Post-Hike 2016 Gear Review

I’ve been off the trails for two months now, my body slowly recuperating from walking 3,500 miles. In the meantime, Pat and I have settled in Ashland. We moved into an apartment and transitioned into working life, home-cooked meals, and (almost) daily showers.

My pack is empty now and sits dejectedly in our closet. The tent, stakes, sleeping pad, and trekking poles are clustered nearby. My hiking clothes are washed and join other gym clothes. Pat happily threw my tattered hiking shoes away, and I got new ones. We still have a hiking food surplus, stuff I couldn’t eat when Pat got off the trail, which now make up his lunches. I have not touched a energy bar since leaving the PCT.

The love and yearning I feel for long distance hiking is tucked away in my heart for now. Sometimes this life, the one with utility bills and endless paperwork and roads without sidewalks, feels like a big joke. It is certainly simpler, and cheaper, to live outdoors in a tent, to walk all day, to carry very little. But it is a seasonal life.

I can’t help but dream and scheme new adventures. There are so many trails, so many mountains, so much coastline! And imagine if I was to bike, or kayak, or run. What I really need is a winter sport. I’m open to suggestions.

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to look back at this hiking season to see what worked and what didn’t. 

Gear:

The Zpacks Hexamid Twin held up well in all conditions. It weathered snow in northern Arizona and in the Sierra, high winds in Southern California, torrential rain in Washington. The only hole in its mesh was from a hungry mouse in Northern California. Luckily, I covered the hole with my ground cloth and kept the voracious Oregon mosquitos out. The Hexamid Twin was cozy for Pat and I, and it was downright luxurious as a one-person. Perhaps the only benefit of hiking without Pat was being able to spread out at night.


The rest of my sleep system: Tyvek ground cloth (cut to fit the Hexamid), torso-length Thermarest foam sleeping pad, and Western Mountaineering Versalite sleeping bag. This set up was great. I used my backpack as insulation for my legs and feet, and I usually put my food bag in my pack to elevate my feet at night. The foam pad, a relic from our AT thru-hike, held up nicely and will probably join me on future hikes. My sleeping bag is my absolute favorite piece of gear. I looked forward to curling up in it every night. It got wet occasionally from condensation, but I was able to dry it out the next day almost always. It got drenched for three days during one nasty rainstorm in Washington. That was miserable.


I used two pairs of trekking poles. I started with Lekis and they lasted until I broke one in half the morning that I hiked into Sisters, OR. The timing was fortunate, since I needed them to set up my tent and could replace them at REI in Bend before getting back onto the trail. I hiked out with Black Diamond poles, also telescoping. I didn’t notice much difference between brands. I liked using poles to take the strain off my knees and move my upper body a little. I didn’t use them in 2013 on the AT, but I will probably use them on my next hike.


I went through three pairs of shoes. The first two were New Balance Leadvilles in an obnoxious pink color. They were OK, probably too narrow in hindsight. I wore them until they were in pieces. Pat and I bet on who would have to replace their shoes first. We both lost, giving up in Aqua Dulce and suffering from foot problems later. I found my final pair of shoes in the hiker box at Callahan’s, a used pair of Altras. I switched because they looked less worn than my beat-to-shit New Balance. I wore the Altras all the way to Canada. I had to throw away in insoles when they got so shredded that they bunched up under my feet and gave me hot spots. I definitely wore them too long. Though I was diligent about stretching and tried to eat well, my negligent foot care definitely contributed to the foot injury that I am still recovering from.


Clothing: I used a versatile layering system. I always hiked in spandex shorts and a hooded long sleeve sun shirt (the shorts were standard athletic shorts, the shirt was Patagonia Sunshade and frayed a little at the wrists but otherwise held up well). If it was cold, I put on long underwear bottoms and top (I liked a mid-weight shirt in a large size. I had a fleece lined spandex legging that I liked but sadly left at Papa Smurf’s in Big Bear, then a small pair of wool leggings that fell to mid-calf for the Sierra. When Pat got off trail I took his ripped lightweight bottoms, and they got me to Canada). If it was very cold, I wore my nano-puff synthetic down jacket. If it was windy or raining, I wore my rain jacket (Frogg Toggs to Oregon, replaced by lightweight Houdini found on sale. Frogg Toggs are cheap and plastic and I recommend them. The Houdini jacket is very lightweight but got soaked in the rainstorm in Washington). I always wore the trucker hat that Pat gave me for Christmas (Big Foot on the home stretch). I carried a lightweight fleece hat and wool gloves for cold weather through the Sierra. I wore one hiking bra the whole 3,500 miles. I went through many pairs of socks, starting with Darn Toughs, then Pat’s socks, then hiker box wool socks, then thin athletic socks, then a gifted pair of woolies that I wore the last 300 miles. I liked to carry two lightweight pairs for hiking and one heavyweight wool pair for sleeping.


For the Sierra, I carried an extra layer (fleece jacket), the rain pants that came with my Frogg Toggs (used only in the snowstorm we hiked through to get over Kearsarge Pass), and Kahtoola micro spikes, which I used many times to get over icy snow in the Sierra, on the Mt. Whitney side trip, and over snow north of Sonora Pass. I sent these home in South Lake Tahoe, along with the regulation bear canister that we each picked up in Kennedy Meadows.


Water treatment: On the AZT, we used a Sawyer Squeeze. We almost certainly let it freeze and probably broke it early in our hike, then continued to rely on it as we drank from fetid stock ponds and tanks. Hence the giardia we both got. Even if it hadn’t made us sick, we were happy to switch to a Steripen when we hit the REI in Flagstaff. Squeeze filters are tedious and ours was always clogged. The steripen worked beautifully for the whole PCT, never running low on battery (I charged it in towns every week or two).

Some miscellaneous items:

  • Headlamp: an old Petzel, I think, that broke in Oregon. I didn’t night hike much anyway, and relied on the moon or my cell phone for night light needs.
  • Food bag: a cuben fiber sack. Any plastic shopping bag will do, though.
  • Water bottle: 1-2 1-liter Gatorade bottle. For the AZT and Southern California, Pat and I also had empty platypus bladders that we used for very long dry stretches. Max capacity: 5 liters each.
  • Pat and I used the cold soak method to rehydrate meals in a Talenti plastic jar during the AZT and on the PCT in Southern California. In the cold Sierra, we hated eating cold mush and mostly ate snacks or went without. When Pat got off trail, I switched to bars and snacks entirely and threw away the Talenti container.
  • Anker external battery (3-4 charges), USB cord, iPhone cord, IQ fast charger. Great for 3-8 day resupplies. Only ran out of battery once, when we tried using a smaller external battery. Essential for using GPS/maps on my phone.
  • Guthook guides for AZT and PCT. Downloaded maps from the AZTA and Halfmile, respectively. I downloaded Halfmile’s app in Oregon when I took the Skyline Trail. It isn’t as nice as Guthook’s app in my opinion, but it is free and is great for alternates that Guthook doesn’t include.
  • Mini Swiss Army knife: a great help for cutting salami, opening stubborn plastic packaging, clipping fingernails, etc.
  • Two bandanas: one as a pee rag, one for bathing/filtering water/blowing my nose/whatever else you need a bandana for.
  • Gaitors: Dirty girls for the AZT and on the PCT until the Sierra. After that, my shoes had so many holes in them that gaitors weren’t effective at keeping sand and rocks and snow out of my shoes. The gaitors were torn and mended many times, then finally thrown away in Northern California.
  • Sunglasses: cheap gas station sunglasses. Often scratched, replaced twice.
  • Earbuds.
  • Dop kit: mini toothbrush, floss, seldom-used toothpaste, mini sunscreen, lip balm, toilet paper, Deuce of Spades trowel (0.6 oz!), extra plastic Ziplock baggies for packing out TP. ID card, credit card, small amount of cash ($5 and $10 are best for gas/small donations. $20 good for trail angel donations. I never carried coins).

I think that’s everything. Things I did not carry: camp shoes, town clothes, soap/shampoo, mini towel, a stove, pots and pans, a book, a notepad, a lighter, a camp chair, etc.


How did I decide what to carry? By trying it out on other hiking trips. I had an idea what to start with from hiking the AT in 2010 and 2013. I knew what I wanted to experiment with this year (going stoveless, a new tent). And there were some simple/cheap upgrades/replacements I used along the way (like wearing a bright, flowery XL skirt when my spandex shorts got indecently holey). My advice is to try things, see where you feel comfortable saving money, see what you can’t live without, etc. Pat and I made a ground cloth from a discarded piece of Tyvek instead of coughing up $100 for a cuben fiber one, which makes sense for our budget. I probably could have saved more money buying Goodwill synthetic shirts. An overnight or weekend trek will help you figure out what gear works for you.

I would use a lot of this set up on my next hike, depending on where and when I go. One thing I did not like was cold-soaking in cold weather. I hate hiking food in general, but hot food in big mountains on cold mornings and nights sure makes you feel like royalty. Or, bars and other easy to eat snacks are good for getting calories on the move. 

I can’t wait for the next hike and experimenting with this set up on new adventures!

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Bonus Arizona

Oh, Arizona! You are so beautiful.

Post-AZT, pre-PCT, we are taking a road trip through northern Arizona and southern Utah.

We went to Sedona seeking a drier climate. We waited out a day of rain then went to the mountains.

  

  
  
  
A few days later, we finally saw a good weather window for Mt Humphreys, Arizona’s highest peak. We had a great time climbing up to 12,637 ft, the highest I’ve ever been. 

  
 
   
Now off to Utah!

AZT Trip Report: Some Final Thoughts

Here are a few thought about the Arizona Trail. It is a beautiful trail. If you have the time and ability, you should go hike it.

For northbounds, early March seems like a good time to start (though be sure to check the weather and ground conditions). We encountered trace amounts of snow in the Huachucas and the Rincon Mountains. More importantly, the heat in the Sonoran Desert was bearable and many seasonal water sources still held water. We were able to skip some nastier stock tanks because there was often water at creeks or springs.

We actually hiked through some of the Sonoran Desert in a heat wave. It was fine. I think we took a siesta twice, once for sickness and once coming out of town. Definitely err on the side of caution for water carries, especially as you learn how much water your body needs in different hiking conditions, and never rely on water caches. 

The Mazatzals were nasty and annoying but by no means impossible to get through. We heard about it some work parties being organized to do some maintenance there, so perhaps it will get better.

Once you climb the Mongollon Rim, the temperature shifts. You stay more or less at high elevation for the rest of the hike and it feels colder. We had some cold nights and eventually snow going into Flagstaff. It can also be very windy up in the plateau.

The side trip up Mt Humphreys is awesome. We did not climb it while on the trail due to the weather, but returned after we finished the trail and had a clear sunny day. The views from the top are excellent and it’s a fun climb.

The last 200 miles of the trail are very dry and what water sources are here can be nasty. Most “tanks” up here are man-made ponds built to collect water for livestock. The majority of seasonal ones were dry.

The Grand Canyon is amazing. We noticed at the Backcountry Permit office that they didn’t mention Cottonwood Campground, 15 miles from the rim, at all to permit-seekers. If you haven’t reserved your site before you get to the canyon and have your trail legs, there may be spots available there for you.

The water we found on the North Kaibab was mostly snow melt or stagnant ponds. It was dry from Jacob Lake north to the state line.

When you get to Stateline Campground, continue out to the road to find the Arizona-Utah border sign. There were a good number of cars at the Wire Pass trailhead parking lot, where we hitched a ride to Page.

Towns along the AZT were hiker-friendly, even when they weren’t familiar with the trail. 

Patagonia’s Velvet Elvis has the best salads and pizza.

Oracle’s Chalet Motel is total heaven for hikers. Marnie and Jim will pick you up and he trailhead, help you get around town, and let you do your laundry. They’ll also drop you off at the trail in the morning.

Pine’s THAT Brewery & Pub is wonderful. Good beer, tasty food. They reserve a cabin for hikers and, even though it was already booked so we weren’t staying, they brought us clean towels so we could take a shower there.

There are a few people who we met along the trail who really helped us out.

We are so thankful to Steve Chaffee for his help getting to the southern terminus. And for going above and beyond helping us send a package out. Steve, thanks for getting our Arizona Trail thru-hike off to an excellent start. And thanks for the 800-miler sticker!

We also have a special place in our heart for Baloo and Jan of Flagstaff. The day after we met Baloo on the trail, he sent us an email offering us shelter from the cold, wet weather. He and his wife Jan opened their home to us and fed us delcious food. We took our only zero of the trail there, and boy was it perfect. Baloo and Jan, we hope you’ll come and visit us on our farm someday!

And big thanks to the Arizona Trail Association for all the good work they do protecting and maintaining the trail. We are AZTA members, and you should be too!

Tusayan to Utah, mile 692.4-800

After stuffing our faces in Tusayan we stumbled into the woods and fall asleep. We got up at first light to hike to the Backcountry Permit Office for our Grand Canyon permission slips.

We walked along the south rim gawking at tourists and at the deep chasm in the Earth to our left. At the South Kaibab trailhead we descended.

The trail looked like an Escher drawing at first and we scooted past day hikers as fast as we could. The crowd thinned. As we descended, we got hotter and sweatier and the dirt under our feet got redder and dustier.

We crossed a suspension bridge and waded into the Colorado River. It was cold and clear. We ate potato chips in the shade and a bold deer snuck up on us, tried to yogi some snacks.

In the late afternoon we followed Bright Angel Creek to Cottonwood Campsite and slept deeply in the warm canyon air. The next morning we climbed up the North Kaibab Trail, up through geologic time, until we reached the North Rim. Here were snow fields and pine and our last section of trail.


We finished our hike two days later, having walked through another 60+ miles of forest. We were hungry and thirsty for most of these miles, running short of food and then, at the very end, water. In a way, I was glad to finish and ready to rest, stuff my face with fruit and vegetables and meat, stretch my muscles, and put my feet up. But I was mostly very happy to have hiked another good long hike. It is such a privilege to be out here, in the desert and canyon and forest, with my husband, with everything I need on my back, with the stars watching over me each night.

Flagstaff to Tusayan, mile 588.7-692.4

Baloo dropped us off where he picked us up in Flagstaff. We walked one block and ducked into a Taco Bell for a pee, then breakfast burritos, then iced coffees. We were back on the trail/sidewalk soon, though, and a few miles later the city was a distant memory. We walked through pleasant wooded trails, passing joggers and mountain bikers, until the Flagstaff Urban Trail joined the main Arizona Trail and we were alone again. The sky, so sunny earlier this morning, clouded over. The temps dropped as we climbed up to 9000 ft. We stopped for water in the early evening and became so cold we decided to look for a campsite and hunker down. Another mile and a half down the trail, we set up our tent, crawled into our sleeping bags, and wondered how much it would snow.

We woke up to below freezing temps and a thin layer of white, which melted quickly in the morning sun. As we started hiking, we realized we accidentally camped at the highest elevation possible. The trail wound gradually downhill for miles. By noon we looked back and saw snowy Mt Humpheries far in the distance.

Leaving the San Francisco peaks, the trail became flatter and drier. Suddenly it was hot and sunny and we had nothing but dirt road yawning before us. This was Babbitt Ranch, land of 30-mile water carries.

We tanked up at a funky stock tank with water that looked neon yellow. At a trailhead water cache, we found two liters of public water that tasted like they’ve been there for a year. Our next water source was 20 miles away.

We walked along the dirt road for an hour after sunset, enjoying the cool temps. There was a long straight section and then some hills with short trees, a little privacy from the pickups driving by in the morning, so we ducked over and cowboy camped. We’d hiked 29.2 miles, late start and all.

The next day was more of the same: flat, dry, and cruisey. We pulled a 30. I noticed and appreciated all the different parts of my body: fat that fuels me, muscles that propel me, tendons and ligaments that support me and keep me upright. I noticed a small blister next to my big toe, how tight my shoulder is, how rigid my back muscles have become. I felt very happy.

We hiked until dark, slept soundly, and in the morning caught our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.

Pine to Flagstaff, mile 463.5-588.7

As we hiked north from Pine along the Highline Trail, we were appreciative of the care and love that has gone into the trail’s maintenance. This section dates back to the 1800s when it connected homesteaders below the Mongollon Rim. I considered this as I hike, with my cuben fiber gear and smart phone and energy bars. I imagined if the trail was my main tie to the outside world, instead of a way to escape it.

We cowboy camped a few miles out of Pine, falling asleep in darkness and waking immediately to a bright moon overhead. It illuminated the forest so well that I woke thinking I had overslept. I waited until true morning to get up, though it is easy to linger in the sleeping bag when it is cold out. We hiked below the Mongollon Rim all morning and it was sunny and pleasant. We took an early break next to a lively stream, later we found an off-trail gushing spring, at noon we ate lunch next to a flowing creek–water is plentiful here, and we feel rich. In the afternoon we climbed 1000 ft, the last big climb until after Flagstaff. We were up on the plateau now. The trail was pretty flat. And it was cold. We hiked on, past General Springs, past more forest roads, and found a nice flat spot under some pines to camp.

The next day we were up and moving quickly, trying to ward off the cold by hiking. We dropped down to the swollen East Clear Creek and felt the temp drop, too. We hiked past a few water sources listed as “tanks” before we realized that means stock pond up here on the plateau. They looked murky and low, so we went off-trail to a nearby ranger station for water then rejoined the trail as it meandered between forest roads and single track. We saw elk in the distance running through the woods and smelt their musky odor. A porcupine startled Spider. Otherwise, the flat and forested trail was a little monotonous.

We picked a bad place to camp. The sun set and it got cold again and we were desperate to get into our sleeping bags. In the morning, after a below-freezing night at 7000 ft, our sleeping bags were damp from condensation and the air was still brisk.

When we finally started hiking, we cruised. The terrain was great for making miles. We saw Softie again, we’ve been hiking the same schedule since Pine, and met Baloo, who bumped ahead of us for a northbound section at Pine. We ran into Baloo twice more during the day and got to chat a bit and swap contact info. We hiked on until we were just outside of Mormon Lake and called it a day.

The next day, Monday, we took forest roads into Mormon Lake and picked up packages and got hot coffee. Then we hiked out, knowing that there might be bad weather that evening. We hoped to get to Flagstaff on Tuesday for a nero/zero and would need to do the bulk of those miles today. We got back to the trail and hiked all day as the winds get sharper and the clouds rolled in and the temp started to drop. We stopped only twice for water and snacks. The wind was brutal, with gusts that blew us sideways. We found a semi-sheltered camp site at the end of the day and set up the tent. We had cell reception and checked the weather, confirming that we would have precipitation overnight and in the morning. It was cold but not as cold as the past few nights, so we figured if we could stay dry we’d be fine.

Just before bed, Spider checked his email and saw a message from Baloo. He’s at home in Flagstaff avoiding the bad weather and invited us to stay with him and his wife Jan when we get to town. We wrote back excitedly, accepting this generous offer. I went to sleep smiling, imagining a warm bed and a hot shower.

It snowed all night, sometimes coming down as little ice pellets, sometimes accompanied by mighty gusts of wind. When we woke up it was still snowing but the wind had dissipated. Seeing no break in the weather, we packed everything up and started hiking. We have 10 miles to Flagstaff.

It was a brutal first ten minutes in heavy snow and sideways wind, but once we got into the forest, the morning became beautiful and calm. It was so peaceful in the shelter of pine trees. We saw more elk and a big bird of prey and lots of rabbit tracks. The snow tapered off after an hour or so of hiking, and the trail was easy to follow even dressed in white, so we made good time.

When we walked into Flagstaff, Baloo was there to greet us. He whisked us away to his lovely home and we took hot showers and started laundry and had a delicious lunch and met his wonderful wife Jan. We felt completely warm and safe and happy. We spent a day and a half completely out of the elements and enjoying great company. We are so, so lucky.

Huge thanks to Baloo and Jan for inviting us into their home and helping us recharge for the last section of trail. This was the best kind of trail magic!

Pigeon Springs to Pine, mile 368.2-463.5

We are transitioning from the hot, bright desert to high fields of ponderosa pine.

Leaving Pigeon Spring, we walked on forest roads for 11 miles, moving quickly with views of wooded mountains in the distance. We turned onto a dirt trail and descended steeply to Boulder Creek. Spider and I had an early lunch by the creek and then took another long break four miles later at Sycamore Creek, where we swam and wash our clothes and relaxed. Back on trail, we hiked through a hot and stagnant valley, across a highway, past some nondescript fields, and finally to the edge of the Mazatzal Wilderness where we camped next to a creek filled with singing frogs.

The Mazatzals were rough. The trail here is neglected, unmaintained. We knew about it before we started this hike. It has a reputation. And it lived up to it: we got lost, got scratched up, got annoyed. The thorny desert plants ripped at our shins and our thighs. It felt like a long day, and it was, and then it was over. We hiked down to the East Verde River, made camp, and dreamed of town.

The next day we had 24 miles to Pine. We had no alarm because our cell phones were out of battery. That meant we had no GPS either. Flying blind, with only cairns and footprints in the dirt to guide us, we hiked across the river, up to Hardscrabble Mesa, and through a perplexing field of scree. When we felt like we were off trail, we fanned out until one of us picked up some sign like a familiar track or a pile of rocks. We made our way to the trailhead then followed a forest road to power lines. 10 miles left to Pine and barely noon! We had lunch sitting in the dirt, then carried on down from the mesa and through a little forest. Finally, we reach Pine.

We spend the rest of the day and all of the next morning ping-ponging between the brewery, grocery store, laundromat, diner, and public library. After being mostly alone on the trail, in town we meet fellow hikers Softwalker and Pete and bikepacker Papa Beer. Big shout out to That Brewery and all the friendly establishments in this wonderful trail town. We hike out feeling full and refreshed.

Hwy 60 (Superior) to Pigeon Spring, mile 302.2-368.2

Re-hydrated and fed, we hitched back to the trail from Superior and set off. I got dizzy and hot and we decided just a few miles in to wait out the last heat of the day in the shade of a tree. Got in another hour or two of hiking in the blessed coolness of dusk and moonlight before making camp outside of the Superstition Wilderness.

Day 15

307.0-331.3 (24.3)

Spider wakes me up from cowboy camping with fart stink from his unzipped sleeping bag. We pack up camp and start walking up Reavis Canyon. It’s hot and sunny again but lots of little pools of clear water. Climbed to almost 5500 ft then followed a busy ATV road along the ridge and down the other side of the mountain. Another 1000 ft climb to Reavis Pass then flat along Reavis Creek and past Reavis Ranch. Who’s Reavis? We see only an old stone foundation and lots of overnighters with camp chairs and camp fires. We hike on and find a sweet spot near Walnut Spring to camp.

Day 16

331.3-349.7 (18.4)

Cold morning, hiking by 6:30 to try to get miles in before the heat slows us down. Trail is rocky and filled with scree, making the steep descent and immediate ascent more challenging. Eventually settled in for a 3000 ft descent to Roosevelt Lake. We walked across the hot pavement to the visitor’s center to see where our package might be and find out it’s at the post office some ways down the road in Roosevelt town. We hitch a ride with the Gila County sheriff, get our package, pack it away, and hitch back to linger outside the visitor’s center in the shade by the water fountain until the sun is less powerful and we are ready to hike again. Back into the hills then out over the bridge by the dam and finally up to the mountains again, for good, for days.

Day 17

349.7-368.2 (18.5)

Late start, eating full breakfasts to lighten our food pack weight. Got hot very quickly for our long, sometimes steep climb to Four Peaks Wilderness. Lost a little time when we continued on a forest road when we were supposed to follow a ridge, but we did see a Gila monster so it wasn’t for nothing. Lovely creek bath and laundry downstream at Buckhorn Creek, lounged in the sun for almost an hour. Pretty views of Roosevelt Lake tucked away in the mountains below up, Four Peaks towering above us. A few short sections of trail were overgrown, scratched us up and slowed us down. The trail followed the contours of the mountain, with steep drops. Camp tonight is near the trailhead where there are ATVs, music, gunshots, and campfires. Wish we could hike away but instead we are tucked away in the woods near Pigeon Spring.

Hwy 77 (Oracle) to Hwy 60 (Superior), mile 207.3-302.2

Coming out of Oracle we felt great. Spirits were high and we were ready for big-mile days through the desert.


The first day out was lovely, very beautiful under blue sky with wispy clouds and slight breeze. Hiked steadily over rolling hills, no major elevation gain or loss, not much shade, a few miles of dirt road walking and a surprisingly good water source at a cattle tank. Heavy packs dug at our shoulders and we ate all we could to lighten the load. Eat, eat, eat, hike, hike, hike. We met Freebird, full-time thru-hiker, where the AZT and GET meet up (the GET jumps on the AZT for about 70 miles) and talked to him for a while about trails. Maybe we’ll see him on the CDT next year for his sobo hike. Felt very optimistic about hiking and trails and doing it all. Found a nice campsite a few miles later for sleeping under the stars, waxing crescent moon shining down on us.

And then I woke in the middle of the night feeling nauseous and feverish. Didn’t sleep much the rest of the night and in the morning felt awful. Belly sapping all my energy, couldn’t eat or even think of food. Hiking was slow and painful, stopping every two hours to lay down in the shade. The terrain through the tortilla mountains was easy at least so we were able to put some miles in. At every break I slept and Spider ate. A big siesta from 2-4 got us out of the sun and heat and our little naps helped us power through. Filled up on water at a cattle trough and cowboy camped in Ripsey Wash.

In the morning my stomach was better but still protested against food and drink so I took it easy. Beautiful, cool morning hike went up from the wash to an exposed ridge. Very hot afternoon was spent hiking more or less along the Gila River not in the lush green river border, but in the rocky hills beyond. Looked flat on the elevation profile but all the little ups and downs plus the heat and sun wore us down a little and the miles or no easier as the day went on. Saw our first rattlesnake, rattled us away while poised to strike, reluctant to move off the trail so we bushwhacked around it. Got water from the Gila then climbed up a little ways to camp.

Our big mistake was not getting more water from the river. We assumed the info we got from other hikers was sound and the water cache at the top of the 10 mile, 2000 foot climb was stocked and looked after. That we wouldn’t need any of the other water sources from there to Superior, so it didn’t matter if two of them were dry and one was vague.

We started hiking up out of the valley at 6am this morning and finished the long climb by 9:30, just as the sun was coming into her full power. It was a great climb, lots of gorgeous views and nice to get the ridge line breeze at the top.

When we saw the empty water cache, we were 11.5 miles from the highway into Superior. When we couldn’t find the cattle trough a mile down the trail uphill of a wash, when we knew the next two water sources were dry, when we saw we only had half a liter of water between us, we knew we needed to get down that mountain and get into Superior as quickly as possible. This was the hottest part of the day, there was no shade on the trail, and soon we would be in a situation we didn’t want to be in.

I have never been so thirsty. I was trying to swallow saliva as if it were water. I checked our progress every 20 minutes to see that we had hiked a mile and focused very hard on decreasing the distance between us and cold drinks. I fantasized about what I would drink first, about the best thirst-quencher, about how different drinks feel in my mouth. I did not pay any attention to be feet, my hips, my glutes, my back, or my shoulders, I just made sure each step landed and I was making progress down the trail. I prayed for breezes, visualized flowing streams, and checked to make sure Spider was close behind. I did not stop.

We made it to the highway. We hitched to the grocery store and went straight to the water section and chugged a gallon in the middle of the store.