Saturday, May 8, 2010

How to get your ass kicked on the AZT - Pine to Flagstaff

After a day in Phoenix with resupply and exchanging broken Platypus bottles and abused shoes Li brought me back to the trail. The next stretch would be easy, said Li. Just a short climb up the Mogollon Rim and then flat hiking for 5 days. Piece of cake really....

But again: What could go wrong did go wrong. It started on day 1. I was happily hiking up the Mogollon Rim looking at my GPS every once in a while. It worked fine one moment - but when I tried to switch it on 5 minutes later, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing! It was dead. Surely that would be the batteries.... Still I was not happy: 4 more days of hiking with no GPS on the AZT is not an ideal situation. Doable, but not ideal.

I hiked on less happily, but still in relatively good spirits. This is when it started snowing - on MAY 2nd in Arizona. Not just snowing, it was rather dumping. I could hardly see a thing. And it was damned cold on MAY 2nd.... I pitched my tent and hoped for the best. Well, it stopped snowing, but it froze. I was bitterly cold at 22 degrees Fahrenheit and started to really get pissed with the trail, the weather and everything.

I woke up at 5 am and had breakfast. It surely could not get worse now - but it did. I bit on my granola - and something did not feel like granola. It was a gold inlay that had come off my tooth that very moment...I was about to cry. Here I was with no GPS, freezing my ass off and on top of that having a dental problem. Great! Did I mention that the batteries on my watch were dying as well? (I have to mention for the non-hikers that you need a watch for navigation - you time your progress to find out how far you hike.) The only thing that still worked was my cell phone.

I met some Forest Service employees later that day who gave me extra batteries for my GPS! I was very happy - but just for a moment, because even with new batteries the GPS would not work. It was dead.... Later that day Colin, a British AZT hiker and aerospace engineer showed up. He disassembled the whole thing, but it still would not work. His verdict: Ditch it!!!! Hey, just ditch a 300 EUR GPS! But he was right. Warranty period was over and it would be more expensive to repair it than to buy a new one.

Colin and Kimberlie
I  hiked on getting lost only once without my GPS, chewing only on the left side of my mouth and with no sense of time due to lack of watch, but somehow I made it into Flagstaff. I got an appointment at a dentist immediately, paid 250 $ and got my tooth fixed. Then I bought a new battery for my watch. Half of my problems where solved now, but what about the GPS? Flagstaff outdoor shops did not really have a great selection of GPS and especially not the ones I wanted. But I did not want to hike on without one either, because of - (hey, you might have guessed it), the next stretch was still snow covered. In fact people are still skiing now here!

Then another miracle happened. I met Colin and his hiking partner Kimberlie in an outdoor shop. Kimberley was getting off trail for the next stretch and I just asked her about her GPS - and she lent it to me! So I will leave tomorrow with a working watch, good teeth and a GPS, hurray! Life is good!

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