March 31st-We began the trip down to the Mexican border in a shuttle with another thru hiker from England named Walkie Talkie. Ken, our shuttle driver, picked us up in Tucson and drove us south to Montezuma Pass. The day before we dropped our van off in Page, AZ and drove South to Tucson seeing a glimpse of the beauty Arizona has to offer. I felt like I was in another world certainly not the United States surrounded by massive rock formations and the vibrant reds. It made me even more eager to see the state on foot. Ken dropped the three of us off at the pass around 9:30. There were a few border patrol trucks and a crew setting up a camera/ sensor system that will soon be used to track immigrants. The trail begins 1.9 mile South from the pass at the border of Mexico. We began a gradual downhill towards the border. The sky was cloudy and the mountains in the distance were hidden from sight. We cruised downward and ran into Zog who is also thru hiking. We dropped to 5,908 feet at the border. There is a monument on the other side of the barbed wire fence that marks the start of the trail. We took photos as the wind was gusting and raindrops began to fall. I slipped under the fence into Mexico for a short time for a few more photos before we began hiking North toward Utah. We have a 3,187 foot climb to start the trail. We stopped at the parking lot for a quick snack, to use the bathroom, and toss a bit of trash.
We then began climbing as the top of mountains were covered in a cloud as snow was falling up higher. We hiked a bit in Maine, but not in these elevations so I went back to my AT habits of going Slow and Steady (Sas- how I earned my trail name.) I took small steps, breathed deeply, and kept a steady pace climbing upward. The wind was wild and almost blew off my sunhat twice even though it was tight against my chin. What a gorgeous way to start the trail. I have to say it is the most beautiful start of the four national scenic trails I have hiked. We passed a few caged off caves along the way. We only took a couple short breaks as we got too chilly sitting down. Thankfully it was not a warm day. As we neared 9,000 feet, I found chunks of ice that had recently fallen. I made it to the 9,090 point before beginning a downhill climb.
The trail is rocky as I needed to take careful steps and hurdle a few downed trees. On this side of the mountain, there is still snow piles along the trail, but not on the trail. I caught up to Paperweight at Bathtub spring which is the first water source. Water flows out of a pipe into a bathtub. We snacked and filtered, but didn’t want to stay too long due to the wind and chilly weather. So we pushed on looking for a campsite a bit lower in elevation. We came to Bear Saddle at mile 9.5 and found a nice spot. We set up our new Nemo Blaze 2 for the first time outdoors. There was too much snow in Maine so we only tried it out in the living room. We cooked our first meal of the trail as the sun set and tried to comprehend how a week ago we were moving out of our apartment. It was a great day of hiking totaling 11.4 miles including the walk down to the border. It was chilly so we climbed in quickly enjoying all the extra space in this tent and two entryways. I was exhausted so I quickly fell asleep.
Happy April Fools Day! So we woke up to icy water and frost on our tent. It got down into the high 20s last night. I’m so glad we came prepared with warm gear since you can never predict the weather in the mountains. Something unusual happened this morning… I realized one of my gaiters and one of my socks were gone. Disappeared and no where to be found. Every night I leave them outside of the tent on my shoes to air out because the stench is pretty bad. I am assuming a little critter carried them away to build a nest or used them to keep warm last night. During the confusion I managed to forget to pack up two stakes and later on lose my pee rag. What a mess! You’d think this is my first thru hike not fourth. As the bumper sticker in my dad’s garage says “shit happens.”
We warmed up with a nice steady uphill that led to a beautiful spot with 360 views. We took a snack break here enjoying the warmth of the sun shinning down on us. Most of the hiking today was downhill with just small ups. We dipped into forests and just like yesterday we were surprised by how green the trail is. We passed two game cameras we assumed are used by border patrol. The downhills have been pretty steep and rocky as I took my time trying not to fall. We came to a large pool of water where we took an hour long break including a big lunch. Such a variety of trees, grasses, and cactus along with many songbirds including the mountain blue bird which I love. The trail became larger so we walked next to each other for miles. We could see Parker Lake along with many beautiful homes in the hills. It’s worth checking this area out. We hiked 13.7 miles and ended up at Parker Canyon which is mile 23.2 of the trail. We got there before 4 and set up our tent. As we were relaxing, a couple rode up on mountain bikes. We found out they hiked most of the CDT south last year, but we never crossed paths. Kristen and Steve and riding the AZT and we were excited to chat this evening. But the rain began and did not let up for most of the night, so we climbed into our tent very early to relax and stay dry. I climbed out around 7 to cook after the rain did not stop. Luckily, it isn’t grizzly bear country so I am allowed to eat in the tent. We were both pretty exhausted and fell asleep early again. April 2nd-
We woke up early again and packed up a damp tent. The tent did a great job for its first night in the rain. We chatted a bit with Kristen and Steve before beginning a climb. We have been crossing lots of fences lately. The climb was rocky and stunning as expected. We made it to the top for our first break where I grabbed the wrong bottle and drank maybe a cup of unfiltered water. No! I have made this mistake once before, but usually make sure everything is filtered. I have my fingers crossed that it does not affect me. They caught up to us as they had to push their bike up the hill. We then had a nice downhill for miles towards the water source where the four of us conversed some more. The trail continued on for miles and my body really began to ache. I convinced him to give me a quick back massage. The trail climbed upward towards a highpoint that took our breath away. We filled up water at a dam before looking for a safe spot to set up our tent. We wandered up the trail longer than expected before finding a spot at 16.3 miles for the day. We had neighbors as the cows were pretty close to us. My calves burn and my shoulders are pretty tight! After a nice Annie’s Mac and Cheese meal, we lounges in the tent and I convinced him to give me a calf massage. I’m one lucky girl! We drifted to sleep hoping no cows would step on us tonight.
We were so motivated this morning as we were both awake before 6 listening to the cows moo. We packed up and walked quickly towards town. We ran into our bicycle friends and chatted for a bit before moving on. The trail was rocky at parts and even had two jumps down from rocky ledges. My calves have been burning all morning. We took two short breaks along the way and I listened to a few podcasts to pass the miles. The views are so captivating. We began the steep rocky downhill to the road that would lead to Patagonia. We hit the road and ducked into the trees to finish up our water for the road walk in. It was partly dirt before turning into pavement. We hiked 11.7 miles total today.
Our plans were to save money and stay at the RV park, but we did not realize it was .8 out of town. So we caved and hiked all the way into town towards the only hotel, Stage Coach Inn. We checked in to the beautiful hotel and headed up towards our room to be surprised. We entered a courtyard looking down on a pool and large mature trees. By 12:55, we were in our large room. With the hiker discount, it was $100 which is much more then we like to spend but certainly one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed at on trail. I jumped straight into the shower which was wonderful before crawling on to the bed elevating my aching feet. Around 2, we went downstairs to the Wild Horse restaurant for a warm meal. We followed that up by checking out the two resupply options. The health store was super pricy and so was the Patagonia Market where we resupplied. I picked up some things for this next section deciding to go cook less since I couldn’t justify the price of the rice sides. I like this cute little desert town as it is very artsy with lots of unique features. We returned to the room to relax and do laundry. They allow hikers to do laundry for free which was great. We had a dinner date with Kristen and Steve at Velvet Elvis which is an Italian restaurant. We shared stories of the trails and other experiences. It was a wonderful time before heading back to the hotel. We watched the typical trail shows on the Comedy Central before I passed out at 9:30. I was exhausted and surely snored all night long.