First stretch down

We woke up to another frosty tent. Even in the aired desert, there seems to be moisture in the air. A night full of exhaling moisture in cold temperatures equals a frosty interior. Mountaineering tents which typically have a specialized ventilation for these issues, are quite heavy... so we will manage -- even if we wake up a little damp.

The day was smooth filled with rolling hills. We were able to kick out a decent amount of miles (finally) to make it to Patagonia, the first trail town of the AZT. The trail actually runs through main street.

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It was a crystal clear day, which is beautiful, but also offers no protection from the unrelenting sun. And it hit us hard.

Very quickly the back of my calves were a special kind of pink. This shade was only broken by the lines and dots of red from rogue thorns and brambles that would attack our legs as they passed by.

As we sought shelter from a 5x6 piece of shade given off by a surprisingly new white pickup truck on a random forest road, the owner rolled up.

His team were part of the Arizona Conservation Corp dedicated to Coronado National Forest, and the team we have to thank for keeping the AZT in that section functioning for us hikers. He gave us a brief history of the corp and his story before scurrying off into the desert to rehydrate his team with water from a van in the back of the truck.

Shortly after, we then ran into his whole team, and thanked them for their work, and continued on.

As we approached Patagonia, we ran into a local on a day hike who most graciously offered his floor and sofa to us. Cooked us a meal, and even sang us a song while playing his guitar. A great way to end a hot, sunny day, as well as the first stretch of the Arizona Trail. 

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Small accomplishment, big decisions

 

Tossing and turning all night made for poor sleep. The night was cold and condensation inside the tent frosted, as we were close to our water source. Even our bags were wet! Thank goodness for DownTek sleeping bags (thanks Enlightened Equipment).

We started a fire and laid our our gear to dry while eating breakfast and getting ready for the day.

It was a sunny, hot, exposed day as we roller coastered over 700 foot inclines. My back has become quite sore, and the knots in my shoulders are growing. Even as my pack weight decreases, I can only push an extra couple miles a day. Stretching has become even more important.

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I will note, however, that there was a small accomplishment that made me quite giddy. I was finally able to put my pack on without strapping myself in from a seated position. Up until this point I would have to prop my bag up against something, put my shoulder and hip straps on tight, and use my trekking poles to propel me up. I already broke one tip doing that... and the crashing weight of my pack also took my sunglasses.

But nope, today I fiercely pulled my pack up from the ground, threw it onto my bent knee for the split second it could hold the weight, and quickly threw my arms in the straps. Graceful? No way; an achievement non-the-less.

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We did just under 12 miles today, making it the longest yet, but still nowhere close to what we need. Andy's wife is having a baby, and I only budgeted for a certain amount of time off.

As we climbed, and Andy sped ahead of me, the realization that I will not be able to accomplish the AZT unsupported in my time frame, became increasingly apparent.

I have two options: send food ahead and do a standard thru-hike, or go for a 30 day unsupported hike and see how far it gets me.

In just over a day, we will cross our first town (we walk down main street as part of the trail). This will be the point where I will need to make my decision.

We're camped out across a small pool of water on a surprisingly busy forest service road (we've seen six vehicles!) where we enjoyed a great fire and the howling of coyotes behind us. Hopefully they don't bother us in the night.

As I lay in bed, the question lingers over me: do I want to accomplish another trail, or have a unique experience. I can not do both.

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Slow miles, but getting there

 

Ahh, glorious descent.

Our day started off with some fairy steep downhill, which looking at the elevation profile got me excited. The only thing is, having all that additional momentum as you descend a mountain makes things a bit uncontrollable. Picture a man with a pack the size of himself in a semi-controlled fall... for miles on end.

A bit nerve wracking st times, but I made it safe and sound.

We've seen many deer (of a greyish color and white fluffy tail) and lots of varying tracks and scat. Some actually quite intriguing.

Shortly after our day began, there was an eerie backpack (school bag style) with pants and food strewn around it. Some creature most have gotten in it and tossed the contents around.

I shouted and hollered to see if anyone was around, but silence was the only thing that return my calls.

I was really disappointed that someone would have just left all their stuff thrown around the trail... I would have packed it out, but my back is already way passed max capacity.

As we approached even ground, we trekked across open plains of tall sun dried grass, and took breaks under the glorious shade of anything over four feet tall.

Unfortunately, I was only able to make it 11 miles, even with all the dry downhill. Andy's food supply is dwindling as we were not anticipating such slow miles (well, I wasn't). We have 27 miles until we get to his first resupply, and I'm going to try my hardest to make that in two days, but it will be tough.

My body is sore in every place imaginable, but my spirits have not yet been broken. The pack weight is decreasing, but not at a good enough rate to increase the mileage to what we need.

All I can do is trek on!

Speaking of trekking on.. we made a slight wrong turn today. The trail crosses and follows many forest service roads, and we came to a junction and followed the road (uphill) for more than half a mile, missing the hidden sign in the woods for the AZT. Trekked back down and continued on... so I guess we reeeeally did 12 miles, though only 11 counted.

We're camped on an old dried out riverbed, with a tiny little trickle of water that quickly becomes subterranean. Plenty of fresh water though, which makes tonight's campsite the best yet. 

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Arizona Snow

 

As the sun rose, our eyes slowly opened, and our second day began, albeit slowly.

Since I wasn't able to make it to the water source, we had to melt snow for our food and drinking water.

We're trying to use as little fuel as possible, so have been boiling water by fire whenever possible -- mmm smoky water.

The hiking began, and I was excited for quite a bit of downhill with that behemoth pack of mine. However, it quickly changed tune when we were greeted by lots of snow on the northern side of the slope we were trekking.

I was following Andys foot steps (of course, he was way ahead, as I move like molasses over difficult terrains -- and warm molasses over easier terrain) but due to my extra weight, even in his foot steps I would sink in another 3-8 inches.

Post-holing is not much fun on any day, and with a pack of my size, even less so.

I've been averaging about a mile an hour, sometimes two on dry descents. My pack is really starting to become more cumbersome as my muscles revolt and sore.

As the altitude decreased, the snow began to dissipate and we ended our evening at a couple small pools of water. Setup our tent and cooked some dinner, and now I lay as flat as possible to allow my back to recoup, unfortunately, not as much as I'm sure I'd like to.

What I realized is my base pack (with all my food from day one) was at 91lbs, but that didn't include water. The first day I only carried a little bit, but today I filled up a full 3 liters (about an additional 6.6 lbs). Nearly 100 lbs.

I really need my body to kick into over drive and get used to this pack, as we were hoping to be where we are now, but yesterday. Gotta increase the miles in order to make our goal.

 

And now, I rest.

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Day 1 - 4,000 feet incline?!

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Imagine carrying a small person up nearly 4,000 feet of incline in 6.5 miles.

Yep. That's essentially what I did. And ow, painful.

Of course, Andy and his small pack and running legs rocketed up and had to wait multiple hours for my tank like maneuverability to get up the mountain.

 

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We woke up at 7:30 in Tucson and met with Ken, our knowledgeable shuttle driver. After a quick pit stop for some coffee he brought us down to the start of the trail where we had to hike nearly two miles to the Mexican border.

 

Once we got down there, our journey officially began (and then we had to back track those two miles).

 

It was a beautiful breezy day, nice and cool as we increased in elevation. All around great hiking conditions... except the 90+ lb pack.

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As the sun began to set, I knew I was in for a night hike. Andy had been atop the mountain long before sunset, and there I was, down the mountain slowly making my way up.

The pack, while back breakingly heavy, is manageable on flat and descents, but my hip flexers which propel myself up isn't used to the additional weight and fatigued quickly.

I managed to make it up the mountain (in the snow mind you) to where Andy had posted up. 1.8 miles before our water source, but with the amount of snow we had around us to melt, I simply could not continue.

We made a small fire, melted some snow and I crawled into my sleeping bag. I couldn't even eat much due to the 9000+ feet of elevation and the weary mind and body.

Day 1 is over, and now the journey continues.