April 11, 2019
Miles hiked: 21
AZT Mile: 126.5
Campsite Elevation: 3,117 ft
Saguaro National Park Boundary
I was so thankful to be out of the wind last night, I happened to find the perfect spot to sleep, which now seems to be a magical talent I am cultivating. When I woke up I was super tired, and so I allowed myself to stay in bed longer, the sleep vortex taking over once again. It just needed to be one of those mornings and I am glad I gave myself permission to be still longer.
Last night I got a spine from a mesquite tree branch stuck into my air mattress and popped a hole in it. Fortunately I was able to find and fix it right away, but since then I have discovered there is another small leak. I woke a couple times in the night with no air left…I actually am surprised this didn’t happen sooner in such a poky place!
I got on trail by 8:00 am, instantly greeted by the wind. It was a chilly wind too with a bite and as I took on my morning at a brisk pace, I began to wonder what the day would be like. Will I be fighting this wind all day long? I can think of days on other trails where this was the case, and it was always exhausting. I tucked in and pushed to get to the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead, hoping there would be a shellter of some kind, and maybe a trash can, and cell service too. Is that asking too much? Getting rid of trash, getting out of wine, cell reception = hiker happiness. Of course, all secondary to good food.
Along the way I actually found a bubble of cell service and called my Mom. I needed to hear her voice and also to talk logistics about my upcoming re-supply. I realized there were no accommodations in Summerhaven, so I would not be able to do laundry or shower and I realized I needed these things now.
The bubble of cell reception was a gift and my Mom and I formed a loose plan to go into Tucson together. I then felt the waves of anxiety melt away. I was able to relax, knowing I needn’t push so many miles, risk injuring my knee further nor possibly run out of food all in a mad rush to make it to Summerhaven on an arbitrary date. See, it’s totally okay I slept in. I think it’s so important to follow your intuition, and your body out here, it always works out in your favor.
I passed under a Highway in a tunnel that had a giant snake painted on the other side and made it to the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead in good time. Shortly after arriving, I met three other hikers who were packing up and getting ready to hit the trail. All of them have hiked other long trails before, and are doing a section hike of the AZT as a shake-down to get ready for their PCT and CDT hikes this Summer.
I didn’t find a trash can at the Trailhead, but one of the hikers’ Mom (who dropped them all off) offered to take my trash for me. She understands the needs of a hiker! I was grateful for that and also happy to have some other thru-hikers to talk trail with, as we enthusiastically set off together towards Cienega Creek. By this point, the wind had completely died down!
I enjoyed hearing about their plans and inspirations for their upcoming hikes. Hiking all of the triple crown trails is something I have yet to complete, having done the PCT twice, I still have two more to go, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT is higher on my list. Part of me wishes I was gearing up for that now, but the reality is that I ideally need to have more money saved up.
I happened to run into Biker Robert at the Trailhead as well, and he said there was a solo female hiker who was trying to catch up with me. He thought we would make a great hiking team. I wondered who she was and would I like her and want to hike with her?
At Cienega Creek, there was lovely flowing fresh water, towering cottonwood trees, sandy shores and river rock. It was shady and lusciously peaceful. I parted ways with the other three hikers and stayed to clean my face in the creek and rinse out rags and filter water. While sitting there about to have a snack, I saw a female figure with a backpack come up over the ridge and drop down into the creekbed.
“Mary Poppins!?” she called out.
“Did you hike the PCT in 2016?”
“Yes, I did”
“I did too, my trail name was Sweet Virginia then, but now I go by the trail name Flyby” she told me in a magical, lyrical voice.
I remembered her! Oh my goodness, the last time we saw each other was on Sonora Pass in the Northern Sierra. So amazing! I was so happy to see her I ran up and we hugged, our hearts making a deep connection. She is definitely someone I am happy to see out here, she is simply a lovely soul. We sat there eating snacks and chatted for a good 20 minutes before ambling back up the trail.
She reminded me that we were coming up on the border of the Saguaro National Park boundary and there is no camping for 17.5 miles after that. I had totally forgotten about that and initially had much bigger mileage plans for the day. Once I realized we could only go so far today, it automatically took more pressure off for the rest of the day. The Universe was gifting me an easy day. Thank you!
Flyby then also told me there was a place called Colossal Cave a mile or so off the trail up ahead, and rumor had it they had a snack bar and gift shop. Snacks! Yes, going to a snack bar sounded absolutely perfect and we made a plan for the side trip together. We first followed a sign at a trail junction that depicted a fork and knife. Fork and knife, we figured, meant snacks. So we followed that trail for a quarter mile, but it only took us to a picnic area. No snack bar. Disappointed, we had to backtrack and re-evaluate. So much for the fork and knife symbol, we got snookered, as my Dad likes to say!
We made it back onto the AZT and finally we made it to the correct side trail that led us to Colossal Cave, and the magical snack bar. We were greeted by three other thru-hikers who were already there gorging themselves. Their names are Red Bass, Wrigley and Pepper. Leave it to us thru-hikers, we will always find places to consume massive amounts of calories!
Before today, I had not been crossing paths with very many other thru-hikers. Then today, I found a bubble of these interesting kin-folk. This is starting to get a lot more fun!
Flyby and I ordered a massive plate of vegetarian nachos and shared it, and I got a real Root Beer. It was all absolutely amazing. We stayed there in the shade for three hours, they even had an extremely well supplied hiker box there in the gift shop. Everyone that worked there was very nice to us and I found myself filled with the nostalgia of past thru-hikes where community and connection enhance the experience exponentially. I was even talking with a day hiker there who was “thinking of thru-hiking the PCT” and reveled in answering all his questions. All this energy, all this nostalgia, the soda, the nachos, friends, it was turning out to be such a great day!
By the time we were getting ready to leave, Tim walked up. That’s now eight new hikers in one day! Tim was the guy I met on day one, after I tagged the border, both him and Flyby had caught up with me. Flyby had hiked with him a few days ago and he also has hiked other long trails. As it turns out, Flyby was blessed with the opportunity to give him his trailname: Cloudsurfer.
We three chatted for several minutes as his burger was being prepared, then we said goodbye and left him to enjoy his well deserved calories. When we got back to the AZT via the Bandit’s Escape Trail, it was about 3:45 pm and with only 7.2 miles to the park boundary, we were able to take our time and linger in the afternoon beauty.
This afternoon’s hike ended up being the most beautiful section I have walked on the AZT as of yet. The terrain is turning into a magical cactus garden filled with Saguaro’s. We saw our first one’s earlier today and we got excited to meet these ancient wise beings, we took pictures for each other and our heart’s fluttered as we knew we were entering a sacred National Park named after this stunning desert tree.
I happened to look up the Spiritual symbolism and healing properties of this desert plant, and found it to be very resonant with my life at this time.
Harmonizing Qualities of Saguaro Flower:
The desert has to much to teach us!
As I walked along, I absorbed the bright striking flowers of all the other cacti and little plants. Everything is looking so vibrant and healty after the winter rains. There are blooms absolutely everywhere and the sky was a foreboding gray with dense clouds building up.
The afternoon sunlight beamed through from time to time, making everything glow. I love this time of day, I love this lighting. I love this scenery. The air temperature and the meandering, mellow trail all put me into a hiking trance and I started to really slow down and take it all in. The area is also surrounded by massive mountains in a semi circle. These mountains rise up dramatically, almost imposing, they seem to hold this sacred space perfectly. I feel a lot of synergy here.
As I walked slowly and entered a zone of bliss for the last three miles of the day, I tuned in with my body. She is hurting pretty bad right now, lots of aches and pains everywhere, definitely not helped by the menstrual situation. I need to honor this, I thought, and the slowing down helped ease me. I am not sure what to do about all the pain, if it doesn’t get better soon, I may need to take a full rest day. Hard to do with all the excitement of the trail.
Flyby and I reached the park boundary and found a place where we could pitch our shelters side by side. Tomorrow we have over 6,000ft of climbing to tackle, up and over Mica Mountain. Now, I don’t mind that kind of climb at all, but I just hope my knee can hold up on the downhill, as that is when it really rears up in pain. We talked through our thin tent shelter walls as night settled in and made a plan to start walking early tomorrow morning. We decided to hike together for the next day and a half until we reach Tucson. I am so glad to have a friend!