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.. -_-