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Arizona Trail Day 35 – Early Stop | Average Hiker

Skull post on the way to the mazatzals

I was up and out of camp early this morning, yawning as I stumbled up the trail.

Wearing my earplugs had not dulled the snoring last night. Usually, they block out most noise, but this snoring was impressive. I had been startled awake by what sounded like an angry animal, and it had taken a good hour for my fight-or-flight adrenaline to wear off after coming down from battle preparation with my Gerber knife!

From then on, the snoring sounded like it escalated and was constant, so at about 3:30 AM, I sighed and sat up. I fumbled around for my food bag, which was inside the compactor bag in my backpack under my feet (Yes, I know my food storage methods are controversial, but they have worked for 15,000 miles or so, except in Grizzly country, where food usually goes in a box or up in the air.)

After forcing down my cereal and NIDO, I was ready to start hiking at first light, so I packed up quietly and started walking, making my way up through Manzanita and Pine. I loved hiking along these sandy trails through the forests in the morning. The best of both worlds was a thin forest with early morning views from the valleys below.

Trail up into the Mazatzals

Climbing started immediately, and I took it slow. Lack of sleep made me a little sluggish, and I knew it would be a slow start to the morning. I lowered my head and set a slow, steady pace as I waited for my legs and body to warm to the rhythm, but that never happened.

Usually, I’ll settle into a steady rhythm as I climb, but this morning I was stumbling over rocks and trying to focus through my sleep-deprived haze. I had also packed a lot of water since nothing was guaranteed until Bear Spring, about 19 miles away. I wanted to ensure I had enough water for the day and dinner.

Once the climbing leveled out along the ridge, it was nice as I wove my way through waist-high Manzanita and crisp, dry early morning air. You can’t beat the Arizona climate in March and April. The air was typically dry and cool, and I had experienced a little rain only once so far on this trip. Some people don’t enjoy desert hiking and the AZT, but I’m a big fan of this trail.

Early on, I came across Puff packing up camp. He had climbed down to a knoll, weaving in and out of deadfall to find what looked like an excellent campsite with great views. We chatted a little while he packed, and then I moved on, knowing I would probably see him later.

Continuing down, I finally began climbing again at a slow pace. I had about 1,800 feet over the next four miles, so the climb was fairly moderate, but by the time I reached the top around 4 PM, I just wanted to sleep. Lack of sleep did not usually drain me this much, but I decided to call it a day at the next saddle with several campsites and great views.

I ensured I found a single campsite where nobody could camp within snoring distance since I needed to get some good sleep. My appetite was a little off, so I grabbed a couple of bars and climbed onto rocks to snack and nap.

Cricket arrived about an hour later and decided to stop for the day. Her cold was kicking her ass, and she wanted to pass out and see if she felt better tomorrow.

Around 5:30, Puff came hiking through and stopped to chat for a bit but moved on since it was still early.

It was a pretty uneventful day, and it would have been excellent hiking if I had not been so drained. I knew I needed a little sleep, but it seemed like my body was preoccupied with something else, which I hoped was not Cricket’s cold. Colds always hit me like a freight train, and it would suck to hike with one.

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