to walking the road to get there!
Tik Tok ended up getting a ride from Carol to the Tucson to fly home afterwards because unfortunately he had to get back to work. I was sad to see him leave because the four of us had a great hiking system going and I really enjoyed the stories he would tell us on the hikes! So for now it will be just the three of us.
The first couple of miles was really nice and easy and had a very nice footpath without all the rocks and steep inclines so we were able to knock out those miles rather quickly. The trail had become all desert with few trees around and the sun was heating up fast. Around 9am we walked into a water source where the Oracle State Park dropped off dozens of cold cans of water! It was so delightful so we paired that with some snacks from our bags and continued on our merry way.
An hour and half later we crossed below highway 77 and were able to cool off in the shade of the overpass. The heat was kicking it up especially after us dealing with cold for so long. We ate and drank more, keeping an eye on our water levels as the day had us at an almost 20 mile stretch with no guarantee of water. I still had 3 liters by then. From there we had a two mile dirt road walk to the next trailhead and it was starting to feel like we were now in the middle of nowhere but surrounded by mountains far off in the distance. At the trailhead we were surprised to find a cache of water so we cameled up as much as we could and filled our bottles again. I was shocked at how cold the water was just sitting in the metal container in the sun.
By this time it was a little after 10:00 and we had only gone around 8 miles. Not good! I took out my sun umbrella to keep the sun off my body and cool down some as I could feel it burning. That only lasted for a little over a mile then I had to switch it out for my second hiking pole so I would stumble. It seemed like the day was dragging and we were getting nowhere and then I spot Afterburner sitting under the best shade tree he could find- surrounded by cow poop! It is what it is so we all sat down and had lunch in the small shade with him.
I think we were all starting to wear out from the heat because we sat there almost an hour! But it seemed like it was needed because the next few hours and miles flew by and before I knew it we were only 4.5 miles away from our water source and hopefully a campsite! However as soon as I realized this, my ankle starting having sharp pains then Wayback took a slide in the dirt and lost his reading glasses and Afterburner looked…done.
We took one last break to regroup, hydrate and push on the final 3 miles. Finally at 5:30 we found the water source a quarter mile off the trail and oh my it was a huge tank completely full to the top with ice cold water! I mean there were dead bugs floating on top and tiny ones swimming around in it but once filtered it actually tasted better than the hotel water we’d been drinking all day.
Luckily there was a perfect campsite a few hundred yards from the tank. It had a fence on the backside and prickly pear on the other sides and an amazing view of the mountains in the distance. We set up camp in the daylight (hurrah!) and sat down on the ground to make dinner. Of course I had the refried beans mixed with Mac n cheese burritos again-so delicious after hiking all day! By the time I finished and cleaned up and changed the sun was down and it was time for bed!
Mile 219 to Mile 239.5 (20 miles)
This morning we started on the trail an hour early at 6:15 to try and push some miles out before the sun became too hot and slowed us down. We packed up camp using our headlamps and still managed to have a cup of coffee and a fig bar. The first three miles were amazing as I got to see the sun slowly rising and the colors of the desert change before my eyes. I love the smell of the desert first thing in the morning too, it has such a uniqueness about it. We saw a couple of rabbits, jackrabbits and a ton of birds but no animals other than that.
We managed to get 4 miles in by 8am where we planned on refilling at ‘Cow Tank’ but when we went through one of the AZT gates there was a stash of gallon water jugs so we were able to camel up and sit for a snack for a few minutes. After that we took off and had several miles of dirt road walking. I was having a great morning just walking along looking at all the cholla and prickle pear cactus around me. We were surrounded by them all day! We were also leap frogging four women who were out section-hiking Passages 14 & 15 most of the day. We could hear them chatting away so many times during the day (maybe that’s why I didn’t see more wildlife?).
Three miles later we came down the road and into a canyon where there was a windmill with a huge water tank and surrounded by a little cattle holding area, also known as ‘Beehive Tank’. This one lived up to its name as there were SO many bees in that area! At first thought, we were thinking we would have another cache coming up in three more miles but on closer reading we realized that was old news and we weren’t sure when we would get water again. That’s an uncomfortable feeling! So we made the right choice and decided to grab a few liters from the tank. The directions were strange and we tried to put the wires together inside the small shack. Supposedly once you do that, give it one minute, fresh water would come out of the pipe and into the very icky murky water tank. However, this did not work. Great. So I climbed a pile of wood to get to the top of this tank and scooped out the nasty water and into all of our water reservoirs. Wayback then tried to filter it and it kept clogging! 45 minutes later we all had gross water. Mine looked like I was carrying a bag of ice cold urine-gross!
This water delay set us back in our mileage for the day as we were hoping to get at least 12 miles in by noon but we were only at 7! So we took off out of that canyon and climbed a smallish mountain under the beating sun and no breeze and 4.5 liters of water. It wasn’t until we crossed its’ ridge and started to descend that we felt any kind of air movement. It felt amazing! It was then noon so we decided to find a shade tree and have a quick lunch then head out again. This is easier said than done! We were hiking through cactus central and there were no trees around us! We hiked almost a mile further to an AZT gate and decided we had enough and just needed to sit down. So we sat on a dirt road with me under my sun umbrella trying to cool off as best as I could while eating lunch.
We hit 10 miles by lunchtime and after putting some food in our stomachs we took off! I must have been in the zone because I barely noticed we hiked three miles uphill in the afternoon sun. The trail came out on another dirt road that led us two miles to Freeman Road Trailhead at mileage 234. That two miles is where I hit my wall. Everything hurt and I had no energy, I was hot….. or possibly I was just really dehydrated! The last mile took forever in my mind. Wayback was hoping there would be water in a hiker box at the trailhead and when we finally got close enough to see a box, I did NOT go to it. Instead I went to the shade area, threw off my shoes and socks and laid there on my back with my legs elevated. Afterburner came and joined in. Wayback, bless him brought over two gallons of water for all of us to fill up on.
We sat at this shade shack for an hour, cooling down, hydrating and snacking on food yet again. By 4pm we had five more miles to get to our campsite so we replaced our cow water with fresh water and begrudgingly took off down the path. Luckily I was once again feeling my trail groove because I was leading the pack and no sooner so I realize we hit three miles in under an hour! So two miles after that we find campsite 239.5 (not really a campsite but a flat spot of ground big enough for tents) and set up. For dinner I tried the soy sauce ramen noodle with a mixture of dehydrated veggies I added, powdered hummus I added water to make, and veggie chips! I wasn’t a big fan of the ramen because I kept burning my mouth on it trying to finish dinner before the sun set. I did enjoy the hummus though! After a long day all I want is to craw into my tent and get comfy! The plan is to wake up at 04:30 and get an earlier head start so we can get into Kearny for a resupply tomorrow!
Mile 239.5 to Mile 264 in Kearny (24 miles!)
I slept pretty good last night. Heard the coyotes every couple of hours and it got slightly chilly so I had to put my beanie on. The alarm went off at 4:30 and we packed up under the light of our headlamps, had some coffee and hit the trail by 5:30. I enjoy hiking by headlamp because everything feels so effortless and no distractions. We knocked out three miles in an hour, stopped to take a drink of water and put sunscreen on then continued on another three miles. This continued until we hit 10 miles at 9:30. We found a great spot to have lunch under a tree and near a random hole in the ground that looked like a meteor or something created it. I ate my last tortilla with peanut butter and dehydrated apples, realizing I was almost out of food. I can’t believe I ate all of that in three days but I was still hungry.
At 10:15 we took off again on the trail, a long stretch of forest road that was relatively flat in the desert and allowed me to settle in and relax and enjoy the scenery without fear of stumbling everywhere. We eventually parted from the road and back onto the real trail and followed it up a hill and then back down into canyons with little wind and a lot of PUDs as Wayback calls them (Pointless Ups and Downs). At mile 251.9 we crawled up a side road to get to our water source, a small tank sitting out under the sun. This was our last water for 12 more miles so we filtered it and took a break- me under my umbrella for shade- and then continued back on the trail, headed for a couple hundred feet climb.
By then it was noon and it was so bright I felt like I was under a magnifying glass and heating up quickly as we descended into a canyon and walked along a wash area for half mile. After one last quick stop under a shade tree we went up the ‘big hill’ and surprisingly it was very windy! I was happy I wasn’t dying from the heat but the wind made it difficult to walk along the steep path. It was a mile and a half climb to the top with incredible 360 degree views. At the top we all just sat down and talked about random things for half an hour, not wanting to move. We must seem pretty lazy with all the breaks we take!
At this point we only had another 7.5 miles to get to the Kearny Trailhead by the Gila River. We thought it would be all downhill from here but we were so wrong! I should know by now that in order to go down you must always go up! Over and over and over again! Eventually we made it down 5.5 miles into the Florence Kelvin Road Trailhead where it was rumored to have water, beer, and snacks. To my delight they actually had beer! It was warm but it was there, but it was probably still there because someone put tuna packets into the box and everything inside smelled of spoiled fish. So gross.
While there I tried to call the General Kearny Inn where we had a room reserved for the night. On the phone app they supposedly shuttled hikers to and from the trail but no one answered the phone. They Afterburner tried to call a trail Angel but he was busy. We divided to go the extra two miles to the Gila Trailhead and try calling from there. Once we arrived there though there was no Verizon phone service. Way back had T-mobile so he tried calling the hotel too and left a message but no one called back. We walked up to the highway to see if we could get better service but no.
The highway was pretty desolate especially at 5:30pm on a Sunday so there no hitch-hiking was happening. One last attempt was to call Old Time Pizza who regularly deliver pizza to thru-hikers at the bridge where we were. Wayback asked if instead of ordering deliver if they could pick us up and we could come eat at the restaurant. Can you believe the woman in the phone said the owner would come and pick us up?!
15 minutes later a red suv pulls up and a wonderful woman named Jodie (the owners daughter) drives us the 5 miles back to Kearny. When we arrive at the hotel the sign says they are closed and to call a number for after hour assistance. Hmm. Way back calls and leaves another message. We are all just hanging out waiting for a call back that never came. Jodie then calls the manager at her home and get ahold of the person who was supposed to show up. 10 minutes later a car pulls up and a girl gets out in sandals a T-shirt and shorts. She doesn’t say hi or anything friendly but unlocks the door and holds it open for me. I walk inside and she verifies my room and credit card, has me sign then hands me an actual key. No sooner this is done and I walk outside she’s back in her car again and leaving. What in the world?!
We find our room, dump our bags and head over to the pizza place. I am so hungry by then I eat all but one slice of a 10” pizza and an order of French fries not even caring it’s not vegan. Afterburner ate all but two slices of his medium pizza! We all sign the AZT board and head back to the hotel room.
Since it was so late by then (8pm is too late as we are normally asleep by then!) we decided to forgo laundry and I took a few pieces into the shower with me and hand washed them. We will by in Superior in a few days and will really get everything clean then!
Kearny to Mile 276 (13 miles)
I slept like a rock last night and it felt amazing! I slept in until 7am and laid there for a while not wanting to move. When I stood up in the morning I could barely stand up straight as all my leg muscles were so tight. I got to talk to Jen this morning and that made my day already. At 8am the three of us walked over to the local IGA and I purchased one avocado (for my refried beans!) some flour tortillas and new water bottles. While we were there the manager said coffee and donuts were on the house so we helped ourselves to that Magic and the coffee was delicious! We sat inside the cafe until the Post Office opened so I could pick up my resupply box.
A little before 9am I walked over to the Post Office and waited a few minutes before they opened and just to my luck the woman working there said my box just arrived this morning. Great! So I happily carried my prized box back to the hotel to rifle through it and get myself organized. Once I packed up my food, I cleaned up my cooking pot, spoon, flushed out my water filter (it had a lot of green algae in it from the cow tanks) and managed to wedge and shove everything into and on the outside of my bag.
I finally went to lay down on the bed for a few minutes while we waited for Wayback to get his resupply box he had mailed to the hotel. As soon as I laid down I realized I didn’t see my avocado. I searched back through my bag, the grocery bags, my box and everything and I did not find it. I was so disappointed because I was looking forward to eating that with dinner. Booo! I think the woman at the grocery store was talking so much and perhaps she didn’t put it in the bag or I dropped it somewhere. Who knows.
Once Wayback had his stuff organized we loaded up and met the hotel manager (Bill I think his name was) for a ride back to the trail. Bill was a older cowboy who talked with a thick twang and was a really nice guy. As soon as he pulled off the side of the road we all see a sign that says drinking water above a pipe with a handle. Bill said did you guys need water? We said no we filled up in the hotel room. Bill said, “I’d recommend dumping that and refilling here, it’ll taste a lot better”. Yikes! So we did just that!
So the trail takes you down and up and down and up for about 3.5 miles and it runs alongside railroad tracks. We three decided to walk the railroad track instead of P.U.D.s. I mean why not? I’ve always wanted to do this so I had a blast for those two miles. I felt like The Boxcar Children or in Stand By Me! We even had to cross over a small river that ran below about 20-30 feet. Right before the railroad crosses to the other side of the Gila River, we cut up to the AZT located about 50 feet off to the side. We hiked for a total of just over an hour when I found a nice shady area and declared I was hungry. It was already past noon so we had a quick lunch and took off again.
A few hours later we took another break by a giant rock along the mountain we were skimming by and I decided to try out my new Bluetooth headphones I picked up at IGA. My first pair worked for half an hour then stopped working right, so I’ve been hiking the last 200+ miles having to listen to my own singing. NOOO! So I listened and got lost to a podcast for a little while before turning them off. It was nice for a distraction during the windy area but I enjoy hearing everything around me.
We ended up only doing about 13 miles today. When we were a little over a mile out from the campsite I heard a cowbell off in the bushes only to see this black and white bull skittishly take off down the path in front of me. I went around the bend and he took off again down the same path we were taking! Instead of just crossing the path and going a different route he continued this for that mile! I couldn’t help but to laugh at this goofy bull.
So picture this: Our campsite was on the left side of the path with a barbed wire fence behind it and the trees and river behind that. To the right of the path was a rock wall with some cactus scattered along it. We were just starting to set up camp when we hear this grunting noise down the path. This enormous bull comes slowly walking by then let’s out the angriest moo I’ve ever heard! A few minutes later more cows come walking by like we are camped out along Cow Highway!
Once camp was set up we ventured down a small side path that led to the water (clearly a cow path) and found the Gila River. Middle looking with a fast current. We are filling the water bags when the same black and white bull with a small brown cow had followed us down to the river. He stands there staring at us then moos and walks away. I said, it may be a long night! Even though the water looked yellowish in my dirty water bag it filtered through clear and actually tasted really good.
I made my refried bean burrito without avocado and some granola for dinner then got settled in to my tent and relaxing listening to the river nearby. I noticed a couple hot spots on my feet and hoped it wouldn’t become any worse tomorrow with a big climb from 1657’ to 3759’. We plan on waking up at 04:30 to get an early start on the day to avoid any possible heat.
Mile 276 to Mile 293 (17 miles)
I slept awful last night. I woke up every hour, had crazy dreams when I did sleep and the temperature dropped much lower than I anticipated. The alarm went off at 04:30 and I hurried up and packed in the chilly morning under the light of my headlamp. The stars were so bright and SO many were visible! Wayback made coffee for us and that helped to kickstart my energy mixed with my fig bar.
We hit the trail at 05:30 and walked a little slower since the terrain was a little rocky by the Gila River. We followed it three miles before passing through an AZT gate and walked a forest road up to a trailhead. From here the trail continued up over the next 11 miles. I was nervous approaching this long stretch but realized I was foolish because it was an enjoyably moderate but steady climb. The views were unbelievable and I kept stopping to look in awe at the beautiful mountains and really taking in what I was doing and accomplishing so far.
On any other day I believe this section would have been difficult if not brutal. We lucked out and had cloudy skies with a nice breeze, making it cooler than it normally would be. I was able to carry only 2.5 liters of water instead of the dreaded 4-5 liters. About halfway up I decided I would listen to a podcast on my new headphones and they lasted almost two hours before dying. I forgot to fully charge them when I bought them but was extremely happy they worked!
Just after 12, we made it to the rainwater collector and mile 288. It was installed there by the Arizona Trail Association due to the notoriously hot and long stretch of trail without any water. The funds were provided and they built the amazing tank that has cold water atop the mountain! Today however, the clouds and wind were strong on the mountain. I filled my water bag and filtered into my water bottles and ate a PBJ burrito with half a bag of chex mix and a Quest bar. I took the time to take my shoes and socks off and inspect my feet noticing my big toe on the right foot is larger than it should. I didn’t see a blister and it didn’t hurt too bad so I’ll keep an eye on it. Other than that they both checked out. When I was packing up it started to lightly rain and the temperature dropped so I put my rain coat and beanie on and stayed like that for the rest of the hike.
We planned on hiking 18 miles today followed by 10 tomorrow to put us at the Pickepost Trailhead but we found a discrepancy on the Guthook app. The mileage on the app doesn’t add up to the miles they are showing so we ended up hiking 17 today and then it’s only about 6 miles to the trailhead. We were scoping out a campsite 2-3 miles up but when we sat down to take a break the rain and wind picked up and that site was on a saddle. I knew it would be too windy up there. We saw a decent area a quarter mile back the trail so we turned around to get to that site.
It was not a campsite but a small pull off area by the forest road but it was good enough for the moment. As we are starting to set up the rain picks up slightly so I hurry to erect the tent and put my bag under the rain fly. I had to redo some tent stakes because the wind kicked them out of the ground then I crawled inside and set everything else up. It was still early, 4:30 so we sat in our separate tents (Wayback under his tarptent) and talked strategy for upcoming resupplies, water sources and various other things for an hour. As I’m sitting in my tent in the daylight I see how dirty all my things have become, including the inside of the tent! All this setting up in dirt has it on everything! We plan a double zero in Superior so I can try and clean up things for another long haul and hopefully wash all my clothes since they haven’t had a good wash since the night in Oracle. Stinky hiker trash! For dinner I tried a vegan dehydrated meal Wayback gave me called Bibimbap and it was pretty good but I picked out the shiitake mushrooms. The flavor was good but didn’t fill me up as well as my usual meal so I put some of it on small tortillas to add some calories. The weather called for 10% chance of rain all night and I just hope my tent stakes stay put!
Mile 293 to Superior (7 miles)
It rained off and on all night. Eventually I was able to fall asleep very soundly and woke to the 05:30 alarm and I didn’t want to get up but I did after a few minutes. I had gone to sleep with my pack inside my tent under my feet to keep it dry so I ended up packing everything inside the tent before getting out. The ground was so muddy my shoes were sliding around but it had stopped raining at least. I finished packing up my dirty, wet tent and had some coffee before hitting the trail at 06:40.
The first few miles were slow moving as it was slightly uphill and the ground was still soppy. The day was a short hike of only 7 miles to the trailhead so we took our time getting there and taking in views of the mountains and fresh earth.
We arrived at the trailhead a little after 10am and sat at the picnic table for a few minutes waiting on our ride from Afterburners mom. She arrived soon and next thing I know I’m sitting in a warm vehicle and heading into Superior. Wayback arranged for a hotel room for Thursday and Friday night but tonight was no guarantee on where we would stay. When he went to check in, the manager Sam said she was able to get a room together for us for the night but it wouldn’t be ready until noon. That’s fine with us! So we all went to Los Hermanos for lunch before taking us back to the hotel. We ended up with a one queen size bed so I said I’d take the floor since Wayback reserved it. I was just happy to get a shower and wash clothes! She put us up in their [backup] room that under normal circumstances I would never step foot in but right now I was happy for it.
After getting into the room and showering we walked across the street to family dollar to pick up a few things then headed back to the hotel to relax a while while waiting on laundry to finish and watching the rain come down from inside the room. We are in Superior for two full days so tomorrow I will complete my resupply and will post an update to everyone on my gear- how it’s all holding up and pros/cons for it.