Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Arizona Trail Journal, December 19, 2006



It was a good night. Quiet. My sleep pattern is very light. I am a restless sleeper. Before coming out here, I got into the habit of going to bed early, like 8-9 p.m., sleeping 3-4 hours, getting up at 2-3 a.m. and reading, playing guitar, listening to music, etc., for 2-3 hours, sleep a few more and then get on with my day.

I've also been a restless sleeper out here because, although I've hiked alone and not met another person for four days, I can see the evidence of a wave of human traffic. I worry about my camp being discovered in the middle of the night by illegal aliens. Their detritus makes the trail look like a back alley. I've seen hundreds of discarded backpacks, clothes, thousands of cans of Jumex and Red Bull, gallon milk jugs and Enfamil baby electrolyte water (the preferred beverage of drug mules).

When I got lost in the Huachucas, it was because of social trails. [For the record, I was never really lost. I made a mistake and took the wrong trail, but the GPS told me where I was in relation to the AZT. I wandered on purpose partly because water freak me wanted to check out some washes and canyons. Also, it would have been horribly difficult to backtrack up the mountain. My 'schwackin' tale was told with a bit of drama about the being lost part.]

Woke up today to light snow showers, little, airy pellets cleared with a breath.

The trail in the a.m. followed a road through rolling cow pastures. The Santa Ritas and Mt. Wrightson are visible from the high points, but otherwise I hiked through an interior world of red canyon cliffs, washes, a drainage system of great, gravelly complexity. Throw in the social trails and it makes for difficult navigation on the AZT. Trail organizers have done a good job putting up posts and cairns, but many of these have multiple trails splitting off from them. Which one to take?

Early on I saw people WAY off in the distance near a water reservoir. They disappeared when I hove into view.

I had a bad dream that I was sleeping on the bones of a dead woman. I woke with a start and lay there thinking about it. What if a woman died here? It's entirely possible. It could have happened hundreds of years ago... or recently. I eventually fell asleep again, and when I awoke the sense of death was gone.

I saw more cows today than I ever have in a day of hiking. I tried to make my water last so I didn't have to drink cattle water.

Cool spots of the day included Red Canyon Tank, where I walked through a cow pen (yup, that's where the AZT is routed), scattering a herd of cows.

* Walking through a snowstorm as the trail wound in and out of washes. Very roller coaster. The snow fell so thick at one point that it accumulated in the crook of my arm, stationary as I walked because my hand was in my pocket.

* I got sidetracked twice, once because of misleading signage. The AZT/road comes to one of those cattle gates you've got to shimmy like a Z to get through. A post has an arrow pointing past the gates with a hiker symbol on it and an arrow to the right of the gate with bike and horse symbols. I take the hiker route through the Cott Enclosure. It's beautiful, but for the illegal trash, the trail along a creek bed through rolling, golden grass prairie with masthead rock promontories where channels come together. But the trail dead-ends at a barb-wire fence. I check the GPS and it shows I'm almost a mile off my planned trail route, and going further in the wrong direction. Yearghh! Time to backtrack.

Late in the afternoon I get town fever and decide to try and make it to Patagonia before the Post Office closes. I race down the trail. As I come over a rise through a gate [yes, countless cattle gates in Passage 3], I saw Harshaw Road and the impressive, purple to dark red-hued mantle of, uh, surprise, Red Mountain. I got a hitch in less than a minute from a quail hunter. It was one of my fastest hitches ever. I don't think I walked 20 paces. I made it to the P.O. five minutes before closing time.

By choosing to go to town, and get out of the snow and cold, like the wimp I am, I also get a hotel room, something I resolved not to do when I came out here, dammit. My will is not strong enough to resist the lure of a warm bed, shower, and television. I've also got a warm place to sort out 10 days of food.

1 comment:

Terri said...

Nice post, Greg. Brings back my memories of hiking that section of the Az Trail. Ah the frustrations, joys and challenges.