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Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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mini location map2020-01-18
17 by photographer avatarSunDevil3
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Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15Globe, AZ
Globe, AZ
Backpack avatar Jan 18 2020
SunDevil3
Backpack26.30 Miles 2,448 AEG
Backpack26.30 Miles1 Day   3 Hrs      
2,448 ft AEG   13 Hrs    Break34 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
After being inspired by a couple of older guys on the South Kaibab trail last October, I decided to start section hiking the AZT. Joining the Arizona Trail Association gave me lots of good info on the task ahead and sufficiently whet my appetite to get started so, with the long weekend ahead, I decided to start out fairly close to home with Passage #15 in the Tortilla Mountains.

I was able to rouse my wife and kids from their beds early enough for us to drop my Jeep at the Florence-Kelvin TH and then have them drive me (through some rather unusual and low-lying fog) to the south end of the passage at the Freeman Road TH for a 9:30 AM start. The trail starts out fairly flat with only some random boulders, even more random cattle, and the occasional high-tension tower to break up the scrub.

Other than a half-dozen mountain bikers who whipped past me in the first few hours (also going NOBO) the only other people I saw the first day were a pair of backpackers headed SOBO not long after I entered the Ripsey segment of the trail. I shared with them that there was allegedly a wildlife tank nearby and one of them and I set off to find it to refill our bottles.

I ended up making it just over 17 miles of the trail that first day but stopped short of hitting Ripsey Wash as my feet were hurting and my left hip flexor was dogging me a bit so I stopped to camp around 6:15PM. After setting up the tent, eating some freeze-dried chicken-fried rice, and hanging my ratsack in the sole palo verde at hand, I retired for the evening and was asleep by 7:30PM.

I started breaking camp around 6:15AM on 1/19 and, after a quick cup of coffee, hit the trail in the dark at 6:40AM. My feet were pretty badly blistered but the hip flexor became the real problem as the day wore on. It quickly became on of those odd occasions (for me) where I relished the uphill segments and pushed through them with ease. Taking any step downward greater than an inch or two became increasingly painful on my left hip so I began side-stepping (leading with my left) down most of the declines. I shocked myself with how quickly and easily I conquered the "Big Hill" as the incessant wind gusts pulled me to and fro but knew that the downhill stretch ahead only got worse with each step up.

The wind was brutal for at least three consecutive hours up and down the ridgeline and, by the 3rd or 4th ridge climb/descent after the Big Hill, I was cursing my decision to do 17 miles on day one. By the time I made most of my descent from the ridges proper, I was cursing whoever at the ATA had decided to make the trail criss-cross the wash a dozen times rather than just follow it.

I had planned to drop my gear in my Jeep and finish off the last couple miles to the Kelvin Bridge (and end of Passage 15) with just some water but, as time went on, my pace slowed to almost nil with any step down. For the last 3.5 miles to the Florence-Kelvin TH, my resolve to get the the bridge steadily fell off from "I am going to do it" to "Maybe I will do it" to "I am not taking one more step than I need to in order to get me in that Jeep."

I finally made it to the trailhead and Jeep around 1:00PM and was thankful to drop my unnecessarily heavy pack in the passenger seat. I had done over 17 miles in about 8.5 hours on day one. Day two had taken me almost 6.5 hours to do 9 miles and I was simply too beat to make the trek out to the bridge and back. I will have to make another trip out there to knock out those last two miles and officially check off Passage 15 but it was a fun trip and a enlightening introduction into my new goal of hiking the whole AZT.
Fauna
Fauna
Cow
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"Being unselfish is a natural high, like hiking or paint thinner."
- Homer J Simpson
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