March 24, 2022
I tossed and turned in my tarptent reading for about an hour. Birds chirped, small animals skittered through the grass, and Cricket slept soundly. She liked to say she did not awaken “until the sun caressed her face,” so I prayed for an early gamma burst, and as the skies brightened, I was excited to hear movement. Once I heard her stove crank up for coffee, I began slowly packing.
Dropping off the small plateau where we camped, I felt like I was in the Serengeti. Rolling, golden grassy hills disappeared over the horizon, and I expected zebra to throw up their heads at any moment. Glancing to my right, I saw a cow staring at me.
Reddington Pass was our first goal for the morning, and as my legs loosened up, I stretched out my stride and did a “pain check.” Of course, something always hurt, but this hike had been different. Since I was only hiking 13-15 miles daily, I had no blisters or real aches and pains from the waist down.
There was always a trade-off, though, and I worked on stretching out the stiff muscles in my shoulders and back. Since we were only hiking 13-15 miles daily, we often carried five days of food instead of 3. We were also carrying more water between water sources. I probably carried about eight more pounds due to the lower mileage, so my feet thanked me, but my back and shoulders did not.
I hiked over the last hill before Reddington Pass and saw Cricket rounding a hill down below me. When I arrived at the bear box, I was thrilled to see several five-gallon jugs of water cached there. This particular bear box is down a reasonably rugged dirt road and probably an hour’s drive outside Tucson, so the “Trail Angel” that cached water here was a gem!
A few minutes later, Milo arrived with his tiny backpack. He carried the CDT, a backpack made by ULA, about 27 ounces and two sizes smaller than the Circuit I carried. I had brought my larger pack because I knew I would be carrying more food and water, and as I watched Milo stride away down the trail, I sighed in silent resignation. He not only strode down the trail at a mile-eating pace, but there was a light, airy bounce to his step.
Cricket decided to stay at the trailhead a little longer, so we agreed to meet at Catalina Highway, and I continued hiking. The terrain did not change much, but it was hot, like baking in an oven-hot. Thank goodness I did not need water since the two sources listed in Farout were both dry. Locals had already told me that every year was getting drier and drier.
I finally reached the last climb before dropping down to Catalina Highway, and it was a doozy – about 800 feet straight up a series of switchbacks. With my umbrella in hand, I began the exposed climb.
An older couple (older than me) came down towards me. Neither one had water, and they appeared to have possibly just parked their car on the other side of the mountain and wandered over to this side of the hill. They already seemed to be struggling a little on the downhill, and I worried about how they would make it back up and over. We smiled at each other, and they continued down past me.
The views at the top were excellent, and there were a couple of good spots to camp. I have a feeling there were some pretty amazing sunsets up here. This was a perfect spot for a break, and I climbed up on a rock to watch two other hikers inching their way up from the bottom of the switchbacks I had just come up. I assumed one was probably Cricket, so I continued down the other side and found a good spot for a break.
The perfect spot for a break was on a rock under a tree near the bear box just before the highway. I chatted with other hikers who passed me and read for a while as I waited on Cricket. There was a campground across the road, but it was early, so we could probably hike a few more miles before stopping for the day – maybe the next campground.
Cricket arrived, and after discussing how much further we wanted to hike, she said she wanted to stop at the campground. We walked across the road and down the busy campground to find an empty campsite. The campsite we had chosen had ants and dog poop, and as I looked around, I made a decision.
Looking over at Cricket sitting at the picnic table, I said that if we were going to stop at 3 PM, I wanted to hitch into town and not sit around here. She agreed, and we walked back up to the road, where a contractor picked us up a few minutes later.
We got a hotel room and walked down to the “Eclectic,” where I had one of the best shrimp salads I’ve ever eaten. It was only 4 PM, but the place was full. As I looked around at the crowd eating at 4 PM, I was reminded that we were in Arizona, and this was probably dinner time for many snowbirds.
Back at the hotel, I washed clothes and read before returning to the night’s room. I was restless and ready to get back to the trail.