Patagonia to Vail

April 4th-I slept very well last night in the cozy bed. My allergies have really been bothering me lately due to the high pollen count. We made our way over to the Gathering Ground restaurant a few businesses down from the hotel where we joined Steve and Kristen for breakfast. We will part ways today as they are taking another route out of town then rejoining the AZT. We really enjoyed getting to know them and hear about their adventures over the years. They really encouraged us to try bike touring in Europe for three months. I look forward to staying in touch. Paperweight and I returned to our room to post updates on Facebook and relax a bit longer in the bed. We finally packed up and decided we need one more town meal before leaving so back to the same restaurant we went for a second breakfast. Delicious food! We then threw on our packs and made our way out of town. I really enjoyed our stay in Patagonia. It is a very artsy town with lots of quirks. 

We walked along the sidewalk along Highway 82 before turning onto first ave to Temporal road. Lots of cute houses with beautiful cactus and other blooming flowers. I can see why lots of people move to this town to retire. The road turned to gravel as the sun was shinning with temperatures in the high 70s with a cooling wind. It was very pleasant as we often looked back down towards the town. We saw a huge vulture soaring closely overhead and passed a recent burn area. We crossed a few cattle guards as the road curved up towards the mountains. The road become more rocky the farther out of town and less wide. It is one of the most pleasant road walks out of town. We took two short breaks in the shade to hydrate before continuing on as the miles passes quickly. We only planned to do 9 miles out of town and found a beautiful flat campsite with views all around. A bit before 4 we had our tent set up, shoes off, and enjoying the day. We are in no rush this year as previous thru hikes. There is not a threat of winter coming just the higher temperatures later in the season. I am lounging on my thermarest pad catching up on these blogs listening to music and the wind blow. I couldn’t ask for anything more. 
April 5- We have been getting about 9-10 hours of sleep a night which is wonderful! We woke up as the sun was coming up around 5:45 and began packing up. I packed out bagels and cream cheese that I have to finish today so it was a nice treat. Our morning began with a steep uphill on a road that cars can drive on. It was nice to do the climbing in the early hours. We passed lots of cows with unique markings. We made it up to the Walker Basin trailhead where we took a quick break for the steepest climb of the day. A 900 foot elevation gain in a mile as we joked it was AT hiking again. The climb didn’t feel too bad as we took our time gradually climbing higher and higher with lovely views. We passed two guys pushing their bikes up the climb. Before we knew it, we reached the saddle and were heading downhill towards our next water source for a short break.

The rest of the day was easy walking as we cruised along running into a few day hikers. We got to learn a bit about the history of Kentucky Camp where they tried to search for gold in this area. They created a 8 1/2 mile long pipe system where they hoped to use hydraulics to mine for gold. They spent over $200,000 to complete the water system to only find a few thousand dollars worth of gold in the early 1900s. We saw bits of the metal pile that still remain over a 100 years later leading to the camp where the miners and workers called home.

3 1/2 miles away from the camp we ran into the two bikers and one of their daughters with a truck and cold beverages and snacks. We sat down for over two hours and enjoyed a cold corona with a lime, homemade jerky, crackers, trail mix, and Chex mix. It was a nice treat and fun sharing stories with them. They were planning to camp there, but we decided to get going around 4:45. We walked quickly getting closer to the Kentucky Camp in the Santa Rita Mountains where our next water source was. We got there around 6 where we chugged a bunch of water and filled up 4 liters for the night. There are four adobe building that have been restored. We didn’t stay long as we wanted to set up camp for the night. 

We walked a total of 17.2 miles making it our longest day on the AZT yet! We found a campsite where cars likely pull out to camp and set us as the sky was bursting brilliant pinks. As we were unpacked, two other thru hikers came by to introduce themselves, but they seem super quick so we will likely never see them again. We ate as the sun was fully setting before climbing into our comfy tent for the night. 

April 6
I was pretty exhausted this morning and was not motivated to get going. I slowly packed up and continued along the dirt road. We passed a few areas that were labeled mining claims and he even saw a man using a pick ax in search of gold. The trail left the dirt road and climbed up to our highpoint of the day that rewarded us of views all around. We could see the mountains we just climbed and the ones that awaited us. Everything is beginning to bloom and the desert is full of color. I tuned into a few interesting podcasts to pass the miles while soaking in the scenery. We crossed a gate to find a large herd of cows on one side of the barbed wire fence and two calves on the wrong side. They were all terrified of us as the moved quickly making lots of noise. The calves did not know what to do and after a few minutes we watched as they struggled though the barbed wire back to their family. I hope they stay on the right side. We took a nice break in the shade for some time to snack and hydrate before moving along. We walked quickly as the heat of the day was coming and we knew our next water source was a few miles ahead. We made it to the metal cattle trough to find the water to be a strange green tint. It filtered out fine, but clogged his Sawyer Filter. We have a plan this year to use one filter on the nasty sources and the other one for clear sources. This is because last year we both clogged ours at one source on the CDT. We each packed out 6 full liters of water since this is a very dry section this time of year. There is a chance water may be cached at a trailhead, but we can’t depend on it. My pack was so heavy as I used my umbrella to block the heat. We took a break under a mile away just to let the heat pass. The trail passes a few washes and dirt roads along the way. My foot has really been bothering me lately and I’m thinking it’s the shoes. I hobbled the last mile collapsing to the ground at our campsite. He set up most of the tent as I contributed by finding a tent stake to replace one of the two I had lost. He’s a keeper! We drank a bit of water and watched the sun set over the hill. It felt wonderful again to rest inside the tent. I don’t recall us saying goodnight as we both passed out not in our sleeping bags after 15.5 miles.

April 7

There was lots of animal activity around our tent last night. A few cows seems very angry we had camped there as Paperweight snoozed through their moaning. Right before the sun rose a pack of coyotes were howling very near by. I find their howls to be relaxing and welcome their presence. My foot was stiff this morning as it took a bit to loosen up. I think it is just bruised. The morning miles were cool and refreshing. We came to a small pool of water in some rocks where we scooped a bit and drank it at that spot. It had a stagnant taste. I must reiterate that the biggest luxury we take advantage of at home is access to fresh filtered water in most communities. The best water on trail is any stream that is flowing, but in Arizona that is rare to find at lower elevations. We forced down the nasty water to stay hydrated.

This morning we began meeting bikers that are taking part in a race along the trail. They come zipping up behind us as some yell out and others slow down to chat. The trail is designed in many ways for bikers with curvy turns rather then sharp switchbacks. We also hear bikers complain about the trail and we find it ironic because they cause most of the loose rock. There is only one thing that bothers me and that besides Kristen who is not racing there are no female mountain bike racers this year. There may be one, but we did not see her. I say it is because as women we just don’t want to be that competitive on such a difficult trail. Or is mountain biking mostly a male dominated sport like thru hiking used to be? I am not sure. I do not plan on ever racing the AZT or biking some of the steep sections, but I would like to play around on a mountain bike in the future. Anyway, we hiked along until the heat of the day started to get to us. We seeked shelter under a prickly tree to find it infested with red ants. So I moved along a few more tenths of a mile to find a shady grassy spot with less ants. We hid under our umbrella slowly drinking the few liters we had left. A biker stop concerned we were injured, but we reassured him that we were fine. A nice afternoon breezy picked up that allowed us to cruise. The desert is such a diverse and beautiful place to explore. The variety of cactus, flowers, lizards, bugs, and grasses amaze me. We are hoping to download a guide to be able to identify the various plants. We made it to the trailhead to find one sun faded gallon jug of water. We grabbed it and found some shade. I was worried about plastic in the warm sun so he did some research saying it should be fine as long as the plastic didn’t have BPA which it didn’t. So he tasted it and tasted plastic deciding it wasn’t worth it. We still had two liters each of our green through water from yesterday so we slowly filtered it. 

It was the cool part of the day so we cruised along chatting the miles away. We came to an underpass to find our two quick hikers we met the other day hiding from the heat. They had just gone into Vail and were full of ice cream and Taco Bell. We chatted for a bit before we moved along in search of a campsite. We found a huge spot in a wash which years ago or in high rain seasons is full of water. It was a sandy beach for us so after 16.4 miles we set up our tent and relaxed. Bike riders would zoom by with their headlamps on for hours trying to get in extra miles. A few coyotes howled at us and I howled back to only hear silence. We slept well in our own sandy beach wash. 

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