We camped by the road last night which was good and bad. It was good because the access was easy, we had pizza delivered, and it was relatively flat. It was bad because there were cars and trucks driving by at 3:30AM on the way to work. And the train. If the train itself wasn’t load enough, it would also blow its horn right before the crossing, so if we managed to sleep through the normal train noise it would for sure wake us up when it blew its load honker.
The morning pack up went normal and it wasn’t long before we were heading down a dirt road for the next trailhead. We passed the pink portapotty that Jamey visited the night before and started on what we thought would be an easy 15ish miles to the last river access before a large climb. It had to be easy, since it followed a river downhill. But boy where we wrong. The trail meandered up and down the hillside and it was a constant get on get off scenario. Plus there is no such thing as easy in the hot Arizona sun.
Peeking back behind me I spotted a biker in the distance with some panniers on his side. He caught up with us and it turned out that he was riding a solid steel frame modified to carry a bunch of fuel. Rob was his name and he was an awesome fellow that worked on the trail. He was heading a few miles up further to his tractor to refuel and do some more trail work.
We chatted with Rob for a bit and his colleague caught up with us on foot after a short bit. They told us some amazing stories on getting the large steel gates up the trail. It turned out that they fabricate them off site and haul them to the trail. Sometimes they are delivered with some assistance, like the nearby train tracks, and other times they are just carried in by hand. The gates are amazing pieces of work — awesome steel structures with really cool plasma cut out AZ trail logos. The thing I didn’t realize is that the gates have a lot going on underneath the ground. They are fabricated as one piece with a large under portion to maintain the gate shape and not have it sag over time. They are also concreted in, and the last I checked concrete was fairly heavy and it had to be tough to get there. Still, I wish I had asked how the tractor just appeared on the trail. I didn’t see any tracks from the train area so it was possible dropped in by helicopter. The trail up to that point was in awesome shape, albeit a little loose due to lack of rain to pack down the freshly done work. I commend Rob and all the trail workers who made and maintain the Arizona Trail. Without them I wouldn’t be enjoying it.
We continued to roll along this “easy” part of the trail. Eventually we knew we were going to have to leave the river and head up a huge climb, but the “easy” trail was taking us an extra long time. We finally hit the last river water access and find a cool little mini beach to relax at. We pump our water blatters full (4 liters), and eat some food while making a plan on what to do next. It was like 3pm or so and the next 10 miles or so we’re straight up. There was no way we could hike up before dark, and it looked like there weren’t many camping options.
Well, except one. I spotted a wash on the AZ Trail app that looked good and was only 2 miles away. Rebekka had the great idea to eat an early dinner and let the temperature drop before doing the hike. So we fired up our stoves and cooked some food before heading off in the slightly cooler temperature
The hike up was amazing, albeit tiring. The sun was setting behind a large mountain that had some of the most amazing rock structures. After about 1.5 miles I commented to Jamey about how one little spot would be awesome for camping. He took it to heart and scoped it out; it was just a small enough plot for one tent. Jamey opted to do it, while Rebekka and I hiked another half mile to the wash. I preferred the wash over rocky and spiky terrain as I have an inflatable camping pad. I wish I would have brought a rubber mat like Jamey, as it would be more durable and less likely to get holes due to rough terrain. The wash turned out to be pretty soft and cushy, but the views were not as good. The bugs were also a bit annoying, but luckily they didn’t seem to bite.