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Arizona Trail Day 18 – Antelope Tank | Average Hiker

AZT near Tigermine Trailhead
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March 29, 2022

My knee was stuck to my quilt when I rolled over, and I winced as I pulled it loose, repeating what I had done about seven times during the night. This continued for a couple of nights until I developed a thick, almost armor-like scab that protected my knee for the following three weeks. Yuck.

I finally sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, and slowly slumped forward until my face was buried in the top of my quilt. I was so tired from not sleeping, and as I rolled over on my side and looked out from under the edge of my tarp tent, I saw dark, low-hanging clouds threatening rain.

I was not in a hiking mood, but on a thru-hike, that is not an option, especially in the desert. I had enough food for several days and needed to make miles to get to the next water source. Some days you become a machine – eat, drink, walk, repeat. Those days are not frequent, but this looked as if it might be one of those days.

Jack Rabbit on the Arizona Trail

My compactor bag crackled loudly as I pulled out my food, and I knew this was Cricket’s alarm to start moving, so I rattled it hard as I organized my food for the day. I wanted to get packed and moving before the rain started. Packing in the rain was always a pain in the ass as I rushed around trying to get everything into my pack before it got wet.

Frowning, I knew I was frustrated from lack of sleep, so I closed my eyes for a moment and pictured home – a sunny day, a huge wrap-around porch, and my grandmother smiling down at me with slow patience in her warm eyes. I felt my muscles relax and anxiety drain from my body.

There were a few showers as we started hiking, but it was the wind that mother earth unleashed upon us that had our focus. As we climbed up and along exposed ridges, we stumbled along, laughing and yelling as gusts almost knocked us off our feet. I grinned back at Cricket, both of us buried in layers as we pushed through the gales. We were living and doing what we loved most!

The weather continued throughout the day as winds swept us forward, weaving in and out of desert hills. Lunch was eaten hunkered down behind a large, rusty water tank as we shoved down chips, meat, and crackers. I was whining about my knee, so Cricket climbed a ladder to the top of the tank and filled our water bottles.

Farmers waved as they occasionally drove by, working on water lines leading away from the tank. That was probably a constant battle with this brutal desert weather. I waved back with a large smile, always hoping they might have a spare soda. Sometimes, I got a beer for my efforts but rarely a soda.

We battled the winds and sand for the rest of the afternoon until climbing over the last ridge of the day and looking down on Antelope Tank, yet another hole dug in the ground and filled with water that the cows shit and bathed in constantly. As we stood gazing at the chocolate-colored water, we decided we had enough water from Beehive Well, where we had filled up earlier, and dropped down into the valley to look for a place to camp.

Barrel cactus on the Arizona Trail

The small valley sheltered us from the wind, and we finally found a good spot next to a wash. I had learned lessons from Cricket’s rock hoarding the day before, so I dropped my pack and began gathering my anchors for my tent as she dashed around gathering hers and laughing. We set up quickly and climbed into our tents. Then the locals arrived to check us out.

Hearing a lot of heavy breathing and shuffling, I looked out from under my tarp tent to see a large group of cows staring at us. They always made me nervous since they were not the sharpest animals. It did not take much to start them stampeding in some random direction, so I yelled over for Cricket to chase them away, using my knee as an excuse to not do it myself.

Cricket would make a very good wrangler. She crawled out of her tarp tent and began yelling something I could not understand at the lead cows, and they bolted back the way they had come. Cricket clearly spoke cow.

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