|Hiking AZT#22 with Courtney, AZ|
|Hiking AZT#22 with Courtney, AZ|| |
Hiking AZT#22 with Courtney, AZ
|Hiking||14.60 Miles|| 6 Hrs 51 Mns ||2.30 mph|
|2,247 ft AEG|| 30 Mns Break||20 LBS Pack|
|How often does one get to hike with folks from Australia, England and Tucson in one day?
While it may be a rhetorical question for some, today was that day for me.
I picked up Courtney at 6 am and we headed up AZ 87 to Sunflower where we began the hike on AZT #22. Although at one time or another I had hiked AZT #22 from FR393 north to Mount Peeley TH, I had never hiked the first 4+ miles so I planned to hike that far before breaking off to bag a peak I had put off for far too long. (It was to be put off again)
But it was such a joy to hear of Courtney's adventures like biking across Asia, through Iran, across Europe, hiking in Scotland (until calling it quits in the seemingly never ending rain) then coming to Arizona for some warmer weather. (I believe the jury may still out on that)
The weather was distinctly cool when we set out with the temp at 16° (C) and it looked like we'd be in for some rain but within the first few miles the skies cleared somewhat and by time we'd traveled 5 miles most of the sky was blue.
Since Courtney hadn't hiked for over three weeks she didn't want to begin with too fast a pace so we took our time and had a few leisurely breaks when we had a chance to share ideas on what we liked to take along while hiking. The biggest takeaway I got was "don't buy Guerrero corn tortillas!" as they weren't very tasty and crumbled very easily, falling on the ground.
On one of the creek crossings (which had a small but steady water flow)) I spotted a tarantula almost in the water and pointed it out to Courtney. It was a first-time sighting for her so she took a few photos. With the shadows on the tarantula I didn't expect her first photo to show it well so told her I would move it to a better spot. I was about to pick it up when it moved toward Courtney, who wasn't about to stand in place.
By then it was obvious the tarantula wanted nothing to do with us and it dodged out-of-sight. I told her it was harmless so if she saw one again not to worry.
As we were closing in on the border of the Mazatzal Wilderness the skies began to darken again and I began think of how far I should continue before turning back. And at that very moment I caught sight of a couple hiking southbound toward us. As we came within greeting distance all it took were two words out of the gentleman's mouth and I responded, "Ah, a Brit!" as he had a very distinct British accent. He responded, "No, two Brit's" meaning his wife as well. And so here we had Courtney from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (the skin cancer capital of the world) and the couple from just outside of London.
We spent time time listening to each others' stories about where everyone was from, where did they start on the AZT, what future plans may entail, etc. While the conversation could have gone on possibly for hours, it was time to move on.
Courtney and I said our good-byes, expressed hopes to keep in touch then I turned around to accompany the couple heading for Sunflower. The couple, Laura and Graham, were doing a fully-supported SOBO through-hike, and would be meeting their driver at Sunflower. When I asked if they knew exactly where they would meet him (since there isn't really much of a TH on the trail and the closest parking was at Bushnell Tanks gate.) and they replied, "He will find us, he always does." And sure enough, he would be standing in the steady downpour with an umbrella rain about a mile from AZ 87.
Speaking of the rain... while it wasn't raining when Courtney & I were northbound, it had overnight so for the early part of the hike there were times when we had as much as an inch or more of mud on our shoes/boots and we had to stop several times to scrape them off. In comparison, traveling southbound we had heavy rain for the last three miles we had more mud, but with so much water it didn't stick very well to our foot gear, However, it sure kicked the mud up on the back of my pant legs. (I would have to spray them off with a hose to get enough mud off before throwing them in the wash))
But back to Laura and Graham's support driver...
(I simply cannot remember his name, when we met in the solid rain I tried to jot everyone's names on my phone but whether due to so much water on the face or what, I could not get back to the home screen to open the Memo app.)
Anyway, he was from Tucson and had been put in touch with Laura and Graham by Matt Nelson from ATA and was driving them to every trailhead he could drive to (Toyota FJ pulling a small trailer with a small pop-up tent) then pick them up at the end of each section. Which meant they did not hike some sections like the over-grown Mazzies area. If they were close to a town, they would be driven there to stay overnight. If they were not, they would find a pace to camp, Laura & Graham would sleep in the tent on top of the trailer while their driver slept on the ground in his tent.
So, I guess that's roughing it without too much rough involved.
Although I was soaked through to the bone (even my camera case was dripping) by time I got back to the Jeep, I had an immensely enjoyable day, and I would do it again in a heart-beat. As I said at the top... it's a rare day one has the chance to meet folks from opposite sides of the world on the same hike.
The one huge regret of the day... although I took a number of photos of Courtney with her phone and her camera, I took only ONE photo with mine, a candid shot of Courtney. I've already received no end of grief from Tracey for not taking pictures of all the folks I met. However, with all the camaraderie I have enough snapshots-of-the-mind I will never forget Courtney, Laura and Graham.
Unfortunately I have no mind-snapshot of the support driver... as well covered as he was in rain gear, I may be hard pressed to recognize him if I met him again. (Shawn, if you ask Matt I'm sure he would know who I'm referring to.)