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Colter - Arizona Trail Journal - 2020

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Colter
City: Fairbanks
State: Alaska
Begins: Feb 25, 2020
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sat, Mar 21st, 2020
End: North of Sunflower
Entry Lat: 33.898857
Entry Lng: -111.495453

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 240
Journal Visits: 1,729
Guestbook Views: 195
Guestbook Entrys: 8

Arizona Trail Map

(Click image for full size)


 

End of the trail


Click the Arizona Trail Map link to see the route of the trail and the location of my journal posts.

It was a long steep climb out of Roosevelt Lake, back to the saguaros, with the views of the lake getting better and better.

Near sunset I was out of water for the second time this day. A drainage where I expected to find water had tiny trickle sinking into the sand. I decided to walk down the road a quarter mile to a rainwater catcher built for quail and other wildlife. It was full to the top with thousands of gallons. I filtered two quarts and drank my fill. I hiked back to the ridge and cowboy camped (no tent) on a nice flat spot where I watched a vivid orange sunset.

During the night a mouse was romping around me. When he ran over my shoulder I finally gave up and moved a hundred yards away to a more peaceful spot.

I packed by the light of my headlamp and started the 5,000 foot climb to the ridge top. In places I enjoyed seeing the trail angling up the mountainside far ahead. There were patches of ponderosas but it was mostly manzanita and scrub oak. I listened to the more and more dire accounts of Covid19 and thought about how this might affect the world in general and my hike in particular.

The trail crossed many clear brooks, a result of the recent rains. In the evening, just before the trailhead on the ridge top, I found one of my favorite campsites of the hike, atop pine straw among the ponderosas, next to a big boulder. Protected from the wind and with good drainage, I set up my shelter and knew I’d be good no matter how hard it rained.

On Wednesday, March 18 I was walking well before sunrise. I listened to the news. Things seemed to be getting worse fast. After a mile or two I saw some hikers packing up ahead of me. They joined me as I walked past. It was three thru-hikers, Aloha, Godzilla and Snack Rack. Three strong young ladies, they’d climbed the full 6,000 feet from the lake yesterday.

I hiked with some combination of them for much of the day. We told trail stories, talked about where we were from, the source of our trail names, the usual trail banter. We all ate an enjoyable lunch in a grassy meadow next to a rushing brook.

Soon after lunch it started raining. And raining, and raining. Water was running everywhere, and I must have walked well over a mile just before dark looking for a good campsite that wouldn’t get flooded.

After a 25 mile day I finally found a spot but there was no letup from the rain. Rain hammered down on my floorless shelter as I set it up. I crawled in and tried to carefully unpack my sleeping bag and sleeping clothes. The ground was saturated. With my floorless shelter that meant I had to stay on top of my closed cell pad. I could hear water rushing in nearby dry washes. Every time I flipped over during the night I would instinctively wake up so I wouldn’t roll over onto the soaked ground. Inevitably things started getting wet around the edges, but with everything arranged well I was warm. But just barely.

Every time I woke up I thought about the virus and what I should do. With the wet and restless sleep It was one of the longest nights I’ve slept outside.

I’d heard some scoundrels from the public had stolen water from hiker caches. Hitching into town for supplies was going to become nearly impossible. Places were closing outright and limited supplies in some locations were becoming even more scarce. Large areas of the country were in lockdown. A couple days ago someone had scoffed when I said I was concerned that the border with Canada would close and I couldn’t drive home. That had already come to pass. Maybe soon I couldn’t fly home either and I’d been away from home for seven months already. The long-trail associations were recommending people go home. With things becoming exponentially worse, that’s what I’d do, too.

It was strange squishing down the trail, backtracking to the last road crossing. I got a text from my smokejumper buddy Jim Raudenbush. I told him I’d decided to head home. On his own initiative he texted our pal Gary Baumgartner in Flagstaff, and in a few minutes Gary texted me saying he was on the way. Good friends.

Gary gave me a ride to Flagstaff, then all the way to Kanab and my pickup, where trail angels Lynn and Richard had stored my pickup. They sent me off with good wishes and baked goods.

It was a beautiful drive to Boise, sunlit curtains of snow falling on the mountains, the road still clear. I spent a starry night camped north of Ely Nevada.

Today it was a mad repacking for the flight home. I barely made it to Boise in time. I parked my pickup at the Raudenbush’s. Yet another old smokejumper buddy, Boats, and his wife and my friend Lisa drove me to the airport.

I’ll be at my warm cabin late this evening, my stove started by yet another jumper friend JL, who visited me just a few days ago in Oracle. I intend to apply my hermit expertise for a while.

It was an enjoyable and adventurous 400 miles on the wonderful Arizona Trail. I hope to finish it one day.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe. The world is full of good people and I’m thankful.

Entry 7 of 7
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