Our First Hitch!

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Day 20

It's Presidents' Day. Breakfast spot is closed. The other cafe doesn't open until later in the day (which we were really bummed we missed for dinner last night, as Porters is supposed to be the spot).

We microwaved water, and made our camp breakfast. In our motel room. Oof.

The good part about that, is we got a good early start to the day, and were out by 8:15.

It was time for our first hitch-hike of the AZT!

By this point on any other trail, we would have hitched nearly as many miles as we hiked, to get into towns and resupply. However, the need hasn't been there as so many trail friendly businesses offer shuttle services, and we've walked through one of the towns we resupplied at.

We walked to the edge of town, and found a nice and safe spot for someone to pull over. 15 minutes in, a kind woman and her family stopped to pick us up.

The sweetest woman you could find, with adorable little grandchildren, gave us the lift a few miles out of town to the trailhead.

By 9:15, we were hiking again -- earlier than some days we wake up directly on the trail! Yippee. Always great when you get a smooth and easy morning.

The first part of the day was easy and pretty. Cool and breezy, but the clouds had parted and were no longer threatening a downpour.

Because of all the rain, however, the river we followed was swollen with rushing water, erosion, and debris.

For many miles, we essentially had to play Frogger, where we would jump from point to point in order to cross the raging water below (and hopefully not slip and get all of our freshly cleaned gear wet, again).

Even with a day of rest, that didn't help the pain in my ankle, and the tendon once again started to ache. The hopping definitely didn't help

Then I got something in my eye, which was impossible to flush out, and made me look as if I had pink eye, or was crying.

Another tough day, but so it goes.

On a bright (orange) note, we met another AZCC crew that managed the trail maintenance in the Tonto National Forest. If you recall, we met their Coronado National Forest counterpart way back when early in the trail.

Turns out the storm washed out a bunch of trees, making it impassable for equestrian riders on the trail, so they were out working hard to clear the mass amounts of debris, and reroute the trail safely. As we were thanking them for all their hard work, once of the members pointed to one of their crew members and said thru-hiker!

Woo! Our first time meeting an AZT thru-hiker.

As we rolled up, she shouted "hiker trash!". At that moment, I knew we would be fast friends, and the AZT wasn't her first thru.

--

Hiker Trash is what the long distance trail community affectionally call themselves and other thru-hikers. We are hikers, but look like homeless, filthy, vagabond vagrants. Thus, we are hiker trash.

--

We stopped and chatted with NoDay (aka Amanda, as Dusty and Camel is to myself and Andy). We got some valuable insight to what lays ahead, and just chatted hiker trash talk with a fellow thru. It was wonderful, and eventually we had to trek on.

The rest of the day was once again smooth. And then we entered the Superstitions, a beautiful part of Tonto National Forest.

We climbed up to over 5200 feet and setup camp along a raging river. Everything has a ton of extra water. It's even flowing on the trail in many spots.

The air is dense with moisture. As are the trees and downed branches. If you recall, we have no fuel (Superior didn't stock any we could use), and we must rely on a campfire for cooking until we get our fuel can tomorrow which we sent to Roosevelt Lake Marina.

For an hour and a half, we tended to the smallest of embers from small twigs. Fanning it just enough to almost (not really) boil enough water for dinner. 

We were mostly successful, and hopped into our tent to eat as it's cold, and not enough dry wood to make a warming fire.

Now we are bundled up in our sleeping bags trying to keep warm. The inside of our tent is already super wet from the moisture in our breath and lingering in the air. But we will sleep soundly.

All washed up

 

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Day (18b) 19

I wrote last nights postaround 8:30. By 9, Andy and I were fast asleep in our tent.

9:15, I'm slightly woken up by a trickling sound, as if a creek was nearby. Two minutes later, the tent is completely surrounded by six inches of water.

"Andy!" I exclaimed, "we're in a river!"

Even though there was a drainage tunnel near our underpass, the raging water were routed right through our 'camp'.

We were in the middle of a flash flood. Our belongings that we kept outside in a gravel attempt to dry from the days rain was washed away, nearly 200 feet from our tent. A pool of water was growing inside our sleeping quarters, and we quickly jumped up grabbing what we could.

We didn't bother throwing on shoes, we were already soaked. Not to mention our footwear was washed away, somewhere.

We grabbed the tent, electronics, and anything else we could, and walked up the river which engulfed us to throw down our salvaged gear on some dry land.

Once we did that, we went down the river to try and find our missing belongings. Surprisingly enough, most was found.

Items lost were, (ironically) our bleach we just procured, one of Andy's insoles, my rain cover for my camera bag, and my cheapo sunglasses were broken in the kerfuffle.

Sopping wet, no wood to make a fire to dry out, and no service to call into the nearby town, the satellite phone came out.

We were forced to call in a ride, spend the night, and following day to clean our wet gear, in Superior.

We were hanging on to our zero day for after the half way point, where we could properly celebrate, but we had no choice but to take that day early.

--

This morning we slept in. We deserved it.

i could already tell Andy was uneasy with the unplanned Zero, as that meant a day behind schedule and getting home. 

All of our gear and clothes sat in a pile in the bathroom, filled with mud and horse manure that had washed through our camp with the raging river.

We couldn't deal with all that first thing, so we walked down the road to a local breakfast spot where we each did our double breakfast (and ordered the exact same items as in Kearny).

Before being able to walk over there, however, a trip to the Dollar General across from the Copper Mountain Motel was in order. Our footwear was disgusting and dripping, and we refused to walk further than the 50 feet needed to get some flip flops.

In nothing more than leggings and our down jackets (the only dry items we currently possessed) we made our way to breakfast.

We once again posted up in the corner of the restaurant, drinking as much coffee as they would pour, and eating enough for a small army, while we contemplated what exactly happened the night prior.

Once our brains began to slightly function once again, we made our way back to the motel to handle our business.

The motel was kind enough to let us use their washing machine for our clothes, and we rinsed the rest of our gear and hung it up to dry.

The remaining hours of the day consisted sof tv and bed. And nothing more.

A day of days

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Oh man oh man, where do I even begin?

Last night was one of the best sleeps on trail I've had yet. I didn't wake up once, with a single exception.

I was sound asleep, comfortable, warm, with a soothing trickle of the river nearby. Every now and again a slight foreshadow of the day to come would sprinkle down on our tent, which was actually quite pleasant sounding.

All of a sudden, I'm abruptly woken up to a thud nearby. I think nothing of it, but my ears are perked up. A moment after, I hear a loud breath. I wait for a final confirmation that there is in fact something in our camp before waking Andy.

He confirms, there is some large creature way closer than either of us are comfortable with. We start shouting, shaking the tent, and reassess. Nothing. No darting into the trees, or bumbling away.

I take my headlamp, which we shine through the tent towards the animal, and all of a sudden we hear a loud splash. There is only one entry point to our camp, directly next to our tent. Otherwise, the sandy beach is lined with thick brambles on one side, and the river on the other.

As soon as we heard the splash, we knew it was safe to investigate further, and opened the tent to see what had been near us.

In the river, swimming across, we see a large, black sphere of an animal. Immediately, the first though is a massive black bear that had been sniffing around us. However, upon second glance, we saw it was, in actuality, just a large bull.

The foolish bull must not have noticed our camp as he went to get a drink of water. When we started hootin and hollerin, he had no where to go. Finally, we startled him enough with the light that he was forced to jump into the water and swim across.

We felt bad, but we're happy he didn't charge us..

And that, my friends, is the story of BearCow.

--

Waking up refreshed was a wonderful feeling. The skies were gloomy, but this was to be expected. It was warm, and we had made a fire to boil our water for coffee and breakfast.

The day had in store for us, a beautiful visual experience as we hiked up the Alamo Canyon, with spires and rock faces abundant with colors a striations cutting miles across. Even with the gloomy weather, we very much enjoyed the first 10 miles as we crisscrossed the canyon lands.

The rain coming in from the south-west was visible, but it had yet to hit us. A light sprinkle here and there, but otherwise nothing crazy.

The AZTA (Arizona Trail Association) had a water cache about nine miles into the day, in a remote section of trail towards the end of Alamo Canyon. It was very much needed, and even more appreciated. Their hard work and efforts are seen by all thru-hikers (and day hikers, alike).

Though it was cold and spitting rain, and we hadn't even drank all of our water yet, we knew the next source wasn't for another 12 miles, so took a liter a piece to get us through the day.

This is where it took a turn for the worse, and the expecting rain came in full force.

A deluge of water dropped on us, seeping into our bones. No part of our bodies were dry, even with the appropriate gear. With over six miles left in the day, we had no option but to push through, and keep as warm as possible.

Fortunately, we had finished nearly all the ascent for the day, so minus a couple bumps here and there, we were going downhill.

As we planned to end our day near the highway that lead to Superior, AZ, we were driven by the prospect that we would order pizza to the trailhead where we were going to camp, a mere six miles from town. On any other day, we would find a ride in town and enjoy the comfort of a warm bed... buuuut we just did that. We aren't motel hopping, we're thru-hiking. Comforts can only be enjoyed when really necessary. And plus, we didn't want to spend another boat load of cash on lodging, and the inevitable six meals we'd consume for dinner alone.

The day began to grow long as the rain got harder, and somehow we managed to get even more wet. The thought of hot, gooey, cheesy pizza with heaping helpings of meat and veggies fueled our final miles as our feet grew sore and the shivering went down into our core. We had no option but to push through, and we knew this, but ending with pizza made it slightly more bearable. Maybe they would even deliver us a can or two of beer, was that possible in Arizona? Who cares. Soda would be a dream even if we could sip on some suds.

Soon, the end was in sight. Highway 60 was just on the horizon darting between two mountain tops in the distance. We made it! Cold, wet, hungry; we made it.

We weren't exactly sure where we were going to camp, but it didn't matter, because, well, pizza.

There was a marked water source near a Forest Service run windmill, so we hoped for some type of structure or building we could catch a little protection from the rain under. But again, didn't matter. Pizza.

As we got closer, we saw the rickety old windmill, right next to a trailer park. No Forest Service building in sight. So we nixed the idea to camp there.

The trail crosses under highway 60, so we decided to make our way there so we could get a slight reprieve the the precipitation chilling our soul.

We made it. Found a dry patch in the concrete tunnel, dropped our gear, and took a deep breath. We made it.

We needed a good ten minutes just to decompress from the wetness that had compacted our spirits into small, cold, wet cubes of unhappiness.

We fired up the phones, and no service.

Wait! We are in a concrete tunnel, that must be it.

We jump outside, in the rain of course, and Andy has a single bar of 1x (the bare minimum of service, only good for a phone use, no internet).

Brilliant. GutHook had the phone number for I dial the number; call failed.

I dial it once more, and voila! It connects.

A woman answers the phone, and a excitedly explain to her we are thru-hikers in desperate need of some warm pizza just six miles away. With all the rain that's come down today, I'm sure she could have understood the importance of this mission.

"I'm so sorry, we don't deliver."

The most heart wrenching words I could hear.

And with that, our hopes of pizza vanished. Our hopes of joy and happiness after that tough day, with it.

As we contemplated what to do next, we realized there would be no dry alternative to where way currently sat. In a concrete underpass of a highway with cars rushing by that would reach pizza in no more than six minutes.

Demoralized, defeated, and still cold to the core, we decided to set up the tent, and boil the little water we had remaining. On the upside, as it was cold and wet, we drank almost no water. Giving us just enough to use for dinner, and a half liter to sip in the morning.

"Hey bud...."

I look over at Andy who had fired up the stove to boil our water, and notice a distinct lack of jet propulsion sound akin to that of a isobutane stove. 

"No..."

Our little backup can of fuel, only used once, was empty.

He lifts the lid, and it's steaming. So we quickly grab our food to add the not even simmering water in hopes of a hot meal. In my depressed state, I double up on my beef add-in to make the meal more filling (yeah right, I had intended to eat an entire pizza plus a lot more not long ago).

We were able to make our dinner happen, but then the realization that coffee, and a hot breakfast, was out of the question.

Soaking wet wood around us, an empty fuel can, and a pizza place that doesn't deliver.

We now lay in the breezy, cold, concrete tunnel listening to cars whiz by. We are most thankful for the fact that we have a dry spot for the night, but that's about it. We'll have to hike half an hour to get to a water source, and we heard it's supposed to rain most of tomorrow as well.

Today was rough, tonight demoralizing.

But, that said, it's not an adventure until something goes wrong.

Two more days until we get to our next resupply spot at Roosevelt Lake. Hopefully, wood will be dry enough for tomorrow nights dinner...

 

High in the Sky

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What a wonderful night. Warm, comfy, quiet.

We woke up at a bright and early 6:30 to get a jump on the day and start packing. We heard the best cafe in town opened at a surprisingly early 7:30, which we were excited about as we planned to get a full days hike in.

We were quite refreshed, all things considered, and my ankle was feeling a little better, although still fairly swollen. Once we had our stuff ready to go with the exception of a few items to be packed last minute, we walked down to West End Cafe.

A slightly longer walk than we had hoped for, as the main part of town is literally a block long and would take no more than 10 minutes to walk to one end and back. But the cafe was down at the base of town, near the railroad tracks and airstrip (yes, this small random town in Arizona has an airport).

Regardless of the walk (what else do we do with our days), it was well worth our efforts, as it was easily the best breakfast we've had on the trail, and we both agreed, the best we've had in a while. 

Now, we can accurately attest to the deliciousness of the restaurant, as we both had two meals - each.

We started off with two eggs, chicken fried steak & gravy, hash browns and toast (biscuit for Andy). Once we devoured that, and three cups of coffee, we decided more food was in order.

Since the eggs were perfectly cooked, I had to have two more. And two sausage patties. And more hash downs. Aaaaand more toast (and of course, more coffee). Andy got French toast and bacon as his second meal (and of course, more coffee).

The kind waitress happily fed our bellies the mass amounts of food we desired, and we struck up a conversation about our travels and the town. We also overheard that the airstrip is a popular spot for folks to fly their single prop planes to from various places around Arizona, as they can fly through the mountains on a nice day trip; most likely more than half the mileage we will hike in over a month.

Even though Andy and I agreed we could easily go for round three, we decided in the interest of time, we should get going back to the trail. So we said our farewells and we're making our way back to the motel.

Once we arrived, I wrapped my ankle with an ace  bandage, and we finished up our packing and then Fernando was at our door to take us back to the trail.

--

Kearny is an extremely Trail friendly town, and the network of business owners and residents work together to ensure travelers have a wonderful experience and easy access to their community. So thank you all, for the rides and hospitality!

--

Once we got back to the trail, we were off on another full day of hiking. About an hour into it, we saw four single prop planes heading our direction, which we waved to vigorously. Who knows if they actually saw us, but one flew directly over us! The others skirted passed along the valley. So cool.

The rest of the hike wound around the mountain side, following the Gila River. About 13 miles in, we heard a helicopter approaching... as if searching for us. Quickly, we spotted an Apache combat chopper hovering no more than 30 feet off the surface of the river. We could even see the occupants helmets with relative ease. So cool.

Shortly after this second aerial spotting, we ran into a weekend worried - Rick. He was just finishing up a 21 mile day through the canyon which we will be trekking tomorrow. He's done quite a bit of the AZT, and offered some valuable insight of the beauty that lays ahead. He also reaffirmed the massive storm coming through, starting tomorrow morning -- over an inch of rain in 24 hours!

--

There are three main types of hikers:

1) day walkers -- these are avid hikers who go out for long hikes, but rarely camp.

2) weekend warriors -- those who trek to camp, and camp at different locations each night.

3) thru-hikers -- crazy people, like us.

--

We finished our day a bit early, at 16 miles, due to lack of water sources ahead, and the uphill to the canyon (I wasn't keen on carrying a ton of water for a dry camp up a mountain with my ankle far from in its prime).

We made our camp a bit early, relaxed, did some more filming and drone work, and prepared our minds for the wet days to come. We're camped on the Gil's River, where it's quite warm and has a nice sound as the river rolls by. Not to mention the cowbell on the bull nearby. Can't decide whether that's nice or will get old quickly. Hopefully, I won't be awake long enough to decide.

We will reach our next destination in four days time, two of which are slated to be quite wet...

Kearny, AZ

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We made a bit of a rookie mistake last night. We camped on a saddle.

This is the low point between two higher points, which is usually where trails will cross from the southern to northern side of a mountain. This point usually gives a great view, but it funnels the wind coming towards the mountain and compounds the gusts through the saddle.

So that night, as the coyotes howled in the distance, so too did the wind. Shaking our tent, keeping a chill in our tent, and preventing us from sleeping as soundly as we would have liked.

Once we woke up, we quickly packed up and stumbled down the trail a bit to escape some wind as we cooked our breakfast.

Immediately, an all too familiar feel shot up my leg.

As if from a Greek fable, the one part of my body which has caused consistent issue while on my long treks is my Achilles' tendon. On the PCT, it began to get extremely tight, and every time I took a step it felt like old rubber stretching and resisting.

When I headed down the trail, I noticed my left ankle was swollen and my tendon tight once again.

I massaged the tendon and tried to work it out a bit as I prepared for the day, but ultimately had to pop some Aleve to reduce the swelling and alleviate some of the pain as I walked.

The crummy thing is, there's really not much I can do about it but rest and stretch it. Which I obviously can't do with 560 miles to go. So, I must keep tabs, and keep going.

As far as the days hike went, it was fairly cold in the morning, but then warmed up and and the terrain flattened out. We even saw our first. Looming wildflowers!

With one last push up hill for the day, we were ending in Kearny, AZ. Since our Aquamira bottle broke, we were forced to go into town to get bleach for purifying water.

A kind fellow named Gerry gave us a ride (and tour) around the area and copper mine. We got to our first motel room of the trail, ate a ton of pizza, sipped a couple beers, and were out like lights.

Dry dry dry

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Sleep is important, in life. But when doing 23 mile days, even more so. Going to bed after 11pm and waking up at 6:30 may seem decent, but not so much.

We snoozed the coyote howls for another 45 minutes to get some much needed shut eye. Unfortunately, it didn't really help much. We're pushing ourselves at a quicker pace than we typically have.

To put it into perspective, the first 600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail averaged about 15 miles per day. This was partially by design as we needed to wait until the Sierras thawed out a bit, but we weren't pushing 20-30 mile days until well after 1,000 miles of hiking.

With 250 miles under our belt at present time, we are already kicking in 22+ mile averages.

Man oh man, did we feel the lack of rest from the last four days of night hiking. Groggy eyed and far from bushy tailed, we slowly sipped our coffee and stared off into the distance as time ticked away.

All said and done, we left camp and started for the day of hiking at 9:30. Well past any standard trail departure. It's not like we had cozy beds and a house full of distractions.

The first three hours were fairly brutal. Our minds were mush and our feet sore. The inner pain has begun, an all too familiar feel.

My blistered feet are one thing. I can push through that discomfort and manage the blisters so they don't get bad. However, the inner foot pain is all it's own. The cause of the 'hiker hobble'. It's a kin to the look and feel of someone who has ridden a horse for a long time, and gets off with stiff legs and an odd gate.

Since we had to boil all our water to sterilize it last night, there was a distinct smoky flavor. Not pleasant. Meaning we sipped the bare minimum.

The day was clear, and the breeze was cool. However, we were in a unique state of discomfort and fatigue.

About 15 miles in, we stumble upon a water cache. Which is entirely necessary. The next water source was over 11 miles away -- too far for us to reach before sunset.

We guzzled as much cool, clear, smoke-free water as we could, and cameled up for a dry camp. Carrying all the extra water was tiring, but necessary. If that cache had been empty, we would have been forced to hitch hike into the nearest town in order to get water.

The second part of the day was a much different tune. We were rehydrated and spirits rejuvenated as the worry of a low mile day and forced hitch was gone.

We put ourselves in a good position for tomorrow, with nearly 24 miles hiked today. In the morning, we will actually wake up early and kick out the 20 miles needed to get to a road and then into a more populated town to get bleach so we can purify our water.

Most importantly, it's 9:30, and time for bed.

 

-- 

Happy 16th birthday to my lil brother Nathan! 

High Jinks Ranch

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Waking to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof top  while in a warm, comfy, dry bed is not a terrible feeling. Especially when you see the sun rising in the distance as dark gloomy rain clouds break up the horizon. Even more so when you fall back asleep for half an hour longer.

That was our morning. At first, we worried about the weather of the day, but soon after the coffee kicked in and the rain parted allowing the sun to shine down.

It was a slow morning, as we sipped our coffee overlooking the mountains. Andy called his wife to wish her a happy Valentine's Day, and his pop while I was busy writing the journal entry for yesterday and making more coffee to open my weary eyes more.

When all was said and done, we departed the ranch about 9:30. I haven't been to many places in Arizona, yet, but High Jinks Ranch is the first place I truly would love to return to. It gave us the rest we desperately needed, in a beautiful and calming way.

Once we said our goodbyes to one of the caretakers and her pup, we were off once again for another days journey.

We curled our way around and up rolling hills, through old washes, and across a few larger roads. The clouds still hung over, but in a protective way, rather than threatening rain. As the sun wasn't shining harshly on us, we sipped at our water gingerly as we knew how dry this stretch would be. When all was said and done, we actually crossed not a single natural water source.

Our first break after nine miles was at Arizona highway 77 -- a main road into Tucson, and only a few short miles from Oracle. Before we crossed under the pass (really, we played limbo as our packs scraped the top of the increasingly short walkway) we passed a water cache, our first of the trail.

--

On long distance trails, a community forms  building camaraderie and companionship through the love of the outdoors.  On long dry stretches, which can be brutally dangerous, kind souls bring and replace jugs of water which are stored in key locations for weary travelers to resupply as they pass by, ensuring a hydrated trek ahead. Thank you, whomever you are!

--

As we snacked on our meager rations, the hunger had really set in. While the last few days have been long and tough, the one small silver lining (possibly even bronze lining) is that your mind is so focused on the difficulties at hand, that the underlining issues are neglected.

For two weeks now, our bodies have been burning energy reserves which we've acquired over the years of city living. While lost and stuck in snow, we focus on those issues, and not the fact that we are slowly, but surely, starving ourselves.

When the weather is cooperative, and the terrain smooth, then our minds are then reminded. We did almost nothing today but talk about food. Pizza topping, sandwiches, grilled cheeses. You name it, we perfected the ideal item for our grumbling bellies.

As we sat by the highway, we were a quarter step away from a pizza restaurant. A mere 4 miles down the road. The temptation was strong, and the hunger stronger.

Somehow, we managed to resist the urge to stick out our thumbs and find our way into some cheesy goodness. We had many more miles to go, and with our already late start, another detour would surely slow us down.

So, much to our dismay, we continued forth.

The terrain was kind to us all day, but the dreams of food only increased in drool worthiness as we concocted dishes out loud to one another.

Finally, the sun began to set, and our final miles came quickly. There's a tank of water used by local ranchers which is our water source for the night.

About 12 feet tall, and 20 feet across, this circular steel tank is our refuge in the desert. Even with minnows swimming around and algae growing in the center, the water was clear and we were ever grateful.

As we began to prepare the water to purify, I quickly noticed one of our two part Aquamira drops was empty. A pin-prick hole had developed in one of the bottles, rendering the other useless. We've had this problem before, twice. Aquamira is officially on our no-fly list moving forward. They have yet to address the issue in their design flaw, so no more.

We sat for hours, as we boiled a liter and a half of water at a time with the limited amount of firewood we could find. We had been excited for an early bed, but at the current time of 11:06pm, that clearly could not happen. It would take 5-10 minutes to boil the small amount of water, where the purification drops would have taken 20, period.

One small mishap after another kept beating us down. Nothing as severe as the lack of water purification, but enough to break our spirits a bit.

Now, we must trek two more days, and 45 miles, to a railroad crossing which we will follow to a highway and into a town a few miles down. Here, we will get our tried and true purification method of good ol' bleach.

Cents on the dollar compared to the overpriced and poorly designed Aquamira, you can put 3 drops per liter of water, wait half hour, and have perfectly safe and drinkable water (with no after taste!).

On a positive note, this morning we broke the 200 mile marker! Now we are over a quarter done with the Arizona Trail. The feeling of walking over two hundred miles isn't quite as grand as breaking the first hundred, oddly enough, but we are happy to be pushing the miles and making headway.

Now we go to sleep, as our hot water cools for tomorrow. Hopefully, we will have enough, as stopping midday to boil and the cool water to carry on our backs, will not allows us to make the miles we need.

--

Obviously, the day this goes live is not Valentines Day. In order to keep the posts going up daily, I have to schedule them as I rarely have service while on the trail. So yes, I know the 19th is not Valentine's Day, but while I'm writing this, it is!

Also, a big shout out to our young fans Jason and Jack, who have been following along our journey, and all those who comment on posts! We receive them, and they give us the boost needed to push forward. It's our goal to share our stories to inspire journeys of your own. Always remember, a dream becomes reality with the start of a single decision.

Roving Past Mars

We departed our Royal Flush Suites early in the morning to ensure we wouldn't startle any folks who may need to use the facilities which we slept semi-comfortably in. While it was warm and flat, the concern of someone walking in at any moment prevented us from sleeping soundly.

As we pushed the door open, we quickly realized no one was around. We were in a cloud with fresh snow on the ground. Yep, fresh snow.

The post office opened at 8:30, and we walked the hefty 200 feet across the street to receive our packages and prepare for the next stretch.

I got an extra drone battery and some additional charging devices sent here, so we gathered our gear and food to prep, and Andy sprawled out on the small reception area in the PO to package his food.

The woman running the PO was a wonderful, kind, and funny gal who kept us entertained as we swapped stories and got everything together.

Shortly after, we made our way to the Mt. Lemmon General Store. What a Mecca for any hiker or passerby. They have all types of fuel for our stove, lots of goodies and treats, and again, the kindest folks you could meet. The woman there even helped us out with small items that we couldn't find for sale, but she was able to rummage in the garage for.

By the time we had gotten some chocolate and prickly pear treats for the road, we went back up the trail (which runs through the town) and to the Sawmill Run restaurant.

We finally had our cheeseburgers. And cheesy fries. And pie. And five cups of coffee. The gals who worked there were kind enough to let us post up for a few hours while we ensured our batteries were up and running. It also began to sleet/snow once again.

My eyes were puffy, and our hands and feet swollen, so we decided to take it easy and take a "nearo".

-- 

When thru-hiking, there's random lingo to describe what you're up to. A "zero" is a day off, where your rest and recoup. A "nearo" is, you guessed it, when you continue on the trail, but only after lazily spending half the day resting.

-- 

It was 2 o'clock by the time we got back on the real dirt trail after a bit of road walking through the town.

We only planned to hike our 5-6 miles, but our minds were mush and we misread our maps, and no water sources were in sight. So we pushed 12.5 miles to High Jinks Ranch which has water, and rest. 

HJR is an epic little historical spot once run by Wild Bill Cody -- an infamous Arizonan. The couple who are the caretakers here were two of the most kind and hospitable people we've met, and offered whatever they could to give us a great sleep in a warm dry room with an epic view of the mountains.

Donation based, it was cheaper that any motel, but infinitely more beautiful and restful. Especially since it's directly on the trail, and we won't get sucked into the vortex of a town. Not only that, but we got our first showers in two weeks! How amazing that felt. 

We did, however, night hike about 45 minutes to get here, as the sunset stopped us in our tracks and required filming and photos. What an amazing thing to experience on the side of the mountain we travelled.

Off in the distance, we even saw the Mars test facility, which is a biodome to replicate conditions on Mars to see how humans may fare for long term survival (unfortunately, that particular endeavor failed).

Three days of night hikes, hard miles, getting turned around in the snow, and frustrated with our mileage (doing miles that don't count towards your end goal is always no fun), we had been pushing ourselves. We could feel the effects and needed a solid nights sleep to continue the miles.

So now we rest, and soundly sleep (we hope) to continue our push north. Thank you High Jinks Ranch!

Mt. Lemmon gave us a Lemon

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Today is the end of another stretch.

When doing a thru-hike, it's important to break up the seemingly endless miles into sections so that you can manage your food and any gear issues that arise. These 'stretches' are how you are mentally able to tackle a beast such as a multi month (or month) trek.

Anyhow, one of the best parts of the end of a stint on the trail is lack of food (for weight purposes only, of course) and the ability to destroy some carbs at any type of eatery we can find.

Operation Cheeseburger commenced.

We decided, even though we set up camp in the dark last night, that we would break camp early -- I.e. In the dark -- and push the 22 miles to Mt. Lemon where our resupply box (food for he next stretch) awaited us.

We knew the day held 6600 feet of incline, and 3200 feet of decline throughout the day, so we wanted to push as fast as we could as we received word everything closed at 5.

The first four hours of hiking was relatively smooth. Most of the descent happened during this time, and cloud coverage kept us cool.

We wound our way down a beautiful canyon with a rushing river below, but I had cheeseburgers on the mind. We had our one break, and trekked on as the ascent began.

If you recall from the other day, I outlined the grading of ascents and how to gauge a climb. Well, we had a mile of 1,100 feet of incline! After 14 miles on the day. That is what the Appalachian Trail is like - straight up, scrambling on rocks.

The worst of it was, the trail made no sense. It was simply a point to climb straight up to, then straight down into a bowl, then straight up again. No rhyme or reason other than to torture our grumbling bellies.

Off in the distance, we could see a dark looming cloud littering the ground below with  rain, as if the cloud went straight from the sky to the ground.

So we pushed on.

Andy was able to take a couple small breaks as he waited at the top of climbs for me, but I refused to stop in hopes of making our 5 o'clock deadline, and beat the rain. I went seven hours without stopping. 

Wishful thinking.

As soon as we reached the peak, the trail was covered in snow. No trail signs or visible cairns (rock piles used to mark trails when signs are unavailable), so we had to rely on our trail senses to find the trail, as no one had been up there (or at least left footprints) for some time.

With our maps by our side, we pushed through the snow, at first trying to keep our feet as dry as possible.

We came to a trail intersection, and followed our maps to the right. Very shortly after doing this, we realized the trail did not exist.

We confirmed that we were on the mapped trail, to the foot, but we were standing on the edge of a snowy mountain, crossing downed trees and sliding off slick to rock faces. Finally we got to a point where the trail was supposed to descend as steeply as we climbed, but there was simply no path to safely go down. We literally could have slipped right off the mountain.

The mind began to wander; how would we proceed? It's getting late, and we're cold and unable to find trail. Are we going to make it? At this point, Operation Cheeseburger had failed, but our minds were concerned with making it through the night, not to a restaurant. The storm was rapidly approaching, and we had no idea where to go.

We decided to trek back to the nearest waypoint, which was that trail crossing. The trail was named the Mt. Lemmon trail, and we hoped that meant it would lead us to the town, and not the peak. We had no options, so went down the unknown trail.

Then the rain began. The sky darkened and thunder cracked in the distance. Then in the not so far distance. Then bolts of lightning were visible and the booms the skies made were directly above.

With dozens of stream crossings, our feet were sipping wet. We eventually stopped rock hopping through the stream and just walked through as it made no difference.

We finally caught a small break, and we're lucky enough that the Mt. Lemmon trail connected back to the AZT a few miles ahead. We were on trail, but still 4.6 miles away, at 4:30 (sunset is just after 6pm).

Soon, we found footprints of a day walker (what we affectionately call a non-thru-hiker). Their prints went in both direction, meaning there is a popular trail junction ahead where people often hike in and out of.

We finally made it to the junction, soaking, cold, frustrated, and disappointed cheeseburgers were not even a remote possibility. We were happy to find, however, the last mile or so into Mt. Lemonn was a road, and made for easier hiking, even though it was pitch black at this point.

We mozied into the sleepy ski town, with a few lights of large a-frame chalet style houses. Any sign of civilization was long gone for the day. Dark, locked, and inaccessible to us weary, frozen hikers.

Alas! We once again caught a small break. The public restroom at the Visitor Center was open. Warm, dry, and a flat surface.

It's amazing how thru-hiking changes your perspective. You truly begin to appreciate the minuscule details and find reprieve in he simplest of things.

So yes, we slept in the breezeway of the bathrooms. Laid out our clothes and boots to dry, and slept fairly soundly, even though the fear of someone opening the door to find two grown men (smelly, bearded, with large packs) laying on the floor.

I laid out my pelican case with my drone, and my Canon camera with my AZT patch nearby in hopes that should someone get startled, they would quickly see we aren't bums or crazy people (well, we are crazy, but you know what I mean).

Tomorrow we will take a half day to eat, get our resupply, and take a small break from the hard, unforgiving few days we've had.

Singlespeed Arizona

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We slept soundly and woke early. We knew the day had snow in store for us, so we wanted to get a good jump on it.

Unfortunately, that good jump didn't happen until 8:30, half hour later than we like to get out of camp.

The chill in the air was amplified by the radiating cold from the snow, as we began our day post holing.

When there's lots of snow on the trail, you bring snow shoes to disperse your weight, and prevent you from sinking in too much. When you don't have snow shoes, you sink down as far as the snow goes. Since you never really know what the ground below the even blanket of white goes, your step is hesitant as you half prepare to break through the crusty layer on top. But no, that's not even the worst of it. Once your foot sinks in, you then have to rip it out, and lunge forward to repeat the process; a tiring ordeal.

We anticipated this, so pushed on at a pace as fast as the snow would let us. What we didn't anticipate, however, were the mass amount of trails ahead, and the sub par AZT signage. We followed orange blazes in the trees, as we had the day before, and assumed that there was only one orange trail. Well, we were wrong, and there was a split (both orange) and we trekked the wrong direction.

We didn't second guess, until the trail we found ourselves on brought us to flat land, where we were expecting deep descent.

Fortunately, I had my Light Saver solar panel hanging from the back of my pack, which charged my phone so I could review our course in real time. As we went off trail, to try and reconnect with the AZT, it wasn't until we finally made contact did we realize we some how did a giant loop, backwards.

We had to do nearly a mile of ascent, again, after an hour of being off trail.

Once we made the correct turn, we stopped at every trail junction to triple check. There were AZT signs, but they often ran parallel to trails where they were trying to indicate hard turns. We nearly got turned around again.

The trail going down the mountain was steep and unused, as proven true by the mass amounts of trees down, no footprints on the steep slope, and little to no trail markers.

We were bumming hard, as we reached our first break. Four hours, and only 6.6 trail miles on the day. Four hours is a long stretch to go without a break, and even more demoralizing when we should have reached about 12 in that time span.

Fortunately, at that time, the trail evened out and rolled over beautiful hills of yellow straw. It was overcast and breezy, making for ideal hiking weather. But still, a somber vail shrouded us.

We felt we would only make 16 miles on the day, due to our morning mishap, making tomorrow an extremely long, and difficult day (you'll hear about the terrain tomorrow... it'll be a doozy).

Just as spirits were hitting a low, we see a pop up tent in the distance.

There were a lot of mountain bikers on the trail today, but we paid them no mind other than the hello and have a good day as they whizzed by.

As we reached the tent a jolly fellow with a 'Singlespeed Arizona' jersey greeted us warmly. He went on to tell us of a fun ride their bike club was hosting.

We had just missed the onslaught of bikers, as was seen by the slew of empty beer cans, mostly empty bag of chips, and party favors strewn around their setup.

Before we could even introduce ourselves, we had beer in our hands. We told them about our thru-hike, and they gave us information of what's to come. Their crew is actually the main team to thank for maintaining the beautiful stretch of trail from the base of the mountain today.

And then there was another beer.

Andy and I for some reason hung out for a while, with packs still on. Neither of us were entirely sure as to what stupidity was preventing us from actually resting, but we too became jolly fairly quick, and our aching feet and poor vibes were a thing of the past.

We finally pulled ourselves away from the friendly crew, but not before they sent us off with a third beer and a half full bag of chips filled with cheese balls and chocolate.

We walked along the trail, beer in hand, as we contemplated what our plan was for the day, as it was nearly 5 o'clock and the sun was setting soon. 

6.5 miles to a campsite, heck yeah! The flowing beer had us feeling good, and invincible. So we decided to push the day and get the mileage we intended, even with that crummy morning.

The bikers continued to pass by, at a decreasing rate as the darkness fell. An hour later, as the sun dipped behind a mountain, we were greeted with a 900 foot incline, in just under two miles.

We decided to continue regardless. Threw on the headlamps, and night hiked up, and then down the mountain.

With glowing eyes littering the mountains around us, and the incline sweating out the beers, the aching in our feet began to reemerge.

No matter, we were making out 22+ miles today. We were excited to end in a campground, but as we arrived in the pitch black, and we couldn't comfortably navigate the campground, so went up the trail a quarter mile to find a water source and a small spot to place our tent.

It was a rollercoaster of a day, and the amazing people we met inspired us to push through our dark hour and continue forth.

Thank you, Singlespeed Arizona!

Ten days in

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Double digits! Wahoo!

9.5 miles to start the day, that's how we celebrated. The terrain was smooth and easy and we trucked along before our first break.

What was really crazy, was that we were no longer on a National Scenic Trail, but a National Scenic Highway! We saw about 15 hikers and bikers out on the trail. Madness.

The sun beat down on us, and I nicknamed the back of my legs Bubbalicous as the sun started to blister them, forming small bubbles within the pink skin. I'd cake on the sunscreen as much as possible, but the beating rays gave no mind. If only the searing sensation lasted as long as the flavor of Bubbalicoua gum (about 3 minutes).

We sought refuge in the shade of a big boulder for our first break, which was by a nice brook babbling away. Our break was longer than our standard 30 minute rest, as we knew what was in front of us; 6,000 feet of climbing.

The first 7.5 miles was about 3,000 feet up. Difficult on any day, but with temperatures breaching 90 degrees, and a cool breeze rarely giving us reprieve, it was pretty awful. But what option do we have than to trek on? And so we did. 

It was so hot, that the sweat would dry from my shirt while soaking in, leaving snaking lines of dry salt. Sweating profusely but having a dry shirt is an odd feeling.

By 3:30, we reached our last break spot, and man what a different world. Shaded by big pines, with a raging river of snowmelt next to us, there were multiple 'official' campsites. One of the residents for the weekend stopped by and said hello as we stuck our feet in the freezing water. We even did a little bit of washing up.

As the day grew thin, we knew we had to continue to our planned stopping point, Manning Campground. With two hours of sunlight, 4.5 miles of hiking, and another 3,000 feet of incline, we had our work cut out for us.

--

For those who are not avid hikers, the rule of thumb is anything more than 4-500 feet of incline per mile, is tough. It obviously depends on the terrain and condition of the trail, but that will make you huff and puff, especially with a large pack on, and 16 miles on the day already.

Our last 4.5 miles was nearly 700 feet per mile.

--

We pushed hard, negating all of the washing up we had just done. As we approached the higher elevation (we're currently camping at 8,000 feet), lingering patches of snow littered the trail. A sure sign that tomorrow, on the north face of the mountain, we will spend our morning in quite a bit of the white stuff.

The sun began to set, and we hobbled to our camp. We were able to get a fire going just as the darkness set in (about 15-20 mins after sunset).

We doubled our rations for dinner, as the climb took every last calorie we had stashed in our bodies, and now prepare for an epic night of sleep.

On a side note, today's incline was nearly identical (if not a bit tougher) than our first day on the Arizona Trail. However, that day we climbed 6,000 feet and trekked only about 7 miles, today, we did over 20.

Colossal Mistake

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Our camp on the outskirts of civilization was broken quickly as we started to use our stove for the morning meal instead of a fire. It saves us over an hour, which is roughly three miles of hiking.

We were up and attum right at 8 o'clock, and ready to push the miles.

Our first stretch was about 8.5 miles, officially leaving the wilderness behind and stepping into the land of man, as our break was on a paved road that lead into the town of Green Valley, skirted by S Sonoita Highway.

After a rest, and a nibble of our food, we were off once more.

Something to note here: as you may recall, last night was a dry camp. Fortunately we had extra coffee from yesterday and didn't need to make more today, saving a little bit of water. Even still, we started our hike with just under a liter each.

--

The Arizona Trail is a National Scenic Trail that allows (and encourages) mountain bike use. I fully support this, and thank the local clubs who supported the Arizona Trail Association, as I feel their support is most likely a great part in why the AZT is an official NST.

However, today, I cursed all mountain bikers. The first 8.5 miles of the day were extremely flat, allowing us to cruise across the foothills of Santa Anita. However, every 20 feet or so was a giant, banked, 'S' curve.

I've hiked enough to know when switch backs and bends are necessary, and could completely see that the trail was designed like this for mountain biking fun. We zig zagged staring at the trail in front of us on flat easy terrain. It's bad trail edict to short cut off trail (and also bad for the environment we travel through), so we grit our teeth and looped a doozy.

--

The day continued on, crossing under the highway, and further up the trail under interstate 10. In theory, I could take that single road straight to my apartment in Los Angeles. A funny feeling, to say the least, but onwards we went.

The underpass of I-10 was a concrete tunnel cutting through the ground below the six lane highway (quite long). Once we were on the other side, I went to sip my water and got that all too familiar resistance of an empty bladder.

To get every last drop, I inflate the bladder a bit to allow air to pass through the tube, and finally disconnected it all together until it was as dry as my surroundings.

We had two miles left until our water source - 15.5 miles on the day.

Fortunately, there was a slight breeze, as the sun continued to bake the back of my legs to a reddish pink hue (regardless of how frequently I would reapply sunscreen). Dry and delirious, we stumbled to our water source, where we promptly drank 3 liters a piece (even Mr. Camel! Who received his trail name for his lack of water consumption).

6.1 miles up the way, was 'Colossal Cave'. Sure, it could be cool, it is a tourist attraction after all, but what really mattered to us was the snack bar.

Andy called them up; closing at 3:30-4. It was  2:30. I couldn't call, Sprint be dammed.

We raced. Pushed ourselves as hard as we could to try and make it. We knew we would be unable to make it for the snack bar, with the miles we had left, but the gift shop closed at 5. Coca-Cola and candy was on my mind, and even as the cool breeze died and the sun grew hotter, we pushed onward.

As we approached a ranch (3.5 miles in) we scurried passed a few signs, one being the classic highway fork and knife sign. We didn't feel like researching the ranch food situation as we were slated to arrive to our destination 15 minutes before closing, so we pushed on.

4:40 rolls around, and we've made it. It's a camp ground attached to the national park which we are in, with the cave being the main event. On our map, the food station is about a tenth of a mile from the trail.

Well, my friends, our topo maps don't have the most informative road information. A ranger drove passed us, and we asked directions to the gift shop.

"Just over a mile and a half, straight up that hill", as he points about a thousand feet up. Technically speaking, I guess it's a tenth of a mile from the trail, but only for birds...

Fortunately, he let us hop in the back of his pickup, and he drove us up to the top as he was headed there anyway.

We got there just in the knick of time, and got sodas, muffins, and veggie sticks with hummus. As we sat to consume our delicious treats, we realized we back tracked all those miles from the ranch. Which we passed just before 3:30...

The closed snack bar teased our tastebuds with informative descriptions of pulled pork sandwiches with prickly pear cactus BBQ sauce and jicama slaw, and 'colossal' pizzas with all the meats you could imagine. Not to mention the seven different types of beers.

After I demolished the tiny spears of carrot and celery, wiping any bit of hummus out, Andy noticed that they had expired last week. Sure, I noticed the dried and cracked carrots, and browning drier than usual celery, but I was too depressed that we could have made the snack bar to notice.

Andy, on the other hand, was also distraught by this realization, and promptly went back inside. He returned with Chaco tacos and ice cream sandwiches as a replacement.

Shortly after, the park was closed, and we had to remove ourselves from the comfy table and bench, drooling over a menu we would never get to sample.

So we walked back to the trail.

As if a 21 mile day wasn't enough, we added another mile and a half of road walking to return to the spot the ranger gave us a lift from.

Hot and weary, the road walking was quick and easy, as it was all downhill. While a bit demoralized, we were thankful for the items we were able to procure.

Camped in a large campground, we are also thankful to only have the company of a single bikepacker (he is section biking the trail, camping along the way as if a hiker with wheels), a large fire, water from a spigot, and even a privy (outhouse).

We rest now, rehydrated, and preparing for a mighty climb tomorrow.

Oh! And then as I go to lay down to bed, a baffle on my sleeping pad popped, making a large bulge on my pad. Thanks Therm-a-rest.. -_-

One Zero Zero

Fried eggs with a runny yolk.

What you just pictured in your brain, was in fact, what happened to our brains, on this sunny, exposed, dry, hot, baron day.

Just yesterday, we were crawling around canyons and creeks, high above the sun scorched earth below.

'Wow', we remarked, 'sure looks dry down there.'

Well, yes, it is dry. Because now we are down there.

--

A great sleep after a great steak dinner, a couple beers, and a glass of wine. What more could a thru-hiker ask for?

We broke down our gear, rolled back into Kentucky Camp where we filled up our waters and said our final goodbye to Doug.

His trail magic kept on giving today, as we packed out two ginger ales to enjoy on our first break.

Thankfully, the sodas satiated our thirsts for some time, as it wasn't until 15 miles into the day did we cross a water source.

Not more than 24 hours ago, we were commenting to one another at how abundant the water was, and all the creeks which were not marked in our maps as water sources, flowed freely.

Fortunately, we came slightly prepared with heavy water bags and slightly more than we typically carry.

We happened across a source (again not marked, but thankfully taken), and filled up our bladders after chugging the liter or so we had left.

The water source for the day was a stock pond, which upon further investigation was noted as being surrounded by cows and filled with not live, but dead fish...

Luck was on our side once more as we found a tiny little hole of water (unfortunately filed with creepy crawlers darting around) before we were forced to hike a half mile off trail for a disgusting source of water.

As we neared the end of our 22 mile day, we crossed a small rock formation outlining '100' signifying the completion of the first hundred miles of the Arizona Trail.

Our biggest day yet, and now over 100 miles.

Even as the day wore long and we zig zagged around endless hills of tall, dry, yellow grass, we were excited, if not a little delirious.

We setup camp, built our fire, and ate dinner. Situated in limbo between the wilderness and civilization, we hear the planes of Tucson airport, the trucks of I-10, and even (presumably) a border patrol helicopter that circled around our camp, seemingly inspecting our setup. A quick shine of our flashlight and wave of the hand sent them on their way.

Spirits are high, even if water contents are low. Tonight's a dry camp, meaning no water here, so we're hoping to make due with our meager liter for tomorrow morning and find some more water quickly.

 

On a side note, happy birthday, mom! 

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One Week!

Tonight is the seventh day on the trail! Woo! And man oh man, what a celebratory night we've had...

--

The morning started off as most mornings do, a fire, some coffee, drying out gear from condensation in the tent, and lazily getting our equipment ready to go.

We have decided, however, that we will now forgo the morning fires in interest of making the most miles with the daylight we have.

Shortly after nature called, a random ATV rolled by (thankfully, after). We waved as our perplexed minds tried to figure out exactly what they were up to in this random, unused part of the mountains we currently resided. Fortunately, we heard no gun shots.

The first part of the day was quite the trek; a couple thousand feet of incline in a short amount of miles made us work hard for our first break.

The payoff of the hard work was smooth sailing and terrain for the rest of the day, as we got closer to our 20 mile mark.

The rolling hills and winding valleys made for refuge from the sun for a majority of the day. And a few Air Force jets darted above as the thundering engines echoed in the mountains.

Our pace has drastically increased since I've dropped the weight. We were pushing nearly four miles per hour today! Seems like hogwash, but on trails with packs, that's fairly decent as most hikers average between two and three.

Our bellies reminded us of this increased pace and mileage by rumbling and grumbling as we fed them meager portions of the sustenance we carried on our backs.

The trail is littered with cows (Arizona is an open range state, which means if you don't want cows on your property you're required to fence it off, otherwise they freely roam -- as they should, they're beautiful!). While most the time the only thought is of all their droppings and making sure our water source isn't tainted, today, they looked mighty tasty. We asked one cow if we could possibly just have part of her leg, but she stared blankly at us and we continued onwards.

We approached our final break spot, about 17 miles into the day, and the smell of charcoal filled my lungs. Where there's charcoal, there's people; where there's people, there's food.

We eagerly approached Kentucky Camp, a historic location with Adobe's built over a century ago available for people to rent. While we were fully aware we would be unable to camp in the area, and didn't reserve a bunk at $75/night, our hopes of a candy bar or soda ran high.

Once we entered the property, we were met with beautiful AZT signs, and a smoldering grill, but no one in sight.

As we made our way through (the trail cuts through the center of this property) we were greeted by the February caretaker, Doug.

We briefly chatted as he pointed out the spigot for water, and we explained we would be there for a few minutes as we rested and filled up water and pushed one for one more hour to hit our 20 mile marker.

Shortly after, Doug reappeared, asking if we had any interest in a couple leftover steaks from the the last occupants of the cabins, some beers, wine, granola bars, and fresh apples.

A thruhiker never says no...

While he explained to us that the Forest Service (which manages the property) doesn't allow camping directly on the property, he would allow us to use the grill to cook up some beautifully marbled, inch thick steaks. These were leftover from a giant gathering of the culinary gurus that were celebrating their win for the USA in a competition in Paris. The host even butchered the steaks himself!

Man oh man, did we grill up those bad boys and eat them in a flash.

Just hours ago, we were famished, alone on the trail, with six more days to go before our resupply. Our karma must be high, as Doug was most accommodating to a couple of smelly hikers coming in from the opposite direction of the driveway.

This is what a thru-hike is. Experiencing the land and culture, with kind souls to help inspire our journey further. It's people like Doug that reminds us this world is a wonderful place, regardless of what is shown on the news or talked about on social media. This country is littered with wonderful people, wonderful places. Perspective.

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Chapter 2: the correct decision

Today was the day.

I made the choice to forgo my attempt at a no resupply of the Arizona Trail. It pains me to make this decision, as I'm a very goal oriented person, and when I decide to do something, I do everything in my power to make it come to fruition.

After long talks with Andy (let's be real, what else do we have to do besides talk?) he came to the decision that if I were unable to push the miles needed, he would have to split off to ensure he finishes the trail before his wife goes into labor.

So my options were; do as much of the AZT without resupplying, alone - or - complete the AZT with Andy and make four stops.

The stubbornness I was born with fought and resisted for the last five days, as my body revolted and better judgement was pushed by the wayside. Do I think I could have accomplished the goal I set out to do? Possibly. But it would have taken longer than the time I allotted, which means more food, and more weight. I made my way from 6 to 12 miles in those 5 days, so possibly could have begun to push 20's by next week. But possibilities aren't going to get me to Utah in 30 days, and my bruised and bloodied hips aren't complaining either.

--

This morning we woke in our hosts house and made our way over to the coffee shop in town. There we ate a large and delicious breakfast as we waited for the post office to open.

We met many of the kind locals as we sipped our bottomless coffees and I mentally prepared to finally let go of my food -- and my goal.

Andy had a brief worry when he received news from home, and we zig zagged around town, going to grocery stores for him to resupply.

We had some time before we were comfortable leaving town with service -- and updates from home -- and talked with fellow travelers on journeys of their own while lazily preparing my food to be shipped up the trail.

Once we got the all clear that everything back home was a-okay, we said our farewells to the lovely town of Patagonia, and trekked on.

Let's just say, I was almost a kin to a jumping bean. I kept going through the list of gear in my head to make sure I had everything, as I was certain the newly lightened pack was simply too light to have everything I needed. I can now lift my pack without making awful faces and noises.

Well, it has everything I need, and even seven days of food for our next stretch.

That paired with rolling hills and the trail running along a forest road, even leaving after 2pm we were able to kick out 10 miles -- a couple miles shy of our longest day yet.

Yes, I am bummed. I feel slightly defeated that I was unable to achieve the goal I set out to accomplish, but spirits are high as the mileage ramps up. However, I know that disappointment will dissipate as soon as I finish the AZT, with Andy, before his wife gives birth (cross your fingers!).

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