April 17, 2022
I was at Fresh Grounds when they opened at 7 AM. Cricket was sleeping, but as I left, she sleepily mumbled she would be packing up and heading out after her morning coffee.
Before starting the long road walk, I paused in the lobby to chat with other hikers and headed out across town around 9 AM. It was a chilly morning, but I knew it would quickly become a warm high desert day. My pack was heavy with four days of food, but water sources looked good, so I only carried a liter as I headed towards Anaconda Spring.
The trail traveled across town, and past the RV park, before taking a left onto a short paved road which quickly turned into a well-used dirt road. Skies were blue, birds were singing, and I gazed out over fields of yellow grass and desert oak as I began climbing towards the hills in the distance.
The long road walk to Temporal Gulch TH was where the new section of AZT intersected with the old AZT through Patagonia. Since this hike in March, Guthook has been updated for the new section. The new section travels across Route 82, about 4.5 miles north of Patagonia, before traveling up into the hills and dropping back to Temporal Gulch.
The new section of the Arizona Trail is probably 2-3 miles longer than the old AZT, so I think that thru-hikers with their first town stop in Patagonia may continue to walk into town along the old AZT. I’m sure the town alternate will become part of the HYOH mantra.
Friendly locals stopped along the road to wish me luck and offer me advice, so the miles of road walking was not as tedious as they could have been. I also met Pat; a young section hiker headed south. He was friendly, and we exchanged trail conditions for about ten minutes before heading our separate ways.
The trail changed to a rough two-track after Temporal Gulch TH, and I felt as if I was in an old western; and as I crossed small springs, winding in and out of canyons surrounded by sharp craggy cliffs, I felt I was being watched. I would not have been surprised to look up and see a crouching mountain lion. The hiking was straight out of an old western, and I only needed ominous music for these scenes.
I caught up with Cricket just before Anaconda Spring, and we paused to take a break before continuing our climb into the mountains. The trail continued following rugged two-track, and we were surprised as two SUVs, not geared for off-road, sped past us kicking dirt into our faces.
The gate on our steep climb was a bitch, and it took both Cricket and me to pull back the stick holding the barbed wire strands so we could slide the barbed wire loop over the top. I’m not sure how either of us would have closed it alone.
Continuing the climb, we finally reached the top and dropped steeply back down to Walker Basin TH, where we saw the two dirt-spitting SUV owners, and about ten teenagers, setting up camp for the night. It appeared to be a youth group.
There was an old concrete dam to the left of the trail, and I offered to climb back up the wash and look for the water our guide said was up there. Cricket was wiped out from the climb and readily agreed to watch our packs as she handed me her empty water bottles.
I only had to go back about 50 yards before finding a large pool filled with what appeared to be tadpoles and beetles. Fortunately, none fit into my filter, and the water itself filtered clear and cold. I tucked the five full bottles into my arms and slowly walked back to the trail, balancing the full bottles to stop them from falling as I picked my way over small boulders strewn throughout the wash.
We began climbing straight out of Walker Basin and did not stop for almost 1,000 feet at the next saddle about a mile further. We stopped for a short snack and rest before we dropped back down 1,000 feet from the saddle over the next two miles to Casa Blanca Canyon.
I was pretty excited about Casa Blanca Canyon because it was flat. It would be nice not to sleep with blood rushing to some extremity. I’m such a light sleeper that even a slight angle prevents me from sleeping, no matter how exhausted I am at the end of the day.
There were plenty of campsites, and Cricket and I quickly set up camp and made dinner. While setting up, the two hikers I had chatted with in Patagonia arrived and set up in the grass across the trail about 30 yards away. We waved as they passed us and did not see them again, other than their tent through the trees. I always welcome privacy when hiking and wholly understand.