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The Arizona Trail – Day 9 | Average Hiker

Sunrise on the AZT near "The Lake."

March 20, 2022

The snores of a deep exhausted sleep kept me up most of the night, but I did not mind. The night skies were gorgeous, and I lay watching stars and zipping satellites until the first hiker passed around midnight. Some hikers prefer hiking at night, but I did not realize how many. By 5 AM, I had counted at least six bobbing headlamps.

Many hikers proclaim the magic of night hiking, but I’m not one of them. Others do it for practical purposes. I fall into the latter group. If the heat is incredibly intense or campsites are tough to find, I’ll often start early or hike late. If late in the day, it is usually because I’m sure there is a flatter spot just up the trail and inevitably there is one that ends up being about five miles later – almost every single time.

As far as the virtues of night hiking, there are not many for me. There is little to see in the dark, and as glowing eyes peer at me from the edges of my headlamp’s beam, I always feel as if I’m about to be pounced upon. I’m convinced every set of eyes is a mountain lion or mother bear.

Average Hiker watching cows with Cricket at a cow tank.

Around 6 AM, I started packing up, probably a little more loudly than needed, but I could not lay beside the trail any longer. I was thirsty, and my joints were achy from lack of movement after 11 hours of lying down. There were places to go and things to see!

Cricket began moving around 6:30, and I took some great sunrise shots of the surrounding hills while I waited for her to drink her coffee and finish packing. The clear desert air provides spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

We moved slowly, and as Cricket hobbled away, I could see she was in pain. It always takes a few minutes of walking for blistered feet to hurt less, and she was no exception. Fortunately, we only had about 3 miles to reach water, and then she could take a break.

Water was a giant chocolate pond, just a large hole dug into the ground and filled with water for cows and hikers with no other choices. So we squished our way through the mud, filtered the cow poo water, and spread out under the only lone little scrubby tree near the water.

Cows watched us from the other side of the water hole, not sure if we were there to share water or chase them. The cows milled, mooed, and called their babies that mooed back and stood staring at us. A few minutes later, an old bull arrived and calmed everyone down while I sat back to have a snack, and Cricket continued down the trail.

Other hikers arrived, but most looked at the water source, pulled out Guthook to find something better, and then moved on. A few stayed to get water, though, and I chatted with them while eating. An hour later, I packed up, turned off my “Cow TV,” and took off to find Cricket.

The next couple of hours flew by! The trail was moderate, and I felt good. We were only hiking 13-15 miles a day, and my legs were enjoying the more leisurely pace. They had plenty of time to recover each night, with lots of breaks during the day. Ideally, easing into a thru-hike is the optimal approach, even if you think you can hike faster and further.

My goal was to catch Cricket at Sahuarita Road Trailhead, but I slowed to talk with another thru-hiker that followed along behind me for a bit. Cricket was not at the TH, so I picked up my pace and caught up with her under the overpass at Old Sonoita Highway.

Cricket on the Arizona Trail near Tucson

As I turned down into the tunnel that ran under Old Sonoita, I saw Cricket sitting at the other end. Her shoes were off, and she was examining her feet. Unfortunately, the Sketchers were causing even more damage to her feet, and it was time for new shoes again.

I pulled up the Gaia GPS App and took a look at our options. Guthook is suitable for trail options but does not always provide the detail needed once leaving the immediate trail area. As I looked at Old Sonoita, I realized we were very close to Tucson and could hitch in easily from here.

Cricket readily agreed to the plan, and we climbed over a barb wire fence, did a short but thornily painful bushwhack to the highway, and walked back down to a trailhead that appeared to be frequented by mountain bikers. We stuck our thumbs out and ten minutes later were picked up by – surprise – a mountain biker that took us straight to Summit Hut in Tucson.

Summit Hut was a great experience. We were greeted at the door by a man who immediately asked us if we were thru-hiking. I suspect the dirt, smell, or backpacks gave us away, but I’m unsure. They then held our stinky backpacks behind the counter while Cricket picked out new Altra Olympus 4 trail runners, and then they checked us out with a 10% discount.

I really can’t say enough good things about Summit Hut. The store was nice, with a great selection, and the staff was attentive and knowledgeable. It was one of the better outdoor stores I’ve visited. It was kind of like REI used to be a decade ago.

It went unspoken that we would be staying in town so Cricket could give her feet a little break, so we found a hotel, cleaned up, and walked down to Outback. We had chosen our hotel based on its proximity to a Blooming Onion!

Two hours later, we lurched back to the hotel full of fried food and way too many calories, where we then crashed and watched trash TV while we laughed into the night.

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