Through hiked 14&15 during a perfect wildflower season with AWESOME company... Probably one of the most fun group-backpacks I've ever had. We all had similar hiking styles and speeds for the most part, and the miles fell away like butter. Well, maybe not all of them
Day 1: 14.25 miles on Passage 14. We started with Scott, Roger, India, myself and a tag-along for part of the day named Mark (I think that was his name...you know how I am with names!). He left us at Tucson Wash. We had great hiking conditions, and we knew we had to make some miles even after setting up shuttles in the morning. Luckily, there's nothing in those first 14 miles that is going to hurt too much. There was even evidence of some recent and good quality trail maintenance in the first miles. We averaged about 2.5mph and made camp in the waning light after filling up a few miles earlier at a very full and pretty Mountain View Tank.
Day 2: 14+ miles to Freeman Road. We spent some time exploring around camp, including checking out a massive (and relatively fresh) fallen saguaro, but waited on breakfast to try to get an earlier start. After we crossed the massive sandy expanse of Camp Grant wash and headed up Bloodsucker we found Cow Head tank, which was very nice and full as well - though some of us decided to wait until Beehive and regretted it. Breakfast in the shade of a big mesquite at Cowhead was delightful. Beehive was full but quite green and slow to filter, even in our gravity system. We saw some GET hikers off in the distance, but they left before saying hello (freaking through hikers...as if
). Began the very long, if admittedly kind climb out of Camp Grant drainage to the shoulder of Antelope Peak. We ran into another GET through hiker and Jan and Joan, who were doing a hike of the AZT SoBo from Superior.
On the slopes of Antelope, we started to get sprinkled on by the high, whispy clouds. It was completely unexpected, and felt more like hiking in a virga than getting wet. Scott was finished at Freeman - he'd already conquered 15 - and we picked up Joe. They both had great snacks for us in the car, and we filled up on water an eats and made our camp by a particularly spectacular sunset.
Day 3: After 2 big days (for us at least), we decided to go for a short one on day 3, a decision made easier by the weight of 8 liters of water in our packs. About an hour into the day, I stopped to adjust my pack and found a hole in one of my water bladders... a frustrating discovery. (It was made even more frustrating by the fact that I ended up not really needing that much water since it was fairly cool all day.) We lunched at the boulders, where we rested tired feet and enjoyed the meager shade provided. It wasn't hot - but it was bright 'brella weather, and escaping the sun was starting to become something of a dance.
At about 9.5 miles from Freeman, we made camp in a sandy wash bottom. Temps dropped low enough in the wash to freeze the condensate on our sleeping bags (those of us who slept out anyhow). Note to self: you know better than to sleep in a wash bottom when it's cool out. Another note to self: the old, old 20 degree bag is probably close to needing retirement now.
Day 4: It would have been a 10 mile day, but a little lost trail detour while ticking off miles under the power lines added a mile and a half. We also checked out a water source (dirt tank) just off the trail that wasn't on any of our literature - and added a little more there. It looked like a good tank - nice sized and cleaner than some of the cement ones we'd seen so far.
We're starting to see more wildflowers - in particular lots of beautiful blooming yuccas. We loved the descent into Ripsey in the afternoon light - with fun canyons and big saguaros. We passed up the metal tank at 17.2, thinking there'd be good water ahead. Then we missed the turn off for the larger tank at 17.6, leaving us dependent upon the tank in Ripsey wash. There was water there, but it was shallow and smelled like cow. We pre-filtered, then used my gravity filter, then ran it through the charcoal filter. Guess what. It still smelled like...you guessed it...the back end of a cow.
Even gatorade couldn't touch that.
We made a nice camp on a shelf just above the wash bottom (we learn fast) before the trail turned up to climb "The Big Hill".
Day 5: Started the morning with a climb up the Big Hill and loved ourselves all over for waiting. The climb was cool, much of it in the shade - the flowers were welcoming and lovely and we had a grand time both up AND down the hill. Can't recommend this strategy enough - especially considering how long the ridgeline is on the other side of the hill and how windy camping up there would have been.
It was a great day - we had fun rescuing helium balloons (which still held enough gas to have fun on) and taking tons of flower pictures. We traded out skanky cow water for fresh bottled water at the cache at the Florence-Kelvin Highway (just enough to get us to the end) and trucked through the desert to the bridge. We'd parked at the parking lot beyond the bridge so we could really get the whole passage done, but my feet wished I'd parked at the highway.
We were in time for pizza at Old Town (and salad, and fried pickles, and fried cheese curds). Then we drove everyone back to their cars and were home in time for dinner. Good days on the trail. I needed to get out and clear my head, and I returned feeling like myself for the first time in months. Hiking really IS better and cheaper than therapy.Wildflowers
Good shows on the northern end of 15 - light shows in the lower elevations. Above 3000' was still pretty bleak, though.