Tuesday, April 6, 2010

AZT: The start

Border monument
All my logistics worked out fine in the end. Garlic drove me to Phoenix airport where I had to say good bye to him and his cute dog Daisy. (If I ever have a real dog myself, it will be one like Daisy...). I took a shuttle bus to Tucson (yes, there is some sort of public transportation here in AZ) where I was picked up by John, an AZT member.  John gave me a lot of info on the AZT and brought me all the way to the border.

The closer we got, the more worried I got. I could see that the mountains were really still covered in snow. And John told me that just recently a rancher in this area had been killed by illegal immigrants.  All great news for the start of a new trail at the Mexican border....

We had a great lunch at a Chinese AYCE in Sierra Vista, but at that point it felt more like my last meal before execution... Things got even worse when we stopped at the local visitor centre and the ranger told me that I was not even allowed to camp at the picnic area at Montezuma Pass. Only law enforcement was allowed inside the park after dark. He told me to hike on another 2 miles (and 600 ft elevation gain) to the first 'legal' camp site outside the park. And seeing tons of border patrol on our way to Montezuma pass did not improve my mood either.

John dropped me off at 3 pm and then I was on my own... I hiked the 2 miles to the border and back. Then I had only 1 hour of daylight left and did not want to hike another 2 miles at all. I spotted a border patrol guy at Montezuma pass picnic area and decided to play stupid female German Tourist. It worked! Although the officer mentioned that the the park would be closed he did not have any problem with me staying there over night! In fact, he told me that there would be border patrol there 24/7 and I would be very safe. Happily I pitched my tent there - but did not get much sleep that night. Border patrol kept coming and going and I was very worried about the snow situation.

I got up early next morning and ran into another border patrol guy who gave me the thumps up for my hike. He had done it 2 days ago (for work!) and said the snow would not be much of an issue. And he was right!!! I had a lot of problems with the elevation (no wonder after 3 months at sea level) and it took me forever to get up that mountain, but the snow was not bad. The illegals had beaten a path through it, the snow was very compact and I rarely sunk in. I only made 12 miles that day, but I slept wonderfully that night - and no illegals whatsoever....

Snow melt stream
I have been hiking 3 days now and I am still adjusting - that means I am hiking less than 20 miles per day. The heat and the elevation gain are getting to me. Plus I hurt the bottom of my foot while swimming in an ice cold cattle tank and now every steps hurts. I also seem to have a zipper issue: Both the zippers on my tent and sleeping bag broke and I am trying to find out how to repair that. (Luckily I have some experience in that field from John's tent...)

But I love the AZT: Wonderful scenery, great trail and due to all that snow there is water everywhere (well, everywhere here means according to AZ standards...)

I am in Patagonia right now and already had breakfast. Now I will go for lunch. And I have already done my resupply and a real crappy expensive small town store. Lots of Top Ramen noodle soup for the next days...

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