My second week on the Arizona Trail is tough. My perseverance is being put to the test. What to do? Keep on going!
The first fifty miles of the Arizona Trail are done. Only 750 to go! After a night of well-deserved rest and a lot of good food, we leave Patagonia. From now on, I’ll be wearing a sun hat which is very useful in Arizona. So far we haven’t seen any clouds and it looks like it will stay that way for a while.
During the hike out of Patagonia, I am not enjoying myself. Hiking feels hard for me today. We have to follow an asphalt road, which later becomes a dirt road. We regularly have to move aside for cars that pass us and there are occasional parts of dead animals along the road. Very gross!
I just can’t seem to enjoy it and that makes me sad. After all, I still have more than 9 weeks to go before I reach the border with Utah. Fortunately, after 2 hours of hiking my mood clears up a bit. The views from the Arizona Trail are beautiful and I manage to appreciate them again. We pitch our tent early today, tomorrow will be a tough day.
Steep climb up
After a good night’s sleep, we leave early. I let Paolo go ahead because I am still very slow uphill. And that’s what I have to do, hike uphill for hours. And that’s tough. The worst part of the climb is the very last mile. Then the trail goes straight up, almost 1000 feet (over 300 meters of climbing in 1.5 kilometers). The sun is merciless, it is very hot, I can barely breathe and almost burst into tears. This is really hard!
I keep pushing myself, you can do this. And yes, I can do it, after more than four hours of climbing I am finally at the top of the mountain. What a relief. And I’m also a little proud of myself, I can do this!
After the climb, it is a very relaxed hike downhill through the forest. I meet Paulo at a creek and we take a very long lunch break. We deserved that.
It’s funny how your emotions can vary from one moment to the next on a trail like this. The section of the trail after the creek is the most beautiful so far. I’m hiking on a narrow trail along the mountain and the views are absolutely stunning.
It gives me a lot of energy and we manage to hike 15 miles for the first time. A great achievement! We camp between the cows.
Although I don’t sleep very well, the next day I am really excited to hit the trail again. It’s going to be a great day. The trail is not too difficult (no heavy climbs or descents) and the views are almost continuously stunning. We pass through Kentucky Camp, here is an old house dating back to the nineteenth century when gold was found in this region. The caretaker allows us to relax here as long as we want and that is really nice. There’s cold drinking water, a toilet, electricity, and trash bins. Exactly what you need as a thru-hiker.
In the afternoon we have some unexpected trail magic. Do you know what that is? You see it regularly along the long-distance hiking trails in trails, where people leave nice things for hikers. Usually, it is water, but sometimes it is a little more than that. And that is the case today!
Someone has put chairs, coolers, and bins filled with goodies along the trail. Together with another hiker named Stoat we fully enjoy all the delicacies. There’s even fresh fruit and homemade apple pie! There is also a huge box with useful things for hikers, such as bandaids, painkillers, and toilet paper. I take a sachet of energy drink mix and a mini sunscreen. I can definitely use these!
This is followed by a beautiful stretch of the trail through a hilly landscape. There is little water in this section and the next place where we filter water looks downright filthy. It’s a tank full of algae. Fortunately, the water underneath is clear and tastes surprisingly good (we filtered it twice before we drank it). Not much further we pitch the tent at mile 87.2. What a wonderful day!
A hard day with an emotional dip
The next day, I get back on the trail in good spirits. I made agreed on meeting Paulo at the next water source in about 9 miles. Which is pretty far, but I’m confident I can do it before lunch. When I check the map again it turns out to be 12.5 miles away and that is quite a distance!
I push myself to hike as fast as I can, but it’s not going well at all. During a short break, I accidentally put the handle of trekking poles in a cactus and for the next hour, I am mainly busy removing needles from my hand. It’s also starting to warm up quite a bit, so I’m getting more and more chafing, so I change my clothes twice. No fun. In the meantime, the cacti are getting bigger and bigger, despite the heat I’m amazed. It’s so beautiful to see the landscape change.
At about one o’clock I arrive exhausted at the water source. There is no shade here, Paulo has set up his tent for some shade, which is very nice.
After a long break, we continue and we see the 100-mile marker. We’ve already walked 100 miles, “only” 700 to go! The path is beautiful along the mountains between the cacti, but after an hour it really gets too much for me. I sit down in the middle of the trail to cry for a bit. Sometimes this is necessary. Fortunately, I meet Paulo quickly after this breakdown and he’s able to cheer me up again.
That night we sleep under the stars among the cacti and the next morning I feel like my happy self again. To avoid the heat we leave before sunrise. Right after our camping spot is a bear box filled with water and tasty snacks (trail angels are great!)
Here are the first saguaros!
I have a good pace, I hike 5 miles in under two hours. A personal record on this trail! I pass Interstate 10 (with the famous snake tunnel) and then one of the coolest parts of the trail begins. Suddenly I am walking between the enormous saguaros! I barely notice the heat and take hundreds of photos. This is so cool! And one of the reasons I chose to hike this trail.
Around noon I arrive at Colossal Cave, a tourist highlight in the region. Here I meet many other hikers, there are ice-cold margaritas and fried chicken. I actually don’t eat meat, but that’s kind of difficult in Arizona. It works on the trail, but in town, the choices are very slim.
At Colossal Cave, Paulo and I can’t decide on what to do next. It is only a seven-mile hike to the border of Saguaro National Park. Too much for today, but not enough for tomorrow. The only place where we can spend the night in the National Park is 20 miles away. Since that is all uphill and very steep, for me it is impossible to do in a day.
While I’m still thinking about it, Paulo surprises me. He has a taxi waiting for Tucson. We are going to spend the night in a hotel! Shower, clean clothes, and good food. Downtown Tucson has many cozy restaurants and cafes, so it’s a fun place for a break. After a nice evening and morning in Tucson, I am fully recharged for the hike to Saguaro National Park. Can’t wait to see more of these enormous cacti!
Read my next travel journal: Hiking in Saguaro National Park | Mile 117-202 | Arizona Trail #4
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