Superior to Payson

April 22-Around 7, I stepped onto the floor to feel no pain in my foot! The zero day was healing, relaxing, and just what the body needed. We slowly packed up and watched an episode of That 70’s Show until our ride came to get us. We contacted Julie who lives in town and drives hikers to and from the trail for a few dollars. There is lots of construction on the main road and we didn’t want to worry about hitching so we gave her $10 for the 6 mile ride. A bit after 8:20, we were jumping over the guardrail and heading back to the trail with a quick crawl under a barbed wire fence. We crossed under Highway 60 and began hiking North.

We walked 5.2 miles to a flowing stream which is a nice treat. The miles passed quickly as I was drenched in sweat. We ran into four trail maintainers including the regional steward for this section. None of these trails would be possible without volunteers! We thanked them and moved along to the next steam where we took our afternoon break. 

I left first pushing through prickly grass and prickly cactus thrones that want to attack you. The desert is tough and everything wants to attack. Not far from the water I heard a rattlesnake to my left. I tried to figure out where we has, but he seemed to be curled up in a bush. He was pissed and rattling louder so I moved up trail to wait for Paperweight. He must of slithered away since he never rattled at him. We walked together for a bit until the steep up hill began where I let him take the lead.

My foot was sore again after walking on loose rocks through various washes. I also constantly had to pull out the prickly grasses from my socks and shoes. This trail is difficult at times and the climb in the afternoon was a struggle for me. A 2,400 foot climb in under 4 miles as the sun shone bright. The grasses were very high and you couldn’t see the switchbacks right above you until you were on them. I slowly made it to the top of the saddle to find him waiting for me. The view from the top was fabulous. We could see the town of Superior in the distance, but the new mountain ranges took my breath away. We got a few nice pictures as the sun was setting.
The trail joins a road for a few miles and we had seen people in jeeps, dirt bikes, and ATVs zipping around. We walked a little ways before finding a huge campsite with multiple options to set up as it was nearing 7. Typical unpacking chores and then a warm dinner before we crawled into our home after 16.2 miles.
Today marks the three year anniversary of us both hiking out of Georgia on the Appalachian Trail and into North Carolina to the first campsite. We met each other at that campsite and would go on to hike about 1,360 miles together. Today also marks the year anniversary of our start of the Continental Divide Trail! We hiked together everyday on that trail. Today is also Earth Day! I am proud of the trails that I’ve been able to hike and the variety of our country. The trails have developed a stronger woman. I only hope that my great grandchildren can experience the same trails I love so much. Live a simple life, don’t take any moment for granted, and most importantly love deeply. 
April 23-
Last night, we fell asleep to the sound of leaves falling on our rain fly. It was chilly at 5,200 feet this morning and it felt great. We walked 1.7 miles on a dirt road to the Rogers Trough Trailhead. We took a morning breakfast break past the trailhead. We are entering the Superstition Wilderness of Tonto National Forest. The morning miles included a dip down to water and a nicely made trail that climbed to a flat spot. We walked though a forest of blooming manzanitas. All of the flowers are spectacular as well as the blooming cactuses. 

We crossed many flowing streams to our delight and walked through areas I’d describe as a green tunnel. It was easy walking to lunch where we sat under a huge tree and with the breeze we almost felt chilled. When we left our spot, I came across a herd of 5 deer with the fluffiness tails I’ve ever seen. We would see 3 more later in the afternoon as well. The trail climbed up on a rocky cliff side with views of greenery! The breeze and temperature was perfect as I didn’t need my umbrella for the heat of the day. We walked together and made a few life goals along the way to our next water source.

Right after our long afternoon break at the water, the walking speed slowed way down. It was so steep and rocky and required careful steps. I made it maybe 150 feet downhill before I slid and landed on my ass. I scraped up my leg and was in a position as if I had slid into home base. Once I fall, I tighten up and go much slower. I managed to slide again, but this time I was stopped by a huge rock that I stubbed my toe on before it tumbled off the trail. It took almost an hour to go 1.4 miles downhill! My knees ached so I was happy to go uphill even though it was just as steep as the last section. I zoned out to Podcasts and climbed back to the same elevation I had just dropped from. We enjoyed a nice ridge walk with sweeping views where we took a quick break.

We still wanted to do another 4 or 5 miles, but the trail was full of dips and a slow 2 mph pace at most. I was just exhausted and sore from the fall. I was happy when I caught up to him at one of the first campsites we had seen in miles. Part of the tent was staked on the trail and we knew no one would be out here hiking in the morning or tonight. The bugs were insane so I simply climbed into the tent and watched them try to get through the netting for over half an hour. Once the sun drops and it gets cooler the no see ums tend to disappear. So at that point I was able to set up the inside of the tent and eat a cold meal of PB&J on a tortilla with warm Gatorade of course! We hiked 18.1 miles today and I felt every one. I was exhausted, a bit defeated, and reminded of what a difficult trail the AZT is. 

April 24
As expected, we found two very nice campsites on our way downhill that would of avoided us setting up along the trail. The next steep uphill was easy this morning, but would of be a struggle at the end of the day yesterday. I cruised along ahead of him soaking in the new views and various mountain ranges. I waited for him at one of the barbed gates and we would walk the rest of the morning together.

As we dipped down, we saw Roosevelt Lake in the distance. It is a man made Lake that can be seen for many miles in both directions of the trail. We joined a rocky road where we talked for hours getting lower towards the lake to then climb back up the road. It seemed like such indirect routing especially as the heat of the day began after 10:30. We were both sweating and dreaming of swimming in the lake. 

Around noon, we were taking the side trail towards the water. It passed an old cemetery then cut through a mobile home park before crossing the highway. We went the visitor center first where we walked around inside learning a bit about the history. We then took cover from the sun under a flowering tree drinking 75 cent sodas from the vending machine. We also had some nice cold water from the faucet. We spent some time here before heading towards the marina. We walked along the dock towards the marina that had a small store. Our app said the hiker box had lots of food in it and we also wanted to see what the store had. Since it was a Monday, the store shelves were pretty empty and most items were way too overpriced. I bought two $2 ice creams and spent $2 on a coldish soda. She brought out the hiker bin to find many jars of half eaten peanut butter, trail mix, first aid supplies, and 6 fuel canisters some more full then others. I took one that was pretty full and a pasta side. I had wanted to buy another snack, but couldn’t justify the prices and nothing looked appetizing in the store. On the weekends, they have the bar open and at any time you can buy and cook your own hot dog or hamburger. We spent maybe an hour at the picnic table before heading back down to the lake with what we hoped was nice beach access. I am sure if we walked farther we would of found a better option. We ended up near the boat ramp finding garbage everywhere. Humans ruin the beauty in so many places. We did rinse off a bit in the water as I only cleaned my legs. We watched people out boating for a while before heading back to the visitor center to get more filtered water for the walk out of lake.

We reconnected back to the AZT as the heat of the day was mostly over. Again, we dipped up and down as the lake was our constant view. This trail eats shoes and we both are sliding around on loose rock lately. The trail joins Highway 188 and crossed a bridge near the dam. We then jumped the guardrail and began a climb up from the dam. The trail as steep, but with a little caffeine in me I was zooming. Up and up with full views of the large lake. We hiked as the sun began to set and joined a dirt road. We put on our headlamps and walked towards a campsite.
After 17.1 miles, we came to the curve in the road and dipped into a wash to set up. No rain fly needed tonight since it is still so warm out. I cooked a pasta side I picked up from the hiker box at the lake and it was pretty delicious! We relaxed in the sandy wash before calling it a day. 
April 25
It was a lovely morning to start hiking with sweeping views in all directions including a view of Roosevelt Lake most of the day. We entered Four Peaks Wilderness this morning. We ran into 8 trail builders who will spend 8 days working on this section of the AZT. This section of the trail was so nicely maintained. We were able to do the long climb up very easily and quickly. We took a nice lunch break on the trail as we stared at the four peaks. 

Within a 100 feet our nice trail changed to an overgrown forest. It would take us 3 hours to hike the next 5.1 miles. I don’t mind the crazy overgrown trees, but it’s tough because you can’t see where you are stepping. At one point, I saw hundreds of hornets in a wasp right next to the trail. 
I took a big fall on an easy downhill in this section. My foot slipped and before I knew it was down hard. I looked at my left knee to see a big gash and blood start to flow. I could see him about .2 miles ahead of me and I let out a huge screech. I got his attention telling him that I fell down and he was about to come back, but I told him to wait there. As I walked, my knee was aching as a few bits of blood dropped down my leg. Since we did not have much water to clean it out we decided to wrap it in his bandana. It didn’t hurt too bad, but all the overgrown bushes kept whacking my knee. 

We finally made it to the water where I tried to clean out my wound. It’s a good scrape with a decent size gash. Looks like I’ll be buying more bandaids in town. We were happy to find the trail much better maintained about a mile north of the water. We were able to go 3 miles an hour again.

The trail joins a gravel road for 12 miles. We walked side by side towards camp. We could see a wildfire in the distance that we later found out was in Tonto National Forest, but not close to us. 

After 20.6 miles, we found a huge campsite off the road under the ponderosa pines. It was protected enough from the wind so we set up. I cooked a warm meal which was amazing since I was a bit chilled at that point. It’s strange to be cold again, but I couldn’t be happier to be wearing my down jacket again. It was nice to lie down in the tent and stretch out. The tent is warm and cozy compared to the temperature outside. So chilly that we both are sleeping with our filters just to be safe.

April 26

It was the second coldest night after our first night. I slept very well cuddled up in my sleeping bag. Our morning hiking continued along the road totally 12 miles both days. We did not see a single car, but lots of great places to car camp with large fireplaces. We took a break at a stream that runs across the road. It will be dry in a few weeks I am sure. Road walks allow us to walk side by side and chat for hours. 

We finally dipped back to a trail that climbed for a bit before we headed downhill for miles. It was easy walking as we found ourselves at another scoop-able water source. We ate a few of our last items our food bag since we will resupply today. I left first and hiked 4.7 miles alone. Huge mountains laid ahead and hills surrounded me. I saw a large group of horseback riders on some trail. I also laughed at a spot with five cars in a ditch assuming it was a junk yard for the former owner. I made it to the fast flowing Sycamore Creek. It was such a pleasant and long break for us. In two miles, we would be at Highway 87 where his friend, Diamond, would be picking us up at 4. We spent about two hours here playing in the water, eating the rest of our food, hydrating, and making reservations for our next town stay in Pine.

We quickly walked the last two miles to get to the highway underpass. We walked under the highway to the other side to figure out how we would climb down from the highway tonight. A bit before 4 we climbed up from the trail to the road and jumped the guardrail. She rescued us from the side of the road and drove us the 32 miles into the town of Payson. It was my first time meeting her and any one who is willing to go out of their way to help hikers is a wonderful person. The three of us ate dinner at Mackey’s Restaurant. I had a 24 ounce Sierra Nevada, mozzeralla sticks, some onion strings, and a bacon, pepper jack, BBQ, onion string burger with fries! I was in a good coma! She insisted in buying our meal. Thank you so much for everything. We had a wonderful meal as the two of them caught up and we got to know each other. She then took us to Safeway where we bought all of our favorite foods for the next 4 1/2ish days to get into the town of Pine. As the sun was setting, she began driving us the 32 miles back to the side of the highway before she would return home to Phoenix. 

We said our farewells and turned on our headlamps. We had 1.2 miles to go to a wash where we hoped to camp. We climbed down to the trail and under the barbed wire fence before rejoining the trail. He commented at how fast I hike at night as we took maybe 20 minutes to get to our spot. There was a large site a bit before the wash where we set up without the rain fly. We were so stuffed and simply climbed into our home. We had hiked a total of 14.7 miles today including a trip into town and a few long breaks. It was another wonderful day!

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