AZT 2023: Day 3: lecciones en espanol

March 5th 2023

18.6 miles +1,861 ft

Campsite Elevation 5,449

5:34am. The wind blows high up in the tree canopy and I hear the girls stirring. When I set my alarm for 5:00am last night it said 9hrs and 12 minutes from then. Somehow when it chimed this morning from deep inside my muffled sleeping bag, it did not seem like enough time. I felt so warm and cozyy and still I choose to lay here enjoying that feeling for just a little longer.

Hot coffee saves me, that magical brew always does the trick, without it I could easily go back to sleep. Though camp coffee doesn’t hold a candle to what I drink at home, I relish it here, it is a luxury. My body feels sore in places I haven’t felt sore in a while, no doubt from hiking in all that snow yesterday, way to break the body back into backpacking for the season! Surprisingly, when I slip my shoes on to go out to pee, I notice my shoes dried fairly well. I had envisioned them still being sopped through. There is also zero condensation on the tent, I welcome that anytime!

The morning ambient light is just beginning to infiltrate the canyon when I’m taking down my tent. The tent is always the last order of ops in my getting ready routine. I am looking everywhere for my extra socks to no avail. Seriously, where have they gone? It’s like they vaporized. I’ve looked through all my gear, turned my sleeping bag inside out, I can’t figure it out. My head lamp is quite faint too so shining it around camp doesn’t offer much, but still, I distinctly remember taking them off and putting them inside my sleeping bag with me when I went to bed and now they are gone. I shine my headlamp around one last time then neatly fold up my tent. I guess they will turn up. The girls tell me they had a mouse in their camp last night wreaking havoc. The say maybe the mouse stole my socks.

Morning light in Sunnside Canyon
happy hikers

It’s 6:30am when we start walking and its barely light enough to switch off our headlamps. We start out on some crunchy thin ice and snow but it is basically gone now. There are wispy clouds above the forest canopy turning cotton candy pink and the color reflects on the ribbon like stream we are walking along. There has clearly been a lot of water rushing through here sometime recently as the creek bed is a mess and the trail gets lost frequently. It looks quite different as compared to 2019.

Welcome that first light of morning sun

As we continue down through Sunnyside Canyon we welcome the arrival of the sun warming our backs. We have had quite a cold morning in this canyon and the girls reminisce about their time hiking the Gila on the CDT, a place I certainly am dreaming about visiting.

At the end of the canyon we reach the Miller Peak Wilderness boundary and we pop out onto open savanna and rolling hills smothered with thinning clusters of conifers and growing populations of Oaks. Now, long yellow grasses line the trail and cloud webs smear across the sky. It is turning out to be a gorgeous day.

Sunnyside Canyon Trail #117

If someone wanted to start out at this trailhead for a short overnight or even a few days, it would be such a beautiful and worthy place to explore. There are several trails in this area and peaks to summit. The beauty out here is sure something special.

Shortly we are ready to stop for a little break, we need to layer down and have snacks. Kristy and I strip down to shorts, whoo hoo! Oh I can’t tell you how great that feels and we both laugh at the stark whiteness of our sunless skin. Annette’s shoulder is feeling a little better since she rubbed some of the CBD salve I gave her on it. Now for the rest of the week she will be saying how she is rubbing marijuana on her shoulder. Hey, if it helps! But seriously, we are all super glad she does not seem to be too injured, and already starting to get some relief.

We have emerged from the canyon

As our thru hiker brains are so well trained, we are checking the FarOut App for the next water, always concerned about how much to carry. Turns out, we are not needing to pay attention to water sources as much as we anticipated, as there seems to be one every few miles or so. This is not the AZT of most years. There is seasonal flowing water where we don’t even expect it. That said, the silty water we drank last night really did a number on my water filter. I am using a Sawyer Micro and I tell you what, that thing worked great in the Sierras, I am not so sure I recommend it out here. I pre-filtered the water through a bandana and it still really got clogged up just after 2L really demonstrating it’s namesake “micro”. I had to back flush it several times already, so now I am definitely having to pay attention to the quality of the water I gather.

Classic Arizona Trail

We pass an old windmill and then a gate with a water cache too. We each top off our bottles thanking whomever was thoughtful enough to place them there. Bottled water that does not have to be filtered is hiker gold out here!

Thank You Trail Angels!!

Soon we are on a dirt road that will lead us to the Parker Lake Marina and we decide to take a detour and check it out, thinking perhaps we can sit and eat lunch there. The directions someone wrote in the FarOut comments are very helpful and include the description of having to shimmy through a gate. Now we have designated Pesky as the official Gate Keeper on the AZT cuz’ she is so smart, she can figure them all out. But what we didn’t know is how good she is at shimmying. She must have had a lot of practice on the CDT.

Look at her go!

For anyone reading along who is not familiar with the Pesky Hiker, watch this short video here made by the Wander Women on their AT 2019 thru-hike, it is hilarious!

We follow the dirt track a half mile or so then bush whack down a hill to get to the shore of the lake. I pick up several pieces of trash. Not hiker trash. Just trash trash. I pick up so much that my hands have reached capacity. Pesky picks up a tree branch.

Hitch hiker on Pesky’s pack
Parker Lake Marina Store

The Marina is a popular place to fish and we see families hanging out around the lake, they have music playing from their boom boxes and kids are running around. It is suddenly a busy world. We reach the store and delight in finding they are open! We reminisce about being on the PCT on Thanksgiving together in 2021 and having Thanksgiving dinner at the Lake Morena Store and Cafe. We had so much anticipation getting there and were so stoked they were open. Here, there are picnic tables outside and we drop our packs right down. Ice Axe was already here when we arrived and he is laying down at another picnic bench and charging his devices on the one electrical outlet available. He asks if we need to use it and we say maybe in a little bit, we have priorities right now, to procure snacks!

They are open, whoo hoo!!

Thus, we pop into the store which has extremely spartan shelves. Nevertheless we find something we each want and walk out with hands full and big smiles. I grabbed a cold Starbucks Frappuccino and we all three share a bag of Lays BBQ potato chips, which by the way, we have no prolems polishing off completely. I am really happy with my Frappuccino because all morning I’ve been feeling really sleepy. There isn’t a whole heck of a lot going on here but we have fun people watching and eating our snacks. Also, now this is such a thur-hiker thing, but we are unnaturally excited to be sitting at a picnic table. Even though this was an extra 2 miles round trip as a side trip, we feel it was worthwhile, it added a little spice to the day.

When we get back to the AZT we calculate we have a ways to go yet to get to Patagonia and decide we shant take any further side trips like that one. Thus we continue. Now we follow along a stretch of trail that is beautiful albeit a little monotonous. If I recall correctly, I remember walking this section in the late afternoon sun when the angle of light was low and I was feeling mentally fatigued. Whenever trails are flat and the walking repetative I tend to get sleepy, falling into a lull. I suppose that’s the brain switching out of high beta and actually relaxing. This can happen on a trail no matter how much coffee you’ve had.

Signs of the AZT
I love my tree friends

Today, we decide to pass the time by playing a Spanish alphabet game. The objective is to think of a food in Spanish for each letter of the alphabet. So we start out each new sentence with Vamos al Supermarcado, Voy a comprar Arroz….then Arroz, Bebidas…then Arroz, Bebidas, Cafe…etc. We each have to take turns and repeat the previous foods from the beginning of the alphabet each time, building up to which ever letter we are on next. This ends up occupying our brains for a good chunk of miles and elicits a lot of laughter.

just passin’ thru some desert beauty

When we get to the next water source we have made it up to the letter W for which we really struggle. We welcome the pause from all this thinking. There is a group of hikers here, more than we have seen in one spot on the entire trail thus far: I am going to butcher their names but I want to say it was Kevin and Flipper and Tyler and Travis but I might be totally wrong, apologies guys!

We drop our packs in the dirt and decide to take yet another break and guzzle some water, eat more snacks and chat with the group. It’s like a little hiker trash convention and already feels like we’ve been on trail for a week or more. We leave deciding we are going to put down another seven miles to the next water and carry just enough to get there. What we don’t realize is there is a fair bit of climbing up ahead.

Great water source for a break!
We found the cutest cactus ever

As the afternoon wears on we become weary of the extended climb in what is now the hot sun. When we reach the top of the climb we take another break in the shade to dry our sweaty backs. It’s 4:20pm when we are getting ready to leave and we still have 3.8 miles to the next water and now that feels like a lot. We have been averaging 2mph overall and so have concern it could be dark when we get there and none of our notes say anything about any camping at said water source, so we could have to hike even further into the night. We weigh our options and quickly the conversation turns to an optimistic, “hey we will find some pools of water along the way and a place to camp and it will all be great.”

And that is exactly what happened. Around 5:00pm we spot a shimmer of water down in a little creek bed below the trail. So we hike down to it and we are satisfied. The water is murky, probably snow melt silt, but it is water nonetheless and that’s what bandanas and filters are for right? We gather what we can and hoist our heavier packs back up the hill. Within 20 minutes or so we have spotted a flat sandy wash down below and we all had the same thought that we could potentially camp there. It would not be advisable to camp here with any impending rain but we have clear skies for days so we decide to drop into this sweet little canyon and call it home for the night. It is actually going to be a really cool place to camp.

This will be our water source for the night

Near our camp, stashed in some bushes, we find a dilapidated torn up backpack. It has spanish writing on it’s emblem with the word Gudalajara. We also find old rusted tin cans. Clearly we are not the first to make camp here. I wonder who was here before us? Who was here before them? We pitch our tents in the sand, trying to get it level for a good night’s sleep and once camp is made, we sit outside with just a slight dusky bit of daylight remaining. We thoroughly enjoy our well deserved evening meals, tonight I make one of my favs: curry ginger lentils with rice and coconut oil. It is always so nourishing. Except it is too much food for me tonight so I pass the bowl around and the girls assist me in it’s consumption.

As night settles in, we switch on our headlamps and continue to chat and laugh reflecting on the day. We strategize on how to plan the rest of the week as the girls are planning to meet up with a good friend in several days and I have an online class to take on Saturday. It’s funny how things like this can be a constant thought wheel in the background of the mind as we spend most of the day out here focused on being in the present moment.

Most of hiking, backpacking and thru-hiking are ample opportunities to practice that skill. Practicing being “Here, Now” and practicing Gratitude for that here and now as it changes from moment to moment is truly such a gift. That is why I have always loved the quote “honor the space between no longer and not yet” by Life Coach Nancy Levin. This space allows you to integrate all that has happened for you, everything you’ve experienced, and what you desire to create. It was my personal mantra on my inaguaral PCT thru hike in 2016 as I walked North to Canada for over six months I processed grief, let go of an identity that no longer served me and welcomed a transformation within myself that my soul called me to pursue. The trail held the space for me in the exact way I needed it to, and I believe it does for us all.

Home for the night

The full moon rises over the ridge casting beams of light into the canyon. It’s warmer here, 45 F when we eventually get into our tents. We are all super tired and ready to crawl into shelter and warmth. Something we all absolutely love. I love, love, love getting into my tent at night, getting all settled into my sleeping bag and that feeling of finally laying horizontal, it is the best. I’ve got my bed time lavendar tea here and all my gear has been organized and yet I still can’t find my socks. What the heck happened to them? I am pondering this deeply when we suddenly hear an interesting bird call that brings us to silence, attuning our ears. It lasts for a few minutes, then the world falls into stillness once again.

If you’re wondering what we came up with for our Spanish alphabet game, well here you go: Arroz, Bebidas, Cafe, Dolce de Leche, Empanadas, Frijoles, Galletas, Huevos, Insta Papas, Jicama, Kiwi, Limones, Manzana, Nido, Olivas, Puerco, Queso, Rolos (the candy), Salsa, Torta de Chocolate, Uvas, Verduras, Welch’s Marmalada, Xiotl (Guatamalan Chocolate), Yucca, Zanahorria. Muchas Gracias!

Watch the Wander Women’s video of week one on the AZT 2023 on You Tube, click the link here.

4 thoughts on “AZT 2023: Day 3: lecciones en espanol

  1. What an absolute delight! Thanks, Mary Poppins! I had wondered if Pesky followed you three… and now you’ve given us photographic proof. I bet she took your socks!

  2. Hi. I am Catherine Coates’ husband, John McCotter. She and I watch all the Wander Women videos and are very familiar with you. Cathy shared this entry with me. I host a daily email group that deals with recovery from addiction. I was hoping to use part of this entry in one of my daily posts. I am thinking particularly of the section that begins with “I have always loved the quote..” and ends with “as it does for all of us.” I will give the life coach you mentioned credit for the quote as well as yourself. A big part of recovery is “being here now,” and this gives a good example. Whatever you decide is fine. Thanks for sharing your adventures. You and the Wander Women are our heroes.

  3. I so so enjoy your sharing these experiences. From the first time I became aware of you with the hurlgoat hiker I’ve just been drawn to your silent energy. It’s such a joy to read whats in a persons head. Such vulnerability. Your friends seem to share the same energy. It’s such a magnet. The very best of hiker trash.
    I wonder if elsewhere in your blog you share some of the story of what brought you to hiking and that first pct adventure.
    I hope this finds you well and happy. Thank you for the inspiration.

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