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!