We woke up slowly, got ready slowly, and built a fire -- slowly. Heck, if we were going to enjoy the rest of our time, why not start the day with a blazing fire as the chill in the air fights away the warmth we burn?
We sipped our coffee, chatted about the day, and reviewed what laid ahead.
Well, doesn't seem like the trail gods are working in our favor. We knew we had a over 6,000 feet of ascent throughout the day, which we accepted. Unfortunately, there were just no good water sources within our mileage needs. Ideally, we would have hiked out 10 miles, pitched camp, and enjoyed the day. Instead, our water source was 17 miles in. A shorter day, for sure, but not quite the ultra relaxation we were thinking of. But it all worked out, as the weather report shows another big storm coming in from the west during our planned last two days of the hike. So instead of doing ultra-slow miles, we decided it would benefit us not to end on such a sour (or wet) note, and slow the miles down, but kick them out before the storm.
All in all, it was a lovely day. The sun was shining, the breeze crisp (actually, at times, quite brisk). The ascent was manageable as it was broken into a couple small pushes, and the overall ascent was mainly tiny little bumps going up and down, making it much more palatable than a single 6,000 foot incline.
We took one break by a creek early on in the day, and sat there for nearly an hour. Not doing much but enjoying the land we were trekking through, as we meant to.
Shortly after our break ended, I noticed a familiar sock hanging on a tree branch next to where we sat.
Over the past few days, we've been bumping into Totoro, a fella from Japan who is spending three weeks hiking the Arizona Trail. He's a kindhearted lone hiker, always happy to see us with a smile on his face as he treks through the mountains solo. Doing about 10-12 miles a day, even with our little pitstop we felt we would eventually catch up with him, so I grabbed the sock and stuck it in the side of my pack.
As we entered the Four Peaks Wilderness area, there was an ACE trail crew doing some work on the AZT. They were on an already smooth piece of land, I guess widening the trail a bit for equestrians. About an hour later, we were on trail half as wide, with brambles and brush overgrown like the Amazon. In fact, for nearly a half mile we put our heads down, with poles and arms up, and walked through trying our best not to get whacked (too hard at least; it was inevitable). Our bare legs were cut and scraped by thorny points, our knuckles bruised by flailing branches.
Eventually, the brush cleared, and we were looping around a bowl. A windy, windy bowl. In-fact, we stopped to break for a bit, and had to continue going as it was entirely too cold to sit down comfortably. Layering up, we continued onwards for the last push of the day.
As we passed a raging water source about a mile and a half before our planned camp, we saw Totoro (his trail name, which is an old Japanese anime character) camped out. All excited, we briefly conversed as I presented him with his lost sock. His english isn't the best, but definitely better than my Japanese (aka non-existent) so it's always fun trying to explain things fully. Eventually we all just laugh and smile and continue on our way. He was exhausted, so went in for the night, and we went on another half hour to camp. We knew we would see him tomorrow.
Eventually, we got into our camp set up, and got our fire going. It was time to relax in camp, and enjoy one of our final nights on the trail. The wind blew relentlessly, but we were somewhat protected by shrubs around our tent. Still, the chill remained in the air.
After a long enjoyable evening by the fire, it was time to retire to the tent. An odd feeling now, that we are counting down the days until we return to our 'urban' life. The hardest part to digest, is we will become 'section hikers' instead of 'thru-hikers'. Alas, it's all part of the journey!