Today was a tough day of hiking, but the beauty I was rewarded with at the end made it worth the effort. Most days are like this on this trail. The Arizona Trail is full of wonderful experiences.
Cricket and I had a steep climb from the get-go. I needed to send a few texts, so about 100 yards from the saddle at the top of the ridge line, I stopped in a small sheltered grassy area on the side of the trail. The cold wind had chased me up the mountain, and it was good to find a little hide-a-way. Cricket passed me, and I told her I would catch her for lunch.
Reaching the saddle, I barely paused as I pushed on to Forest Road 650. The wind was ferocious, and I was almost knocked off my feet a couple of times on the dirt road. These were easily the strongest winds I had experienced yet, and the gusts had to be close to 40 mph! This would definitely a bad hair day.
The trail traveled along very rocky ATV two-track down the mountain for about 3.5 miles before turning back onto single-track at Reavis Trail junction. I’m not a big fan of road walking, and picking my way down steep rocky roads is not fun. Unfortunately, this section of the AZT had some very steep, crumbly roads, and there were several times I landed on my butt multiple times throughout the day.
Once reaching the trail junction, I climbed back up about 1,000 feet over the next couple of miles before traveling back down along Reavis Creek over what appeared relatively flat terrain on my App. Ha! I constantly climbed in and out of washes that drained into Reavis Creek and felt as if I was back on the ridge crossing Appalachian Trail.
It was also hot, and I was moving fast to try and catch Cricket for lunch. I had seen her up ahead moving around the mountain, so I knew she was only about 15 minutes ahead of me.
Finally, as I pushed through a mass of thorn bushes, I found Cricket taking a break in the middle of them. I suggested we walk a hundred feet down to the creek and take a break, and kept hiking down to the water. I was taking my pack off at the stream as Cricket walked by and said she had already been there a half-hour and was going to keep hiking.
That happened several times throughout the afternoon, so I finally let her keep hiking and figured I would catch her at the end of the day. I was tired of working hard to catch up, only to have her take off as soon as I arrived. Ah well, I smiled and shrugged as I dropped down onto a boulder for lunch. Everyone has different hiking styles.
There were a few more little ups and downs over the afternoon, and I passed Cricket at some point, although I’m not sure when. I’m sure there was a bio break involved.
I had been watching this big “V” on my App all day. That was going to be a hell of an up and down, so when I reached Walnut Spring, I decided to go ahead and have dinner around 4 PM. I usually prefer eating and using those calories for hiking into an amazing sunset. Cricket caught up a little later and decided to make her dinner before heading out before me.
Hiking down into the V notch was a bitch. The soles on my shoes were already pretty worn, and I slid down onto my ass at least three times. The trail was narrow with a steep drop-off to my left, so a couple of times, it was a little disconcerting. When my feet began sliding, I would fall back onto my pack and not fight the momentum. As a result, my pack took most of the blow—one of my many talents.
Reaching the bottom at about 5:15, I saw Cricket was setting up her camp. I paused, thinking for a moment, and then told her I would hike a little further. There was plenty of daylight, this canyon would collect cold air overnight, and I wanted to watch a sunset from the ridge above. She looked a little surprised, and I told her I would not go much further and see her in the morning.
The climb out of the notch was straight up but only about 800 feet, so not too bad. I’m glad I got it out of the way. Climbing early in the morning as I warmed up was always tough. Reaching the top, I paused to check out the sun beginning to approach the horizon. These were stunning views out towards the lake!
There was one little camp spot behind a wind barrier, but the wind was beginning to pick up, and it was still a little early, so I hiked along the ridge. I had a feeling that camping was not going to be easy unless I dropped back down to a saddle or treeline.
I did watch a fantastic sunset as I hiked, but as it grew dark, I still had not found a place to camp, and the winds were again reaching gale-force speeds. These evening winds were crazy!
I continued winding up and over the ridge line well into the night until I came to a stunted spruce tree with an old blanket hanging in the limbs and a flat spot under the tree. The issue was the nutty damn winds. I was going to be cowboy camping, so I set my backpack up above my head and flipped over my tarptent to use as a bivy to block some of the wind.
It wasn’t just the wind that was the issue as much as the sandblasting I was getting. By the time I had settled in for the night, there was sand EVERYWHERE! The backpack wasn’t long enough to block much wind, so I set up my umbrella and curled around the handle to keep it in place. I had stopped about 50% of the sandblasting wind as long as I did not move.
It was going to be a long night.