Mile 138 to 154. 16 miles.
During the night a fierce windstorm began. The sky was still clear and starry and the air was cold. Getting blasted by dust and hearing the trees creaking above you made for some uneasy sleeping. We’re heading into Tucson tonight because Bill Muarry needs to go back to school and Sue and Todd, the couple we met at the monument on day 1 gave us their number and told us to give them a call if we needed a ride!
We got up around 6:20 as usual and we hit the trail about 7:15 for a 3300 foot climb on the top of Mica Mountain. The intense wind and cold kept me at a pretty comfortable temperature as we climbed. We climbed up and out of the oak and juniper forest and into ponderosa pine and Douglas fir around 7000-8500 feet. There were cold clear streams here and there and now it was really chilly once we got to manning camp. We ate a quick snack here and then headed toward the peak.
The AZT is effectively unmarked in saguaro national park among other areas so far. If you don’t have a gps or a really detailed map, you best be good at guessing. There will be a 4 way intersection, all paths with names you know nothing about and sometimes an AZT sign on the post. It won’t point in any direction though, it just essentially says the AZT is in one of these directions, good luck. Now I’m used to the big trails where when there is an intersection, no matter what park or jurisdiction, it says which way the MAJOR trail goes. A sign on a tree past the possible intersection, an arrow on the sign, etc. Out here it’s just, good luck! You might be walking out into the desert with no indication you’ve taken the AZT or some cattle ranchers ATV path that leads to who knows where or if there is even water. Then you’ll get signs that say AZT and tell you to turn off into the middle of a field when there is clearly no path that way. I’m loving this trail but for heavens sake put up more AZT signs at any possible intersection. It’s currently navigable, but so much time could be saved. I don’t want to have to look at a book ever few miles to see if I’m on the correct trail or have to look at a gps at every intersection. I just want to be in the zone, walking the path like I could on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail and know I’m not walking down some derelict forest road. Sorry, had to get that out. All will be well when the AZT guthook app comes out soon.
We hit the peak around 10 am. The peak is just the highest bump around with some pine trees on it. Nothing too exciting. That is until you start the 5000 foot decent. The mountainside has been opened up by a wildfire and you can really see how high you are. Really freaking high. Amazing views of rock formations below and distant mountain ranges all around! And the wind is still fierce. Some trees have been knocked down over the trail but aren’t a problem for foot traffic. May be problematic for horseback. We came down one of the most beautiful ridges I’ve been on. Up the mountain I can see a grove of quaking aspen in a creek bed.
Once we get back to about 5000 feet the desert returns and it is hot again. Cacti are backti. We run into Rambling Hemlock and Jan about 4 miles from our pick up point. We’re stoked to see each other as we both know we’re hiking the AZT in opposite directions. We chat for a bit and exchange our knowledge of water sources. I met Rambling Hemlock on the PCT at Kennedy Meadows last year. Check out their blogs here!
We made it to Redington Road about 2 pm and a bit later Todd and his son showed up to take us to Tucson! Redington road is a crazy off road vehicle kind of dirt road with huge ditches and cliffs off to the side. I felt bad that Todd had to drive up this! In the data book it just says Redington road, tucson 15 miles west. Sounded like a legit road. It’s not.
We made it to Sue and Todd’s place and they got us settled in. We took our first shower in 8 days. 8 days of desert grime and stench. It felt so good to be clean. They gave us coconut water and I uploaded all my good pictures from my canon PowerShot.
After we had our internet binge we played with their two African grey parrots and their dog Sagan. Named after Carl Sagan! My hero! Sagan is a German Shepard but also part greyhound. He’s a wiry playful guy!
Then Sue got home and they took us to a nice Mexican restaurant where we had margaritas and binged on cheesy crisp, chips and I had a steak, carne asada, and cheese tortillas! I was so full. Then we went and got gelato for desert. Mango for me. Oh it was so good to be fed.
When we got back to their house she helped me upload some gps tracks onto my phone so I could pinpoint my location on the trail without using any cell towers, just GPS. This will help me not get lost so often… Hopefully. As I was doing this I could hear one of the parrots in the other room saying in its parroty voice, “I’m a chicken! Bock bock bock!”
Then we hit the hay in their little girl’s Disney princess decorated room. First bed in 8 days!