Breakfast started at Gathering Grounds, which was crowded with hikers and bikers. The food was excellent, and I rolled out ready to go shoe shopping with Cricket. She was still sleeping, so I took her back a coffee to get her moving.
In 2019 I had used Ken’s Shuttles for a ride to the southern Terminus, so I called him for a ride to Nogales, and he referred me to Cathy, one of his drivers. Nogales was the closest town with a “shoe store,” so she would drop us off and pick us up around lunch.
We tried the sporting goods store, where they would not let us try anything on “due to Covid,” so we headed over to Shoe Carnival. I expected nothing from Shoe Carnival since the most expensive shoe was fifty bucks, but Cricket settled on a pair of Sketchers that were $70 – marked down to $49.
I tried to be optimistic and excited about the new Sketchers, but my inside voice whispered, “You usually get what you pay for,” and I had also not seen any Sketchers on the trails. But maybe these were Sketcher’s break-out trail runners.
Lunch was at the Chinese Panda, a chain Cricket liked but I had not heard of, and it had to be decent based on the line of people waiting for their food. As I ate I realized the line was probably due to limited restaurant options in town.
We did not wait long for Cathy. She was right on time for every pick-up, whipping us away in her little silver Prius.
Our ride back with Cathy was interesting. She had lived in Patagonia for 31 years and was a former educator in Ecology, having worked for the Audubon Society. Cathy had also designed and had built her own straw bale home, and I had about a gazillion questions since I’m always interested in any sustainable or green project.
I learned about the advantages of a straw bale home, roughly how to build one, and why Patagonia was the perfect location. In addition, we also discussed the evil local mining company, the death of the native oaks, and the lack of water at lower elevations.
Lack of water was a common discussion with locals throughout my AZT hike. The southwest is arid, and the drought seems to be worsening. As we continued hiking north, water options would become more and more scarce.
As we got close to the dinner hour, we decided that instead of having a meal, we would get a pint of ice cream and hang out in front of the TV. So, wanting to do absolutely nothing that required effort – even mental effort, we binge-watched Temptation Island for the rest of the night.
Cricket made me promise to tell nobody we watched Temptation Island, but she said nothing about writing about it. By the end of the evening, she had committed to the “relationships” and checked our hiking schedule to see if it tracked with our next town visit and the next episode.
While watching TV, we also worked out the next day’s game plan. I would consume another massive breakfast, and Cricket would begin hiking. Eating as much food as possible is always a goal in town, especially on the day I leave. It usually means I don’t have to worry about anything until dinner, except maybe a snack.
That minor logistics chore completed, we returned to mind-numbing television and laughed well into the night.