AZT Day 5: A windy day, gunshots and 100 miles

April 10, 2019

Miles hiked: 26

AZT mile 108

Campsite Elevation: 3,642 ft

The wind picked up more last night but fortunately I slept well. I got up after snoozing my alarm again, and roused myself by 5:45 am. I needed to go to nature’s call right away and was quickly made alert by the brisk morning breeze. The weather forecast from my InReach called for “breezy” today, and I know from past experience that actually means windy as hell. Great.

I got walking within an hour and was layered up to the hilt with hat, gloves, leggings, puffy and wind jacket. And I needed it all. I began walking due East and by 7:00 am I already needed to wear my sunglasses, the sun was so intense. I just wished it were warmer. I would be playing the too hot, too cold game with my layers all day.

My goal for the morning was to make it to the next water source, about 5 miles away, and stop for breakfast. When I got there it was a cattle trough full of green slimy algae, but the water itself was cold and clear. You just had to navigate the debris and bugs and it was fine after filtering. I had walked all morning as if in a trance, probably instigated by hormones, as my period was full on flowing now. Yay. I gave myself permission to start walking very slowly, deliberately and dreamily for this reason. Fortunately, the terrain was super mellow, with no major elevation changes and mostly just rolling grassy hills. Perfect.

There was a haze this morning too, I am not sure what caused it, but it mostly seemed like moisture. The mountains weren’t as clear to look at as compared with yesterday. Plus it was windy so that may be kicking up dust. Sitting in the sun for my breakfast, I needed my puffy on to keep me warm. I meditated briefly while there in the sun, took care of all my organizing business and self care, then set off with no partifular goals after that. I left with 2 L of water and fully hydrated for a 14 mile water carry.

Beginning at about 10:00 am I started to hear gunshots. WTF? It sounded like someone must have been target shooting because they would unload severel rounds in one go and then it would go silent for a bit. It was confusing to tell where it came from, because of the shape of the hills, the echo would be misleading. All I cared was that I was walking away from whomever was doing this.

If you looked around you, it was truly in the middle of nowhere, but still, I would think it is not legal to shoot guns in this manner in such close proximity to a National Scenic Trail. But as I have come to know, Arizona is different. This is not the first encounter with this type of thing while hiking tho, so I dug in and tried to speed up and move out of range.

I walked in a combination of being in a daze and being hyper alert for nearly the next 3.5 hours until I decided I wanted to stop for lunch. The terrain was still very lazy like, meandering across hillsides, small ups and downs and crossing several dry washes.

After about an hour of walking North the gunshots finallly sounded like they were behind me. By the time I stopped for lunch at 1:15 pm I could still occasionally hear a shot or two. Crazy. I found a little shade nestled on a hillside wash somewhat out of the wind and promptly took off my shoes, set up my lunch and kicked back for an hour. It was lovely and I felt like I was there a long time.

After lunch I was only 5 miles away from the 100 mile marker and was looking forward to that first major milestone of this hike. I thought about my progress so far and calculated that in 96 hours (4 days) from my start time, I had covered 100 miles. Not as far as what my goal was, but still not bad either. It’s funny, I started running marathons this past Winter and learned that 26.2 miles can be over in a matter of hours. Out here, it seems so much further. Ironically, it was being on trail with a backpack doing 26-30 mile days that mentally prepared me for the marathon distance of running. Now that distance seems to take quite long and so much of me wants to just run.

I stopped and made a 100 mile marker as is my tradition on long trails. I love getting down on the ground and touching the rocks or sticks and shaping them into a little piece of art, a human artifact. Shortly after that, I stopped at Twin Tanks to get water.

The source was a nasty “tank” that as we know by now is a mud puddle that cattle drink from. And who knows what or who else. I met another hiker there named Mark. He is from Prescott, AZ and he is thru-hiking too. We chatted and I asked him if I could use his Sawyer syringe to back flush my filter, as it is already getting gunky. He had seen a Gila Monster and a rattlesnake that day and had great photos of both. Lucky!

I saw a teeny tiny snake today and another smallish to medium snake too, but neither of them were rattlers. I’m okay with that actually, but I do really want ot see a Gila Monster. We finished filtering our nasty water and left together. I took off ahead of him knowing I wanted to get in another 7-8 miles. He wasn’t feeling as ambitious, so we wished each other a great hike and I set off ahead of him.

My goal was then to make the next 6.3 miles to the Sahuarita Trailhead in two hours, by 6:35pm. So, I pushed myself to keep a steady pace. If there was ever a day to keep a 3+mph pace all day, it was today. The trail was easy and cruisy. This afternoon it also began to “look like Arizona” as I said in one of my videos, because so much of the scenery thus far has reminded me of Southern California.

This afternoon, it changed beginning just after lunch.The Oak trees began to diminish and more Mesquite trees with fresh Spring green leaves dotted more of the hillsides. The Ocotillo are more prevalent, they are actually showing up everywhere and sometimes they would cover an entire hillside. When the wind roars through a hillside of Ocotillo, the sound is otherworldly. I can’t quite place it, something like a major waterfall you would hear off in the distance. They sing with a deep whoosh and I love this new sound.

The paddle cactus also became much more dense, so much so that you wouldn’t be able to find a place to camp for miles if you wanted to. Yucca’s in full bloom also appeared more and more, these gracius white and purple desert orchid’s glowed in the afternoon light.

As the sun was beginning to set, the golden hour lit up the sky in full force. It would have been perfect were it not for the extreme wind. Still, the scene had me mesmerized by it’s beauty, like walking through a masterfully designed desert garden.

That being said, with the persistent wind, I was starting to get quite chilled and really starting to wonder where I would be able to sleep out of this steady but gusting wind? I made it to the Sahuarita Trailhead at 6:40 pm and was delighted to find that volunteers had cached water there for AZT hikers. Thank you so much! I topped off my water bottles and guzzled some more before signing the register and setting off further into the sunset (and the wind).

I knew I had a few more miles in my body, so I layered up and pushed onward until after dark. I really didn’t want to night hike, but what it boiled down to was finding a campsite out of the wind, and I really wanted to get far enough away from Hwy 83 as possible so I wouldn’t hear the noise of cars all night.

The trail went under the Hwy in a tunnel, and then headed away from it n a gentle slope. I pushed on in the dark, knowing that I would eventually find something that worked. And I did. I foud a perfectly protected place in a shallow wash, surrounded by Mesquite trees. I am totally out of the wind, amazing! I can still hear some car sounds though, but oh well. You can’t have it all, all the time right? Overall, I’d say it was a pretty pleasant day, and if some car souds in the distance are my biggest complaint, I will take it! Good night.

4 thoughts on “AZT Day 5: A windy day, gunshots and 100 miles

  1. I always enjoy reading your hiking blog because I invariably learn something new about a plant or animal. Speaking of wind, we’ve had a two day wind storm here in the DMV. I went to an AT hiking conference in Harpers Ferry WV yesterday and the wind never let- up for more than a few mins. Made me wonder how my solo, trekking pole tent would hold- up in winds like that. Anyway, glad to hear you were happy with your trail progress.

  2. There’s a gun range, apparently, not far off trail in that area where you heard shots. As I was walking through there in November, the same thing happened. Good luck the rest of the way.

  3. “ Open different doors. You may find a you there that you never knew was yours. “ Good advice Mary Poppins…..giving yourself permission is advice I will follow.

  4. I so admire your courage, being out there all alone. Sorry your peace and quiet was disturbed by the sound of gunfire.

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