April 9th, 2022
I would be climbing up into the Maztzals, another section ravaged by wildfires in recent years and, like the Superstitions, also being skipped by thru-hikers for this reason.
The morning had just reached full grey as I headed across the parking lot to the port-a-toilets. I had already eaten, packed, and was ready to go. These were some of the cleaner plastic toilets I had experienced on the AZT; in other words, full-on luxury!
As I walked over to talk to Cricket, Duke ambled past, dragging his leash, or piece of ragged rope, tied to his collar. The Marina manager had yelled at me earlier, “Get your dog on a leash!” But, of course, he belonged to the hiker I had asked to move his tent last night, so I would probably not be telling him to leash his dog.
Cricket and I chatted for a few minutes, and then I headed out while she made a few phone calls. I could already feel the day warming up quickly even though the sun was still behind the mountains. It was going to be hot!
A lot of hikers road walk to the trailhead, but I suffer from “fear of missing out,” so I crossed the road and headed past the cemetery back up to the trail, where I hiked the two-plus miles around to wear the trail met and followed the road over the bridge to Vineyard Trailhead.
The hike up from Vineyard was a toe climber! This is where it is so steep that I have to lean forward onto my toes and use 100% of my calves, quads, and butt to do the climb. I was drenched when I reached the top and took a breakfast break overlooking Roosevelt Lake, waving to Cricket as she passed by on the trail below.
Most of the day was spent on one brutal climb after another as I climbed up into the Mazatzals. I found this one of the steeper climbs on the trail. There were sections where the trail flattened out and traveled around the mountainsides, but the climb out of Roosevelt Lake was tough.
Sitting with some other hikers, I passed Cricket about an hour after my breakfast break, but I never saw her again that day. We had agreed to meet at Sunflower (Hwy 87) for a ride into Phoenix, so I would probably see her in a day or two.
I took a break at Buckhorn Creek for lunch with four section hikers out for a few days. We all tried to find bits of shade and hide from the sun while we filtered water and ate lunch. I ended up leap-frogging with them off and on throughout the afternoon as we all took breaks at different times. These were strong hikers, and it was fun chatting with them as we hiked together periodically.
After Buckhorn Creek, I mostly climbed, weaving my way up into the Mazatzals. I had begun to hit the burned sections, and there were sections where the trail was crumbly and narrow, but it appeared trail work had been done recently, and those sections were few and far between. I’m not a fan of heights, so I would quickly run across the short, narrow edges when I reached them. If I went slow and overthought them, I might not cross.
There was very little water after Buckhorn Creek, and the one or two Spring locations marked on the map were dry, but I had carried enough water for the next source, so I was fine for dinner. The issue was finding a campsite. The trail wound its way around the mountains with no places to set up out of the constant winds, so even though it was early, I had resolved to stop at the first flat spot I found.
Arriving at an excellent protected flat spot, I found two of the section hikers checking it out while they waited on their two friends behind me. We chatted for a few minutes, and about a quarter of a mile later, where the trail turned into the mountain, I found a slight indentation beside the trail. The bivy spot was slanted downhill and like laying in a charcoal grill, but I cleaned out dead burned brush and thorns and propped a log on one side of my bivy so I would not roll downhill, and made it work.
As the sun dropped, the clouds cleared away, and I watched the stars twinkle through the crooked charred branches of the trees around me. The night was beautiful, and although I was sleeping at an odd angle, I slept like a babe.