Tuesday, 13 April 2010

AZT: Negative surprise or Saguaro NP

In Saguaro NP there is a bit of trail that is not finished yet. John - the Gentleman hiker - claimed that is has been flagged, but I decided to avoid it anyways. My maps showed a dirt road around it: X9 Ranch Road. After the Florida Trail I love road walks and therefore I decided to hike that ;-)
I made it 1 mile along X9 Ranch Road when I came to a gate house. Law-abiding model hiker that I am (or being made after my FT experiences with prescribed burns and military bases) I stopped and tried to find the gate keeper. Bad idea! The gate keeper turned out to be a not too smart, minimum wage guy afraid to loose his job - and that means that he would not let me through. Private road, private property, no one to ask for permission and no clue about alternatives. Great! This is when I should have left and sneaked around the gate house to continue hiking on that road.

Instead I decided to hike back and try the flagged unfinished AZT trail. Bad idea! The AZT trail petered out, the flagging led to nowhere and I ended up bushwhacking in cactus land for 2 hours in midday heat without finding any trail, flagging or whatsoever. Luckily I had a GPS, so I did not get lost, but I was definitely running out of ideas - and time!!! I made a last bushbash back to the private property, climbed a lot of fences and finally cut through to the famous X9 Ranch road, 1,5 miles past the infamous gate house with the gate keeper. I realise that the guy had just been doing his job, but at that point I was cursing him. What should have been an easy hiking day turned into a bushwhack from hell. Even on the famous X9 Ranch Road I felt horribly and was wondering when I would be caught trespassing by a rancher with a shotgun.

I did not get caught and in fact I did not see any cars on the road, but I was very relieved to make it inside the National Park - 4 hours later than expected.... And then I still had to do a 3,000 ft eleveation gain.... I arrived at the designated camp site just minutes before sunset. Very exhausted and with a lot of foot pain.

Next day should get me over Mica Mountain - another 3,000 ft elevation gain and an unknown amount of snow. I set out early in the morning and hit the snow pretty snow. First things were not too bad. The snow was only knee deep, but soft. It took me a long time, but it was not dangerous. Things got worse when I made it over the top of the mountain and had to descend on the North side (read North = no sun = more snow). And after a forest fire the North Slope was totally exposed. I had to traverse an incredible steep slope in knee deep snow. I don't think I have been in any real danger, but I thought it was better not to look down...After 15 minutes (that seemed to last much longer) the traverse was over and I was out of the snow. And no more negative surprises..... Dale and Gloria picked me up and took me to Tucson (and a shower, laundry, food and a bed).

But talking about bad surprises: All of a sudden I am having foot problems again. Apparently it is so dry here that my feet are chafing. I have raw spots on the soles of my feet and some days I was in so much pain I was limping. In order to remove the problem I took out my insoles to avoid rubbing. It resolved the problem at the soles of my feet, but now I have raw spots on my heel. I hope that my rest day here in Tucson will be enough that everything heals.

Also my clothes are taking a turn to the worse. It is so hot here (in comparison with Florida) and I am sweating so badly that my shirt has a white crust of dried sweat on it every night. My shorts stand up on their own - so dirty are they. My socks are smelling of a mixture of sweat and chemicals (my shoes are new....) - the stink is so bad that I cannot stand having them in my tent at night.

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