AZT 2021 – Week One

Well… things did not turn out quite like I had planned… as usual. My modified plan had me hiking roughly 250 miles from Patagonia (where I was chased off the trail in 2020 by the pandemic) to Superior (just eat of Phoenix). So… what happened?

Getting to the Trail: Wed-Thu, Mar 10-11

Bert dropped me off at the Amtrak station so I didn’t have to walk there which was nice.

Houston Amtrak station.

Boarding the train was easier than even taking Greyhound. Just showed the conductor my printed ticket and got on. My “sleepette” is a private 2-person sleeper compartment. Kinda expensive ($375) for one person but not bad for two (meals are included and one free drink!). Room is about 7’ by 4’ with two facing seats that slide together to form a bed. There is also a drop-down upper bunk bed. It’s very nice and clean. There is an attendent who will bring your meals and help you arrange your bed (but, being an engineer, I did it myself of course). The toilets are down the hall and there is even a shower (though I have not checked it out yet).

My train!

Interesting night on the train – a bit noisy when we pass through towns. The Train follows US90 out of Houston and then heads west. When I woke up we were in Del Rio, right on the border. Top speed seems to be 80 mph but we do that rarely and we slow down a lot in towns. We were doing ~20 in Houston.

We hit Tucson about 8:15 PM (about and hour and a half late). Got a Lyft from Steven (from Wisconsin) for the ~$100, 60 mile ride to Patagonia. He regaled me the whole way with stories about how he survived a massive heart attack last May (he’s 58) and almost died. Got to the Stage Stop Inn at 9:30 and they had my key in an envelope at the front desk (I called ahead and told them I would be running late).

Day 1, Fri, Mar 12, Patagonia to AZT 66.7, 15.6 miles, 3350’

Up at 5:00 and it is COLD! 37 degrees – looks like I might be starting in my puff? Sunrise is at 6:30 so that is when I plan on starting. Leaving with ~2L since water looks pretty good today.

Hiking our of Patagonia – headed north.

Tough first day! Had some Leg cramps near the end. Hiked for a couple hours with Trail Jesus, a young, 27-year-old Hiker from Arkansas who has taken to the trail to kick his meth habit and was down to only three cigarettes a day.

Campsite day 1

Did the planned 15.5 miles today. About 3300 feet of climbing, very tough first day. I am currently at Casa Blanca Canyon, AZT 66.7, Elevation 5767 feet. Nice campsite with pools of water in a creek bed about 50 feet away.

The weather was nice. Started very cold but warmed up in the sun. Temperatures were in the low 50s most of the day, sunny and a little windy. Met a total of six hikers today.

Bill (“Two Pillows” and, yes, he has two pillows) and Deb (”Hot Sauce”, don’t ask, it’s personal) showed up around 3:30 and asked to share my campsite. They met on the trail. Deb is from Flagstaff.

… and the following morning!

Day 2, Sat, Mar 13, AZT 66.7 to 84.1, 17.4, 1,850’

Woke up to a coule of inches of fresh snow and it pretty much snowed all morning. Did not see another hiker all morning – I think everyone else just stayed in their tents!

Walking in the snow….
One cold cactus!

Made it to Kentucky camp around noon. Was a much needed respite after hiking all morning in the snow and wind. Made coffee and had a nice lunch. A hiker joined me as I was getting ready to leave – Goose. He said he had camped with a fellow who woke up nearly in tears because he had never camped or hiked in snow before. Goose asked him if he needed a hug. He said yes and Goose gave him one.

Kentucky camp – no heat but out of the wind!

Sun came out, finally, in the afternoon but it was still windy. Plan is another 6 miles to camp.

Nice AZT cow gate – camped near here.

Afternoon hiking was much nicer than this morning’s snowstorm. Unfortunately Boden Spring, where I had planned to camp, not only had no water, it was a good half mile off the trail. So … back to the trail and another couple of miles to a trail head where some nice people had left public water. On the way I bumped into my first thru-biker. She had waited out the snowstorm and decided not to bike at all today.

Not the greatest camping spot, it’s basically next to a dirt parking lot and there is a lot of four-wheeler traffic on the road because today is Saturday. And it is very windy. But no snow.

Day 3, Sun, Mar 14, AZT 84.1 to 100.2, 16.1, 1,750’

Note to self. Make sure the tent site is flat! Water is tough today. Only for-sure water is at 2 miles. So my plan is to leave here with 4 L. Should have water tonight, but the sources say the water is” muddy”. About 33° this morning when I woke up and windy but no snow.

Resting the footsies at lunch

Stopped for lunch at 10 miles in a little draw out of the wind. No water this morning anywhere. Goose showed up just as I was getting ready to go. He’s much younger than me and plans to go all the way to the highway today. I think that is another 12 miles from here. I’m counting on either a public water cash or, more likely, a cow pond.

I was able to find water in a small wash so I didn’t have to stop at the “lake” (i.e. a cow pond).

A “good” water source on the AZT – not a cow pond!

I pushed on a couple more miles to Twin Tanks. Fortunately I don’t need any water from the tanks because the water is pretty nasty. “Tank” by the way is an AZT euphemism for a cow pond.

Lovely Twin Tanks and…
… my campsite for night #3.

Hot Sauce, Two Pillows and some other folks showed up an hour or so after me.

Other folks at Twin Tanks as I headed out.

Day 4, Mon, Mar 15, AZT 100.2 to 119.2, 19.0, 1,250’

Got an early start, 6:20. It’s a beautiful morning about 38° or 39° and sunny. I’m a little worried about my phone charge. I’m going to have to be careful with phone usage.

Had a quick lunch at a TH (11;00, 12 miles) just passed where the trail crosses I-10. After talking with some folks I decided to try to make it to Colosal Cave, where they are rumored to allow phone charging.

Tunnel under I-10

It was a relatively flat day so I was able to do 19 trail miles (but well over 20 with the hike into Colossal Cave). Hopscotched with Nolan most of the day – he has a package supposedly arriving at Colossal Cave tomorrow.

We arrived together. Snack shop has beer and not much else but the hiker box is good – scored some Idaho potatoes. And I was able to charge my phone a little (and battery).

One of the Coati that hang out at Colossal Cave

Plan to charge some more in morning since I want to be at Rincon Creek tomorrow and it is only 10 miles. Also supposed to be Trail magic at 122.3.

Day 5, Tue, Mar 16, AZT 119.2

Shared a campsite here at Colossal Cave with Nolan. I am currently in the bathroom of the terrace café trying to stay warm while my battery charges. It is 7:15 AM.

No heat, but no snow or wind.

Nolan‘s package is here but they won’t give it to me. He has to show ID. I had planned to charge for another 15 minutes or so and then head back to camp and then start hiking.

But, of course, it started to snow. Again. The weather report from Vail shows warming trend after today. I am feeling okay though my stomach is a little woozy this morning.

Back in the bathroom. Started back down to the camp but it’s snowing/sleeting pretty hard and very cold. And I don’t have my rain jacket just my puff. So I am hanging out in the bathroom until it gets better.

While waiting for my battery to charge and the snow to stop my stomach really started to act up. Walked back to camp and met Nolan coming up on the way. By the time I get to camp I had pretty decent stomach cramps and not feeling very good. Bad water?

And it’s still snowing. I decided to call an early stop to the section. With all the snow I am concerned about how much snow we will have going over Mica Peak. And also, I am worried about that big 5,000 foot climb tomorrow with my stomach cramping.

So …. new plan! I decide to try to get into Tucson from and take an early zero.

Try talking up one person in the parking lot had no luck so just started hiking toward Vail. It’s only 6 miles and a pretty easy road walk but with my stomach I’m a little worried. About a mile down the road the very first car the passed me (there’s very little traffic on this road), slowed down and asked me if I needed a ride! A couple from California just tooling around Arizona on vacation gave me a ride to Vail. Once there, I tried to get a Lyft from Vail to Tucson with no luck! Not sure why – Tucson is only 10 miles or so west of here.

I needed a place with access to a bathroom and also I was getting a little hungry so I walked to Montgomery‘s Bar and Grill in Vail.

There was no one there but me (it’s only 11 o’clock), and I ended up talking to a lady who later turned out to be the owner. I asked if she knew how I could get to Tucson and she said if I was willing to wait till 1:15 she could give me a ride. More trail magic! Had a beer and a sandwich while I waited for my ride!

Turns out the hotel I’m staying at is only a small detour for the owner so she drop me off in front of the hotel. I was in my hotel by 2 PM taking a shower. Now I have to decide what I’m going to do next. Call Roberta around three and talk to go over with her. With the extra days I have more options on the next section. And then I ordered a pizza.


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