Manning Camp had been my stretch target for the previous day. I had ended up at Grass Shack Camp, though, and I was glad. Grass Shack was a nice camp, with large campsites and a pit toilet (highlight). The only disappointment had been trash and a lack of regard for fire regulations.
Maybe the same rogue characteristics that drive backpacker personalities into the wilderness are the same traits that influence them not to follow rules. I rebelled hard when I was young, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve worked to find balance. Making my own decisions is still important, but considering the people and things around me when I make those is just as important now.
Manning Camp Temperature Change
The next 2,650 feet of climbing to Manning Camp took place over 4.6 miles, and although there were definitely steep sections, it seemed easier than the prior day, which was less elevation over a longer distance. Maybe it was all mental?
Exposed climbing always seems harder and longer to me. I think it is because the scenery is less varied, and the openness makes the landscape and distances seem to change much more slowly. Mental, it is all mental!
Alpine forests FLY by, though, and I made pretty quick work of those final 4.6 miles to Manning Camp, where I thought the climbing was done.
Manning Camp was Psychological
Manning Camp was much more established than I had anticipated. There was a large bunk house, corrals for pack animals, a pit toilet, and a weight bench with weights for those that needed more exercise after the 5,000-foot climb up to camp. The temperatures had dropped sharply the last few hundred feet, and I looked around the camp briefly. There seemed to be nobody here but me. Another good movie set.
Beginning to get cold, I looked around and spotted a pit toilet! Like ultralight gear, they were multi-use.
It was windy, so I dropped my pack, put on my rain jacket, and stepped into the size privy. I know it is purely psychological, but the temperature seemed to rise 15 degrees once I was out of the wind and in the little metal enclosure. Many pit toilets have saved me from arctic blasts and even provided a place of slumber on rare occasions (no judging).
I was in the pit toilet for about 15 minutes, having my snack, warming up, and dreading the wind and cold outside. Checking Guthook, I realized I still had another 650 feet to climb to the summit. What?!
More climbing was not a bad thing, I told myself. It was cold outside, and I would warm up as I climbed. I charged out of the privy and up the mountain a few minutes later. It was time to finish this climb and head back to the warmer desert!
Long Descent of Mica
The descent down Mica Mountain was long but fairly easy. This was definitely the steeper side of the mountain, so I was surprised to see an older woman climbing up toward me.
She was traveling 24 miles from Reddington Pass to Hope Camp. It seemed late in the morning to only be at this point, on the near side of the mountain, but she seemed confident in her ability to climb up and over the mountain. We chatted for a few minutes, and I turned to watch her climb quickly past me. Watching her walk away, I felt a little slothy.
I continued down through a slightly brushy trail, with excellent views across the mountain range and over sandy hills and grassy plains. Exiting the National Park at the sign above, I continued to descend past a gate, which made the day complete. No hike on this trail seemed complete without going through at least one gate.
Headed for Reddington Pass
Pete was picking me up at Reddington Pass @ 4 PM, so I picked up speed and quit dawdling. I did not want to be late since he had a long ride on a dirt road to pick me up.
Tanque Verde Canyon was my next stop for water, where I ran into Crunchmaster and Gasket. I had seen Crunch earlier, and he had asked for a ride. Pete had offered rides to anyone else I encountered, so I told him yes, and reminded him of the 4 PM time. Crunch and Gasket were chatting as I grabbed my water and took off. The water looked slightly cow pooish, so I filtered the first bottle.
The hike to Reddington Pass traveled through high desert grasslands and rolling foothills. This was fun hiking, and I flew down the trail on this beautiful day. I needed to resupply, as my appetite was already increasing earlier than expected in the hike, but I hated to leave the trail in such beautiful weather.
Peter arrived at the trailhead about 5 minutes after me, and Crunch and Gasket rolled in shortly after that. Pete had brought a cooler full of sodas and beer, and we all grabbed a couple before jumping into the car and heading into Tucson.
I already had visions of pasta, pizza, veggies, etc., whizzing through my head. Food was always at the front of my awareness. I planned my snacks when I woke up and began anticipating dinner when I broke camp in the morning. Thoughts of food in town made me almost spasmodic!
I looked out the window and willed the little Subaru faster.