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Arizona Trail Day 8 – Cooper’s Dad | Average Hiker

Landscape near santa rita mountains.

March 19, 2022

I don’t know how I deleted the notes from this day, but I still have the pictures, and I do remember some stand-out moments.

After leaving camp, Cricket and I had traveled about 3-4 miles before coming out above a dirt road crossing. I saw an Arabian horse with a rider stopping to get a drink from a portable rubber bucket – a giant bucket. I later found out they were part of an endurance race based out of Empire Ranch – once the largest ranch in the US with over 1 million acres.

A man keeping time and checking in the ponies informed us there were some snacks and chairs under the bush across the dirt road. That was an understatement. There were two totes. One had every snack and drink I could imagine, and the other looked like an extensive pharmacy. This was hands down the best trail magic I had ever seen left beside a trail.

Arabian endurace racer on the AZT

“Cooper’s Dad” was trail angel extraordinaire. I later learned Cooper was his dog, and they checked the cache almost daily on their walks.

The most interesting part of that particular break was the older gentleman manning the check-in. He was staying at the ranch, and as we sat chatting I was educated. 1) The horses were ridden primarily by wealthy women whose men followed in support (progressive). 2) We had not known female cows had horns. With a very straight face, he informed us that “they were transvestite cows keeping up with the times and had little false horns they screwed in place.” He would enlighten us between running back and forth to check in on the Arabian riders.

While we sat stuffing our faces, Cricket and I would cheer on the horses and riders – their only fans at this particular check spot. I think most of them appreciated our exhuberance.

My snacks included apple pie (each slice in its Ziploc), two boiled eggs, and a Pepsi. Cricket had discovered Twinkies for the first time, and I watched as she stuffed down three with wonder on her face and packed out a fourth. She was amazed to have just found this delicacy. I let her know she could carry the one she had packed forever since it probably had a 50-year life span.

We moved on down the trail, moving to the side regularly so all the riders could pass us, and stopped at the next tank to get water. As we retrieved and filtered the water, we periodically stopped to let the horses drink. This was one of the stops along their race. I tried to ignore all the slobber floating on my water source. The trough was theirs anyway. I was the interloper taking their water.

It was late when we reached the dirt road that would lead us to “The Lake.” Checking my maps, I knew we could hike cross-country and find what was probably a cow tank in about a half-mile, but Cricket said her feet would not be able to manage cross-country hiking. So instead, we went opposite ways on the dirt road to see if we could find water. I found nothing and went back to the intersection to wait on Cricket.

Average Hiker near prickly pear cactus on the Arizona Trail.

Cricket arrived back at the road around dark and said she could not walk any further, that her feet were in too much pain. I was afraid we might devolve into bickering since I refused to camp on the ATV road used, but finally, we walked about 150 yards up the trail and bivy camped next to the path. By this time it was full-on dark.

I gave Cricket the rest of my water since I was not thirsty, and we settled in for the night without making dinner. As I lay looking up at the stars and listening to Cricket sleep, I wondered if I was pushing her too hard. Today we had hiked 15.8 miles because that was the way the water sources fell, but maybe we should have carried more water and stopped sooner. We would see how she felt tomorrow.

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