It was chilly when I pushed my head up from under my quilt, but not nearly as cold as in Parker Canyon. I did not check, but my best guess is that it was in the low 40s. I could put on my clothes without cursing as I rushed to change before becoming hypothermic – so an improvement from previous days.
Cricket was still in her tent when I stepped out of my Hexamid to start taking it down, and I yelped loudly as a thorn snagged the back of my calf. My campsite was lethal, and I moved carefully as I began pulling stakes out of the ground. By the time I had finished, my legs were bleeding and slashed in multiple spots, but most importantly, I had no holes in my shelter.
I’m not sure holes mattered since there was no rain and no flying insects.
I told Cricket to hike on while I finished packing up. I always took my time and gave her a half-hour to hour’s head start since I did not want her to feel as if she had to chase me or as if I was rushing her.
Today was our first town day in Patagonia, so I was hiking fast and caught up with Cricket quickly. I paused at the new trail section that bypassed Patagonia. This new segment of the Arizona Trail was brand new and came out on the highway about 4 miles north of Patagonia. I was not sure it was open yet and continued down the original trail hoping Cricket had done the same.
Honestly, the old Arizona Trail section may get used for a few more years. The section goes straight through town, meaning you don’t have to hitch or hike 4 miles like you will have to do on the new section of the AZT. I always enjoy the trails that go through towns and wish trail agencies would try and route trails near or through small towns where it makes sense.
The trail wove through high desert terrain, dry, prickly, cow-covered, with few good water sources. There were plenty of expensive gates. The AZT seems to take pride in its large metal gates. Some of them are almost works of art, but I have a suggestion. After finishing the trail, I would like to vote you sink all that money into wildlife water catchment tanks. They are MUCH more useful, and I’m sure they could also be made pretty.
Water is scarce on the AZT, and the wildlife and hikers would find wildlife tanks much more useful. I am okay with a tree limb and some barbed wire for a gate. These types of gates seem to work well. Others may disagree, though. I know wrestling that top strand of wire can sometimes be a pain in the ass.
I knew Cricket’s feet were starting to give her some issues, and I waited at Harshaw Trailhead before we began our two-mile road walk into town. The asphalt road was hot, so I took out my umbrella and waited for Cricket, who had found a spot of shade on the side of the road and taken off her shoes. I stood chatting with her for about 10 minutes before she slowly rose, and we began our slog to town.
Road walks are always a slog for me. I don’t usually enjoy them, and they are hard on feet used to rough trail walking that constantly varies. It’s like having my feet slapped with a flat 2×4 for miles and is often where I will get the only blisters during hiking.
My umbrella made a vast difference in the hot desert sun, and I bounced along thinking about all of the town food waiting for me. I looked behind me and saw Cricket was falling behind, so I slowed and waited for her to catch up. We were early and sharing a room, so there was no reason to rush.
About a mile into the road walk, Cricket said she was getting blisters on the bottoms of her feet. We stopped a couple more times to let her feet air out and cool off over the final mile, but the damage had been done by the time we reached town. So, as we walked, the decision was made to take a zero day the next day and try and find Cricket some new shoes.
I had made a reservation at the Stage Stop Inn and stayed here when I hiked a section of the trail in 2019. The hotel is cute, and the rooms encircle a courtyard and pool. The rooms are nice, and they offer their guests laundry for free, which is always a big plus.
We checked in, cleaned up, and headed out to fill our bellies with something other than a small portion of rice or pasta. Patagonia is especially convenient because everything a hiker needs is within easy walking distance – groceries, hotel, restaurants, etc. You don’t have to walk more than a block or two.
There is also a hostel (TerraSol) right on the road walk into town for more budget-conscious hikers. You can camp here, shower, and use bikes to ride to town. It gets excellent reviews and is $20/night.
After we ate, we ran our errands. I like to get everything done so I can relax before heading back out the next day. I usually NERO and don’t ZERO (come into town in the morning and leave the next morning vs. taking a day off).
Another hiker once said to me, “I need to take zeros so I can take a break from the trail.” My break is the trail. Towns are mostly all about the food and resupply for me. If I do zero, it is usually because I have to catch up on work, which does not care if I’m hiking.