March 27-April 3rd, 2021
Shortly after waking on day 11, I entered Saguaro National Park. Massive Saguaro cacti covered the mountainside on the climb up to Manning Camp. As I neared the camp saguaros gave way to ponderosa pine, and the air temperature cooled. After a long climb I camped at Manning Camp, at nearly 8000′ there were still small patches of snow in some shaded areas.
After a cold night at Manning Camp the AZT continued to climb another 600′ up the side of Mica Mountain. On the north side the long descent began. I could feel that my legs were tired from the previous day’s climb, which made for a long slow day. In the afternoon I found a small shaded spot where I could take a break from the relentless sun. Within sight of a forest service road I hunkered in the shade enjoying yet another melted Cliff bar. As I was getting up to continue north a car pulled up and a couple jumped out. “We’ve got trail magic” the woman yelled. I introduced myself and the couple showered me with treats. Best apple ever!
Big thank you to Rita for the magic, the margarita was amazing!
Early on the 15th day I came across a trail junction, with a note hanging from the sign. The note was from two of my hiking companions, letting me know they’d decided to stop for the day. With the temps heating up they’d decided to stop at High Jinks Ranch. Just off the AZT this stop turned out to be a little hiker oasis. I took the short side trail up to the “Ranch” and rang the bell. A super friendly caretaker, Crispy, came down and gave me a brief tour of the property. The property was once a mining claim of Buffalo Bill Cody, walking amongst the various stone outbuildings I definitely felt like I was back in the the wild west.
The relaxing afternoon at High Jinks was just what we needed. A shower, laundry, and a bed were a welcome surprise on such a hot day. In addition to supplying water to hikers, the caretaker rents rooms and sells a small assortment of snacks and drinks. I had a coke and a small can of pringles that where both amazing! The shower was freezing cold, but in all honesty it felt soooo good.
Following a restful day at High Jinks Ranch my legs felt great as I pushed my first 20 miler of the trip. Mostly I had to do this out of necessity as there were no water sources for 15 miles. It felt really good to hit the 200 mile mark and the Mountain View Tank was a quality water source with, not surprisingly, a really nice view. The clouds made for a beautiful scene as I enjoyed a relaxing evening in camp.
Found a tiny bit of shade next to this water source. I took a couple hour siesta in the shade with hundreds of bees buzzing about.
At this point the heat was becoming oppressive. I found that I could operate normally under conditions below 85 degrees, above 85 was a hole different game. The heat was inescapable when it got into the 90s. With my hood up, on my sunshirt, I felt like my brain was slowly being poached. Lethargy ruled the day on these hot days.
I’d shuffle along drinking as much water as I could carry, and stomach. I say stomach because there were a couple questionable sources along this stretch. One in particular was extra green. It filtered clear, so I felt mostly confident that It was safe to drink. Actually drinking it was difficult because it was so damn HOT! The water was piped into a small metal trough through 2″ black tubing that lay exposed to the desert sun. By the time the water reached the trough it was warm enough to make a cup of tea. I found out later, from another hiker that they found what appeared to be a cow intestine in this same water source. Yummy.
For miles and miles there was little to no shade to be found. The shade you did find was so insignificant it was like trying to hide under a blade of grass. The day before getting into Kearny with the temps in the low 90s, I couldn’t take the heat any more. I set up my tent in the early afternoon, in an attempt to create some shade. This turned out to be a huge mistake. I spent the remaining hours of the day laying next to my tent sweating in a small sliver of shade. The egg-crate texture of my Z-rest slowly collecting puddles of sweat. I sipped my tea water and dreaded about the many ways the bacteria from a cow intestine could destroy my world.
I woke up early on day 19, with only 10 miles to Kearny, my plan was to race into town before it got too hot. 1/2 mile from town I came across a small sign on the side of the trail. The sign indicated that there was trail magic up ahead. With a little extra hop in my step I approached a small group of people that were relaxing under a canopy near the trailhead. Moon Juice and Rapunzel, two trail angels, had put together an amazing spread of magic. Thank you! It was so great that I abandoned my plans of rushing into town and spent the morning sitting with them and the other hikers that stopped by. It felt amazing to be in a circle of like minded folks, sharing stories, laughing, and enjoying a morning brew. Moon Juice drove me into Kearny where I checked into the hotel for a much needed day off!