March 23, 2022
I had thought the night before was windy, but last night was amazing! We must have been camped in a natural wind tunnel with the winds traveling down the mountain and funneling over the small saddle we had chosen for camp. We packed up on our bed or rock in record time, and got moving, seeking a reprieve from the fierce gusts!
There were pools of water about a quarter of a mile above us in a small sheltered location, so we stopped to eat breakfast once we reached them. I spread my things out on a small rock and began shaking sand out of my gear while Cricket set up on the grass on the other side of the water. It was such a relief to be out of the incessant winds.
After eating my cereal, we agreed to meet at Grass Shack Campground, and I started hiking – straight up. The hiking was tough, but the views were gorgeous as the trail occasionally broke out of the mountain cover. I also love morning hiking and watching the colors of a new day brighten as I hike.
There were a couple of guys packing up at Grass Shack. They said nobody had used three empty campsites the night before, which is frustrating since I tried so hard to get reservations. I walked up to the privy and then moved up the trail after Cricket arrived.
The climb up to Manning Camp was steeper than Grass Shack and freakin cold at the top! I hung out in the privy until Cricket arrived and then went and found her talking to another hiker over by the camp building where it was even colder.
After a little persuasion, I got Cricket to move back to the larger and warmer privy, where we took a break and had a snack. I am never proud when I’m cold. I’ll take warmth wherever I can find it; in this case, it was a warm privy.
We added all of our layers in the privy, said a quick goodbye to the other hiker whose name Cricket knew, and then started our descent from the cold mountain top. I’m glad we did not camp up there.
Manning Camp is not actually at the very top of Mica Mountain, so we hiked to the top for stunning views before heading down to tiny Italian Spring. The small green pool was hidden in some grass, but I spotted it as we passed, and we stopped to filter half water and half green scum before continuing on down. The descent was amazing, with views forever over the dry, grassy desert ahead.
We hiked through patches of ice and snow over the top of Mica Mountain, and it was amazing to watch Cricket stomp right through them while I moaned, groaned, and screeched as I busted my ass more than once. Cricket lives in Montana and is pretty comfortable in snow and ice; at least, that is what I told myself as she forged ahead.
We stopped about an hour later for lunch in a small flat open area on the side of the mountain. My new favorite snack was an Onion Soup Dip recipe from backcountryfoodie.com. I mixed onion soup mix and sour cream powder with some packs of Mayonnaise and then broke up pita chips, mixed it all up, and ate it with a spoon. Yum! In this heat, the salt and carbs kept my energy levels up.
As we continued on into the afternoon, the water became a topic of discussion. There was a tank further on, but it looked questionable. I had hiked this section in 2019 and told Cricket we would come to a good creek about a mile further down, and fortunately, my memory was still partially intact. We arrived to very good water that was not listed in the App (Farout) that we were using.
A couple of other hikers were getting water also, and Cricket went over to chat with them while I moved further down to filter water. I always say hello, but I don’t usually feel the desire to chit-chat, which is probably one of the reasons I enjoy backpacking. Fortunately, Cricket was with me, so she would let me know if I needed any hiker information.
Cricket was very social and went down the standard list of questions with every person we met – Where do you live? What is your name? Where are you from? There were many more questions, but I was usually long gone before she had finished chatting. I would get the lowdown once we met again.
I am an introvert, but when I meet people and ask questions, they usually have nothing to do with hiking. People are interesting, and I want to know about them and their backgrounds. I already know about hiking, so my questions are usually about everything else. The shuttle driver in Patagonia is a good example. How did you build your straw bale home? Has the local copper mine impacted the area? Why are the oak trees dying? I want answers to questions I know nothing about.
After getting water, we reached the witching hour – 5 PM. Cricket found a small campsite above the water, but although we could fit two tents, it would be tight, and the snoring would keep me awake all night, even with my earplugs, so we continued searching.
About a half-hour later, just before another big drop, we found a great grassy camping location with plenty of spots to set up. I set up, ate my Stowaway Gourmet Wild Boar and Beans (awesome!), and headed down the trail to watch the sunset. Cricket had settled into her tarp tent for the night.
I was excited about tomorrow. When I had last hiked the AZT, I had hiked from the southern terminus to Reddington Pass before leaving the trail due to Covid. Tomorrow morning we would hike past Reddington Pass, and I would again be in new territory!