April 8, 2022
I was up before the sun rose and sat on my sleeping pad, wiping the sleep from my eyes and watching the world slowly come alive as sand spilled from my filthy hair. It had been a brutally windy night, and sand was in everything I owned, including the cracks of my tanned, dry skin.
Shaking everything out and packing up, I paused to sit down and eat some cereal with NIDO. I enjoyed my morning cereal and usually got a different kind at each town stop. I also carried a bag of NIDO since it was sometimes hard to find it in smaller stores. A bag would usually last me between larger towns.
Today was a town day, so I ate fast and got moving! I would pick up a box at Roosevelt Lake Marina, have lunch at the restaurant, and then head back out after Cricket had done the same.
Climbing up to the last ridge, I looked out over the gate towards Roosevelt Lake. The morning was growing hot, and I could see the calm, clear lake in the distance. It seemed so close, but I still had about 10 miles of hot, rocky descent.
The descent was not too awful, and I only busted my ass three or four times on the rocky, steep roads. The best part was the little oasis along Cottonwood Creek as I dropped down through a narrow ravine. I wish I had made it that far the day before because there was some excellent camping under the cottonwood trees.
As I was creeping down an especially steep part of a crumbly two-track road I caught movement off to my left. Climbing up over the edge of the road was a GORGEOUS Gila Monster. His black and yellow markings were very distinctive, and I froze as he walked toward me. I had seen ATVs on the road earlier, so I started trying to shoo him back towards the edge of the road. I was cautious and did not want to piss him off since they have a nasty bite and have to be pried off with a crowbar. Hopefully, he was not fast since Cricket was probably a good two hours behind me. I snapped pictures as he slowly strode back the way he had come from. I did not appear to cause him much worry.
As I approached the bottom of another very steep descent, I saw a trail marker and continued across the road and back onto a single-track trail, but I did not make it far before my Spidey Since went off, and I pulled out my map. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong trail and should have stayed on the dirt road.
I headed back to the road, and as I arrived, I ran into four hikers we had seen in Kearny. They had chosen to skip the Superstitions because they were difficult, at least according to Cricket, who had talked to them. I had seen them on the porch at the motel but was heading out to wash clothes and left Cricket to chat with them.
“How were the Superstitions?” they asked.
“Beautiful,” I responded with wonder in my voice. “We have not hiked anything like them and probably won’t again,” I said with a big smile. I did like the Superstitions, but only the section before the Water Catchment Tank.
We chatted a little more before they hiked on to their car. They had decided to leave the trail after Kearny and were doing some car camping along the route before heading home.
Leaving the dirt road I had been on for the last couple of miles, I cut down past a cemetery and then across the highway to the Marina. A large group of hikers was hanging out at the picnic tables across from the Marina store, but I waved and headed straight for the store and a soda.
Second on the list was to get my resupply box. The Marina had a store, but they did not stock it for hikers, so resupply was tough. The cashier went through the large stack of boxes against the wall twice. I could see Cricket’s box, but mine was nowhere to be found.
Calling home, I found out my box concierge had mailed my box to the other lake – Mormon Lake, about three weeks away. Walking up and down the aisles of the sparse store, the only thing I found that I could pack out were boxes of Poptarts and three-foot-long Slim Jims. I could handle the Poptarts, but I would have to strap the Slimjims to my pack, and I was not sure I could live off Slim Jims and Poptarts for four days.
Food to survive was not my priority, so I made my way to the restaurant and stopped to chat with some other hikers who told me the hiker box in the hiker shed was full of stuff. I would eat and then head over to take a look.
Mango rolled in while I was eating and sat down to chat. I offered her the rest of my french fries, and her eyes lit up as she stared at them. She refused the offer repeatedly, as I insisted, and then promptly gave in and inhaled the fries. She was waiting on her parents, so she was not there long.
Other hikers had arrived and sat down at the table, and a couple of hours later, Cricket came sweating around the corner. It was a hot day, and that hike down to Roosevelt Lake on the ATV roads was no joke. She headed straight for the bar and a Pepsi.
At this point, it was late afternoon, and as Cricket sat down to eat, I knew we were going nowhere and wandered over to check out the “overflowing” hiker box. Hiker boxes are a funny thing; either sink or swim, in my opinion. There are sometimes decent meals, but often you find the foods that nobody else wants – dehydrated meals with no labels (some people love the mystery), tuna packs with weird flavors (at least strange to me), smashed protein bars (that have been carried in someone’s backpack forever as the last resort), etc.
Unfortunately, I had no choice, so I grabbed a few flat breakfast bars, some Terriyaki flavored Tuna packs (gag), and a couple of Mountain House meals (score!). Mountain House is not my favorite, but they are at least edible, and I probably won’t get food poisoning.
Next, I went and checked out the camping. There was a field on the back side of the hiker hangout area and plenty of room to spread out for my extroverted, lightest sleeper in the world self. This looked like it would work out fine for the night.
Cricket and I waited a couple of hours, chatted with hikers for a while, and then set up our tarp tents. Next, we went to the back of the field and around to a narrow open area away from everyone else. Cricket knew I was a light sleeper. We then headed to get dinner and grabbed water at the visitor’s center on the way back.
As I came around the corner to our shelter, I stopped dead in my tracks. Three hikers we had met earlier had crammed their tents in next to ours. One was 3 feet from my tent, and when I asked the man if he snored, he said yes. They had the entire empty field and set up on top of us.
Cricket moved past me to her tent, laughing and leaving me to handle it. Now, I’m all about making room when needed – there is always space is generally the motto, but there were plenty of nice camping spots, some nicer than where we were located, so I did what I don’t think I’ve done in 30 years. I promptly asked him to move – nicely.
After asking, I got in my tarp tent, and he picked up his tent, which was not completely set up yet, and walked away. Five minutes later, he came back past me muttering about traffic noise and proceeded to go on the other side of Cricket and set up in a rocky spot in the bushes. My southern guilt set in, and I told him to go ahead and set up next to me, but by then, his martyrdom had also kicked in, and he said no.
I climbed under my quilt, wrote a little, listened to my neighbor arguing with his girlfriend about why they were sleeping on a bed of rocks, and fell asleep a little later. The people across the street were partying until midnight, but my earplugs helped.
Cricket said our neighbor got out of his tent in the middle of the night, wandered off into the thorny bushes, presumably to pee, and then screamed a couple of times. I’m sure he went barefoot and was probably trying to make a point about his rocky campsite. I did feel a little guilty – just a little.
One note here that I did not mention above, throughout the afternoon Cricket and I discussed our hiking styles and I told her I would like to hike solo going forward. I liked to get up early and hike late, watching the sunsets and sunrises. I also did not take a lot of zero days in town unless I had work to get done, or there was a unique and compelling reason to stay in town. I could enjoy time in town anytime when I was not hiking.
We had a different outlook on thru-hiking, and neither one was right or wrong. I loved to push myself physically and experience as much of the outdoors as possible. I enjoyed pushing my limits and feeling my body harden and get in shape over the course of a long hike. For Cricket, thru-hiking was more of a vacation, take her time, smell the roses, and that was fine. She always teased me about not being able to sit still and she was right. There was always something to see or do, and I got antsy when I was still for too long.
I thought the conversation went well and all would be fine.