A Little Trail Magic – AZT | Average Hiker
Cows are funny animals. They have a reputation for being big dumb dumbs, but I’ve seen them do some less than dumb things over my years of hiking. I suspect they may be pretending.
I started hiking just after dawn this morning. Temps were around 45, so I climbed quickly. Before I knew it I was in the midst of a large, young cow gang. There were different reactions.
The majority of them stared at me and then whirled in circles trying to figure out which direction took them AWAY from me, before eventually bolting – not always in the AWAY direction.
Several of them just staggered around drunkenly, and a couple of them stood staring at me before letting out a long deep mooooo, warning the drunks maybe. I suspect these two were “pretenders.”
I stopped at the ridge line to snap a picture of the valley below, and let out a high pitched girly shriek as hot breath puffed against the back of my jacket. Whirling around, I came face to face with an inquisitive pretender. She was not phased by my quick movements, and stood staring at me.
I have no idea how a 1,000 pound cow stealthily snuck up behind me, but I suspect that maybe she had been hand raised or somehow involved in something that gave her a lot of exposure to humans. She even let me scratch her face and followed me for a few feet. She may have just been a retired alien. There was definitely a little twinkle of heightened intelligence in those big brown “dumb” eyes.
Drying Out – Deserty!
Scenery began to change today as I hiked down into lower elevations. There were more prickly things, and definitely an increasing number of flowering pricklies. This really was the perfect time of year to hike the AZT with flowers, plenty of water, and relatively mild temperatures.
Desert flowers aren’t in your face mountain wild flowers, but more subtle splashes of color. In many cases they are made even more vivid by the brilliant blue skies above and the deep red clays and yellow sands below. I love desert gardens, even if they do eventually take a chunk out of my legs at some point!
Another change has been the increasing scarcity of water. The Guthook app offers good reports on water, but I definitely don’t depend on technology.
I am a water opportunist, always on the look out for “better” water. If I see a better source, I'll dump what I have and refill with “better” water. In the desert I carry 2 liters at a minimum, even when climbing. The desert is not a fun place to run out of water. I’m all about going lighter but this is something I don't cut too close.
This morning’s next source was listed as a “tank.” I knew what that meant, a brown sludgy cow poo pond. Yuck. As I hiked, I scanned the ravines and canyons looking for bright green vegetation. This often means some type of water source.
Bingo! A green flash caught my eye, and I saw a small creek running down through the rocks below. As the trail crossed a dry wash, I turned left and headed up to a “largish” clear pool. There were hoof prints at the edge of the pool, but as I looked closely into the water I saw tadpoles skittering in and out of the algae. If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me!
I use a Sawyer Water Filter, the larger one because the smaller version clogs to easily. I don't carry it permanently attached to my bottle like a lot of hikers. Sucking from a nipple, when I want to gulp after a long climb, is not very satisfying. I have one “dirty” bottle, and I use it to filter out the water into the clean bottle/s. Over 151 miles on the AZT this season and I've yet to need more than 2 liters.
About an hour later I stopped at a large grassy area near the tank (poo pond) to dry out my gear. I watched as other passing hikers stared at the water source in disgust. Some used it and some moved on, those moving on hiking faster and looking hopeful for another source of water. There ended up being no other water until a cache at Highway 83, which also happened to have a 12 pack of “Squirt” soda – yum! Thank you for leaving this Trail Angels!
The afternoon grew warmer as I continued through exposed desert, and by the time I reached another road @ Jim Hugo's gate, I was beginning to get a little over heated. I sat on a rock, that was shaded by a large bush, chugged a liter of water flavored with “True” flavoring,” and had a snack. It was about this time that Pete showed up and sat down to snack also.
I've never been a “cave” type of person. Small, dark spaces are just not my cup of tea. I don't like feeling closed in, and I watch far too much horror and science fiction not to have an active imagination, so I paused at the mouth of the snake tunnel. Lowering my head I began to walk quickly. It got very dark very fast, until I realized I still had on my sunglasses (oops). About half way down the tunnel I almost stepped on a dead rat. That was the trigger that prompted me to jog, and I was running by the time I exited the tunnel at the other end. I'm definitely a wide open spaces, sunshine kind of gal!
I was not too far behind Pete, and upon reaching the Gabe Zimmerman Trail Head I discovered Pete, A, and a large pizza. I did not turn down a couple of slices, and we all sat chatting before heading in our own directions. Pete was headed off trail for a couple of days, and I was heading north.
Cienega Creek is a “Riparian” habitat about a half mile down the trail from Gabe Zimmerman trail head. It is an oasis in the desert formed by a large creek. It was a nice respite from the glaring heat. Following the trail through the area was a little confusing, and I yelled across the water to a couple of young twenty somethings out walking their dog. They had never heard of the Arizona Trail, but I took a chance and followed them.
Most noticeable about the couple was their massive, one year old pit bull with ginormous ears. After catching up with them, they announced he was a “baby” (less than a year), very lovable, and only wanted to play. I smiled, their Que to let him bound towards me, and was about knocked off my feet by a solid mass of muscle. Holy moly he was strong! I loved on the silver beauty, that bounded around me in exuberant joy, before moving on through the trees and up and out of the creek basin. I love dogs.
Camp for the Night
After the creek I only walked another couple of miles before beginning my search for camp. There was another trail head I had passed, and a man out for a day hike had followed me for about a mile. I made sure I was at least a mile past the last time I saw him before heading off trail into the brush.
One nice thing about the high desert is that it is not hard to find camping spots. I just have to be careful about spines and thorns that can pop sleeping pads. I've had this happen in the past, and when it does I'll empty my pack and use it and clothes as a sort of cushion, but this is not the most comfortable way to sleep.
I finally found a spot out of site of the trail, and settled in for the night. It had been another beautiful day, and I fell asleep quickly, listening to the yip of coyotes nearby.