AZT 2023: Day 4: hiker trash to the rescue

March 5th 2023

21.3 miles +2,333 ft

Patagonia, AZ

It turned out to be a fantastic campsite last night, the growing moonlight was strong and the air was cold and slightly moist but much of that came from my breath, as I slept tucked deep in my sleeping bag like a little worm. I had to get out in the middle of the night to pee an then had a hard time falling back to sleep as the moon was so bright. Finally I did and when my alarm chimed at 5:20am I felt so tired and underslept.

The girls were not making a peep and I could tell they were still sleeping as I could hear someone breathing. The kind of breathing when someone is not awake. I turned over and fell right back to sleep. When we all awoke it was already 6:00am and that last half hour was the most glorious sleep, I really needed that and got up feeling much more refreshed. Amazing how that works.

I sip on my coffee as we are packing up, I will pour my granola into my coffee cup when it’s empty and take this on the road, eat it later. We are quite efficient and get walking about 6:45am which isn’t too bad at all considering our late wake up. I think we all needed that extra sleep!

Start of a brand new day!
You know when you see clouds like this it’s going to be a pretty day

We do have a long way to go if we are to make it all the way to Patagonia today however. The girls are telling me it’s fine if I want to go on ahead of them so I can meet up with my friend Tour Guide who is also suposed to be there tonight. I also want to catch a ride early tomorow morning back to Montezuma Pass to get my car, so that is another motivating factor behind me pushing on ahead. We shall see. I think we can all make it and I think I am not as fast as they think I am.

Honoring Sunrise: Photo courtesy of Kristy

The sky gifts us with blankets of textured clouds this morning and when the sun finally pops through it is a sight to behold. We walk bundled up for the first couple miles and then finally warm up enough to layer down. At 8:00am we come across a lovely water source, clean and flowing so we stop for second breakfast break as we are all really hungry. I am very pleased to get to eat my granola now.

Great water source
Second breakfast & water break

The girls are not sure if they want to hike all the way to Patagonia today or just camp a few miles out. Once again, they encourage me that it’s okay if I want to go on ahead. I say I will stay with them for as much of the day as possible and if they decide to stop and camp, I will go on from there. I  don’t mind if I get into town in the dark, would not be my first night hiking rodeo that’s for sure. I am here to enjoy time with them afterall, so I want to maximixe it.

From here we begin a long undulating climb. I had said how I thought the trail was going to be mostly flat today, but this climb is feeling long and hot and about mid way up Annette announces “you know, I’ve decided that all trails are always almost all up” and we all burst out laughing. We have all been there. What hiker has never had that thought right? To make matters worse, I keep saying how the trail is going to be so flat and also a fair bit of downhill today. I am going to have to stop saying those things.

cow tank: we skipped this one, I remember I had to get water here in 2019

The trail continues along rolling hills with swaying ochre grass, the land is patched with Oak and Juniper trees now and the rocks are changing color too. There are a few long cruisy stretchces of trail and the views of the surrounding peaks inspire. I use my Peak Finder app to spot Ladybug Peak, where I will be starting another hike later this month. To the North is the prominent Mount Wrightson, it lures me with it’s stature and dominance of the skyline and I wonder about climbing it.

Love these grasses
Love these rocks
Connecting my feet to the Earth, heart to the Sky

As we enter the Canelo Hills West trail segment there is a brand spanking new bear box with a full water cache inside. There is also a lot of trash and empty coke cans from other hikers having enjoyed these trail magic treats. We don’t need any water and so just appreciate that the cache exists and move on. The hills in this segment are beautifully textured like they are covered in a fur that you could smothe your hand over. The colors of the landscape are like a painting with the cornealean blue sky,  slate gray clouds, ochre yellow grasses and reddish tinted dirt. Truly, it is a beautiful day, and the temperature is ideal for hiking.

Harshaw road here we come!!
Brand spanking new bear box!

We stop for lunch at a creek where there is a water spigot and also cold free flowing water that has a lot of bright green algae growing in the bottom. We are in cow country for sure here and there is no way around it. Water sources have to be accepted as they are and we are thankful for our filters.

Believe it or not, this water was cold and clear once ou scooped it up

At lunch we are sharing all our food as everyone’s supplies are getting low. If we are to camp out tonight, dinner will be skimpy. We fill our bellies with cheese, tortillas and nuts, then guzzle water and move on ahead. We still have a ways to go. Kristy has been getting nosebleeds all day and is having to manage this making her experience very painstaking. Annette gives her a red handkerchief and sympathy but there is not a lot can be done. This makes it really difficult for her to hike but she trudges on. I tell a story about sticking a tampon up my friend Wildfire’s nose one time when we were hiking the Tahoe Rim Ttail. I am trying for comic relief here, but it is a true story. Don’t ever try it, it did not go well. Apparently though, they do make nose tampons, so maybe something to add to the first aid kit!

Cow Country
Tall as me

At 3:45 in the afternoon we reach our last water source and stop to gather up. We need enough to either make it through the night or make it to town. The girls are wanting to try to push to town but are feeling the miles, and Kristy is still getting nose bleeds, so they are not sure still how far they will go. We collect what would be just enough water but no more and hope for the best.

The afternoon light fades behind more clouds which we welcome as there is more climbing again. I have stopped providing commentary on the vertical terrain. When we make it to the first trail junction for the trail to town, it is 4:20pm and the decision to take the connector trail (which is the old AZ trail to the Harshaw road TH) is made. It will be almost 4 miles to get there, so we figure by 6:15pm we can make it. From there it is another 4 mile road walk into town. That is going to be a late arrival.

I seem to not remember much about this particular section of trail and definitely do  not remember how much climbing there is in this last segment. Now it definitely seems like the trail gods keep sneaking in the climbs one after another like a little game of torture. When we finally finish the climbing and crest a ridge to take one last break for snacks, we see we only have 2.2 miles to go from here to the TH road. Whoo Hoo!! I switch my phone off airplane mode and check my messages. Sure enough Tour Guide has made it to town and now has another hiker with her, Jaunting Jan, whom we all also know. Rad! We let them know our situation and hope that they can maybe pick us up at the TH. But we don’t know yet.

Only 2.2 miles to the TH!!
Final break before the last push

Neverthteless it is great to know we have friends to meet up with in town and this motivates us to get a move on. Yet again, we hit some more short, steep climbs on this last 2 mile segment and when we reach the final ridge we pass through a gate and hear some yips and howls. It’s them! We howl back Ohwhooooo and feel excitemtnt to push the final mile. Tour Guide sends me a tempting text that they are at the TH with beer and chips. Hooray, this is amazing!

When we get there 30 minutes later at first we don’t see or hear them and we are momentarily heart broken that maybe they went to a different TH and that those yips were actually coyotes. Yet, we cross the road and see Jan’s car and it’s them! There is a lot of whooping and hollering and then hugs all around. We take off our packs and drop everything in the dirt as we gather around in the dust and rocks. With a beer in our hands and a bag of tortilla chips being passed around, riveting adventure stories are told and lots of laughter spills out. We are beyond grateful for how this day finished out.

Tour Guide and Jaunting Jan to the rescue!!

We somehow manage to pile into Jan’s Honda by sitting on laps, piling packs and cuddling. We make it to town to the only restaurant open, The Wagon Wheel. Had we ended up walking the entire way, we for sure would have missed dinner. At the restaurant, we get seated but soon we find out they are not making any more food. Our hearts momentarily sink, our string of good luck is over. But, they generously offer  to make us frozen pizzas. We are glad to accept the offer of any hot food cooked by other people. After ten minutes of waiting they tell us the kitchen said we can order food, anything on the menu, just not Mexican food, which is over half the menu. We each gratefully order a burger and fries and it’s simply amazing. We eat quite silently but we are all very happy. Tour Guide has a hotel room at the Stage Stop Inn across the way and we pile the five of us into the small room and have a truly hiker trash ladies sleepover. Ain’t life grand.

The Wagon Wheel

11 thoughts on “AZT 2023: Day 4: hiker trash to the rescue

  1. Milissa, this not a comment on any recent post, just a GREAT BIG thank you for your very therapeutic writing. I lost my wife three years ago and it was hard to get my head into anything, even my first love the sierra nevada mountains. Well… Dr. Poppins, after reading about your adventures and your positive take on eveything, I’m back, and loving every minute!! Many thanks to you for all the right words and to the sierras for just being there. Your friend, Ed P.S. nose tampons !? Sounds great, imagine , one could tie the two strings together and with one swift pull they are out! Ha

    1. Hi Ed! I just returned from the trail once again and am catching up on messages, I came across your note here this morning and wow, that is just such a touching thing for you to share with me, that makes it so worth it to work so hard on getting the posts out, the fact that you found it therapeutic and healing is the best, thank you for letting me know the impact it had on you. And I am so glad you think the nose tampon thing is funny!

  2. Loved your journal details and how the story ended. Glad they decided to cook some burgers for you and that you all had a fun sleepover to end the hike.

    I hope Kristy will research nosebleeds and bring better supplies in case it happens again.

    1. Hello! Thank you for your support! Kristy has been using a Nasal Solution that stops bleeding fairly successfully, it’s getting better, she has dealt with these much of her life and the arid conditions of the desert just tend to trigger it.

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