My only requirement today was to drop Tracey and her high-school friend Sandy off at Picketpost TH for their 3-day 2-night backpack down to Kelvin. And since I was already there with them, I figured I'd start with them then veer off for the climb up Picketpost.
Well and good, everything was going according to plan until about halfway up when I encountered a VERY fresh bit of rockfall. Ok, so I'll be careful... but barely one step onto the loose rock and everything began to slide. Luckily I was able to jump back, with only to bruise my thigh as a result.
However, while the physical
result wasn't anything to worry about... well let's just say I was rattled enough that mentally
there was no way I was going to make another attempt to continue today.
So, I made the best of it... scanning the area for places of interest while being less scary. As a result just below the bare-rock hand-hold climbing
area I veered off to the north and descended the grassy slope. I found a number of old cairns along the way, which appeared to be an alternate route up to the same bare-rock area.
As I continued traversing back-and-forth across ridges and drainages I kept scanning for more opportunities. And that's when I noticed the 'old' Arizona Trail route which actually follows Alamo Canyon. (The current AZT#17 no longer does so maybe the passage name could use a tweak?)
So, once I was back on the current AZT#17 I looked for a spot to descend to connect with the old AZT#17, which followed North Alamo Canyon Road for some distance. I had only been on the current AZT when I hear a loud squawk above me and here come two mountain bikers down the slope, packed to the gills with bike-packing gear. The noise was from the front brake of bike of the gal leading the way. (I'm glad I have disc brakes on my bike) At least it provided me enough warning to get off the trail as there is no way she could have stopped in time.
Ok, drama averted, now it was time to hit the old AZT#17 in earnest. While it appears to be shorter than the current route, with nothing but ups and downs it made for way more elevation gain. But, since I'd never been here before, I continued.
Partway up the second steep slope I spotted an old mine off to the side. Scanning the area I found evidence of a trail leading over to it, but figured if anything, I'd catch it on the return trip. (I didn't... but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself)
Continuing on, next up was Picket Mill, where there is a solar powered water pump for the stock tank. Not much farther and I passed a windmill at an unnamed stock tank. There were numerous cows at both tanks, and no matter how quiet or how far I tried to skirt around them they would take off running like their lives depended on it. It was just crazy... a number of times I would already be past them and they would take off running to get back ahead of me. Eventually the game came to an end and I got by.
As I was closing in on the 'top' end of the hike up Alamo Canyon I began to realize with the heat and the extra exertion I would not have enough fluids if I kept going. (After all, I had only planned on climbing Picketpost... something over 4 miles, not what turned out to be over 14 miles) But when I looked at the GPS I saw I was within .8 mile from Forest Road 4, so I continued. Of course with all the winding and switchbacks that turned out to be 1.3 miles, which turned out to mean my CamelBak would be empty almost two hours before the end of the hike. Oh well, at least most
of it was downhill... although there would still be more ups & downs to come.
By time I came back to Picket Mill I thought of at least filling up my extra 20 ounce bottle and pouring it all over myself to cool off, but with all the cows lying peacefully around the tank I didn't have a heart to rattle the cattle
again, so I continued on by in almost cruise-control. My brain just told my feet to keep moving while my mind was elsewhere. Which meant it was a good thing the very aggressive rattlesnake sounded off while I was still 30 feet away or I may have walked right on it. So I took a quick photo then began filming while it decided it would rather move away from me than attack.
By now I'm feeling the lack of fluids so I'm seeking every possible shortcut, but having to keep balancing cutting distance with elevation gains. Anytime I could save .1 mile by climbing 50 feet, I climbed. Eventually I realized I was just on the other side of the ridge from the current AZT#17 and climbed 100 feet to catch the trail.
Nice! I'm back on the current AZT! So what? There's still plenty of ups & downs to go. So I cheated a bit again and dropped down and followed the much-straighter cow-paths back to the TH. I ended up passing five hikers by taking this last shortcut.
Ahhhh! Back to the TH... for what? By taking Tracey's Honda Fit (which doesn't have a 12v cooler like the Jeep) I had no cool fluids when I got back. In fact the only thing left was a few ounces of by-now hot
water. Ok, I can make it to Gold Canyon, where I'll stop at the Subway for a foot-long sub and a 21 ounce drink. That didn't do much good, I still weighed a full 8 pounds less than when I left this morning. That's more than a gallon of fluid!
After drinking as much as I can take now some 4 hours later I'm back to within 2 pounds... and still thirsty. but I survived and I enjoyed seeing what the old
AZT#17 was like. And I've got a few mines to check out, so I'll be back.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake