We are hungry, smelly, and sunburned in strange places. Our legs are mile-crushing machines. My clothes are crusty with sweat. Spider says I’m beautiful and I think it’s the nicest lie I’ve ever heard.
Mile 60.6-82.7 (22.1)
Woke at 6, packed up and hiked 1.2 miles to Anaconda Springs to tank up for our morning climb, 2000 feet over 6 miles. Great hiking, dirt forest road continuing up and up into the mountains with views of where we came from. Crossed at a saddle (6563ft) by Mt Wrightson, then coasted down smooth descent. Saw road runner tracks in a dirt road. Bath and laundry downstream at Bear Springs in deep pools hidden from view. The afternoon’s miles were quick and beautiful, the trail winding along mountain sides and over grassy hills with sky islands dotting the horizon. Dinner at Kentucky Camp, old mining headquarters, with Titan from Tennessee, another hiker with the AT and PCT under his belt headed for the CDT later this season. Got a few more miles in as the sun faded behind the mountains and cowboy camped on a windy ridge hoping for a good sunset tomorrow morning.
Mile 82.7-115.4 (32.7)
Frozen condensation on our bags last night. Guess that’s what happens when the only flat spot around is in tall grass. Cold and clammy, we packed up and hiked a quick 4.4 to get water and dry out our sleeping bags. After breakfast I plugged in and has some caffeine so I was flying down the trail. The landscape shifted from oak and juniper forest to grasslands dotted with prickly pear cactus and much later a rocky, flat land with ocotillo and barrel cactus and prickly pear and jumping cholla. We cruised and had a short lunch broken up by a bit of hail/rain that we hiked through to stay warm and dry. Hiked past an important water source and decided to truck on with 1 liter of water between us 13 miles to a creek, making our first 30 mile day. The weather was in our favor, windy and cloudy with a rainstorm in the distance. Kept wondering if we were going to walk through the rain but we had good luck and walked fast and stayed dry. As we neared darkness, we really pushed miles, over 3mph for our final 10 miles. Felt like hiking through someone’s rock garden. Very flat. Saw a bunny, some interesting but unknown birds, and neat plants. Said goodbye to the lovely grassland. At the very end of the day we walked through a long dark tunnel under a major highway then raced over some dark cactus fields and finally, with headlamps out, found the pretty cottonwood creek we’ll call home tonight. Calf muscles are sore, feet too, even my hands from gripping the poles. Hope I can still walk tomorrow.
Wet night, big rainstorm in the middle of the night. Windy, too, and part of our tent collapsed. The hexamid is a little claustrophobic at the best of times. In the morning, hiked 4 miles to La Posta Quemada and met Twister and Creep, PCT hikers doing the AT next. Found out the ranch was closed, so the four of us then walked to Colossal Cave to get our packages and have a meal. Johnny Rocket was there too, and we all had cheeseburgers and chili dogs and sorted our resupplies. Spider called in a reservation for Grass Shack Campground in Saguaro National Park so we had a destination. Left with coffee in hand at 12:30 or so with 18+ miles to do before 7pm darkness. First 11-12 were flat and we started seeing more towering fat saguaros and wildflowers with the usual prickly pear and barrel cacti. Jumping cholla and palo verde new today too. Wanted to take a million pictures. Feet achy, calf hurting, didn’t go very fast. Last seven miles all climbing, 3000ft elevation gain. Weather was great, cool and party cloudy, some sun but never burning. So many saguaro, big valley full of cactuses in the distance. Saw mysterious big cat foot prints about a mile from camp. Got here with sunset and set up camp, ate dinner and hung out with Johnny Rocket. Very cold since campsite is close to stream. Spirits very high. On our way to Oracle.
Hard to get out of my sleeping bag in the morning. Spider took a cold bath in the creek before breakfast. Late start at 8:30. Climbed the rest of the way up to 8576ft, past Manning Camp and over Rincon Mountains. Descent also slow, Spider not feeling great. Lunch on sunny rock overlooking great new valley. Base of mountain had stream with pools downstream for laundry and a bath. Feel much cleaner, ready to forgo town stops and hotel rooms forever. At 3pm we still had 11 miles in front of us. Made it just before dark. Camping with lots of cows, coyotes in the distance, screeching bird. Cold again, stars out. Hello, Big Dipper. Hello, Orion with your bow and your sword.