AZT Day 22- 27 (mile 305.7-380)

*I’d like to make a quick note that I’m actively writing these blogs on trail. That means I’m usually typing them out in my tent each night and posting when I have signal. I proof read the best I can, but am sure there are still plenty of errors! Hopefully you can make sense of my ramblings. Enjoy!*

Day 22: 0 miles (sleeping in a bed at Al’s house in Superior, AZ, mile 305.7)

What a lovely zero! We slept in until around 10am and Pimento and I decided to walk over to the Circle K gas station down the road to get some coffee and donuts. We returned to Al’s house and piddled around until Al offered to take us into town to begin our town chores. We had a lot to do in town so we were glad to get started.

Al dropped us off at the Save Money Market in Superior and we began to shop. We concocted a resupply plan to get us 160ish miles north to Pine, AZ. Our plan is to leave Superior with 3 days of food and make it to Roosevelt Lake at mile 350. We decided to ship a resupply box up the trail to Roosevelt Lake since there aren’t many resupply options there, and our box has 6 days of food to get us from Roosevelt Lake to Pine at mile 462. Needless to say our grocery shopping was expensive and hectic since we were buying food for basically 9 days.

Once our shopping was complete we walked to the post office to sort and mail our resupply box to  Roosevelt Lake. When we checked that off our to do list, we decided to treat ourselves to a wine tasting at Bruzzi Vineyards. We found out the lady leading our tasting was actually the mayor of Superior and she was so interested in the AZT! We talked for a long time about trail towns, our hike so far, and about what makes Superior special.

After we finished at Bruzzi Vineyards we set out to find lunch. We heard about the yummy and affordable food at Los Hermanos in town and headed that way. We each got plates full of Mexican food and washed it down with a margarita from the bar next door.

With bellies full we started our walk back to Al’s. When we arrived Al selflessly started cooking dinner for us. He told us that he loves to cook and sharing a meal with the hikers he hosts brings him so much joy. Al is a wonderful cook and even better company. The four of us sat outside on Al’s patio and ate pork chops, baked beans, and potato salad.

After dinner Al built a fire and we all sat around talking more. We discussed everything from the trail, aliens, ice fishing, and so much more. I am so thankful for Al’s generosity and for the fact that he treated us like family. Pimento, Truffles, and I began discussions for our plans to hike out of Superior, but we will certainly be taking a little piece of this town away with us in our hearts.

Day 23: 12 miles (Reavis Canyon, mile 317.7)

Today was a fine day. We tried to sleep in as much as possible to soak up the luxury of a bed, but the rooster next door had other ideas. Pimento and I were the first ones awake, and we walked over to the Circle K down the street for coffee. When we got back Al came by the say good morning and let us know he’d be out shuttling other hikers for a while. In his absence my tramily tried to reorganize and get our stuff together so that we could go back out on on trail later in the day.

When Al returned he began cooking us a delicious breakfast of pancakes and sausage. Al was such a generous host and expected nothing in return. He was a true trail angel! I think he just really enjoyed the company of hikers and liked trading stories and shooting the shit.

After we finished breakfast Al took us back to Picket Post trailhead. We said our goodbyes and were hiking around 11:30am. The trail felt like it went in circles without actually taking us anywhere. We covered a decent amount of miles but every time we turned around it felt like we were looking at the same stretch of road and like it wasn’t getting any further away. We hiked for several hours going up and over small hills and walking through dry stream beds.

Finally we came to Whitford Creek and decided to take a siesta as the afternoon temps were rising. We laid in the shade with a few other hikers and chatted with some horseback riders who sauntered down the trail. We hung out by the creek for several hours. Truffles and I played a game to see who could find the prettiest rock in the creek, and the three of us played through several rounds of Phase 10 before hiking on.

The rest of afternoon had us crossing ATV roads and walking through canyons. We only hiked 12 total miles today but I was eager to get to camp. We rolled into our campsite around 6:30pm and managed to get our tents up and start cooking before it began growing dark. We ate dinner using our headlamps and tucked ourselves into our tents soon after finishing. I am glad to be back on trail, it would have been easy to have been vortexed in a sweet little town like Superior!

Day 24: 15.6 miles (Pine Creek, mile 333.3)

Today was a shorter mile day but it felt long and grueling. We awoke before the sun and were actually out of camp before 7am, a first for this trail. Pretty quickly the trail began to go uphill, we had to climb out of what I assume was Reavis Canyon. The climb was four miles long and felt like it was straight uphill. I feel like there have been plenty of switchbacks and gentle grades on most of the uphill portions of trail this far, but this section felt like we went straight to the mountain. The switchbacks didn’t make an appearance until a mile or so from the top. The bright side was that we were getting the big hill out of the way, it was still early so it wasn’t super hot out yet, and we could see for miles. We even spied Mt. Lemmon off in the distance!

We took a short break when we reached the top and then set on our merry way. Within a couple of miles we entered the infamous Superstition Wilderness. According to FarOut, the 2019 Woodbury Fire burned 123,000 acres of the Superstitions. That means we walked through a majority of burn area. There were still lots of scaring and charred trees all around. I’ve heard people talk about how incredible the Superstitions are, but I honestly I wasn’t that impressed. I felt like we’ve seen pretty sections of trail that are better maintained. So far we haven’t seen anything in the Superstitions that have blown my socks off. Maybe that will come tomorrow before we exit the boundary.

We hiked up and over several more hills before following a creek for several miles. Around 1:30pm we reached Reavis Creek with a lovely campsite in the shade. We had been looking forward to our siesta all day, and this looked like the perfect spot. We lounged and napped and I even did some yoga before we rolled out around 4:30pm.

I was the last to leave and who should come walking down the trail other than Bryce! We hadn’t seen him since day 13 so it was nice to catch up. We caught up to Truffles and learned Bryce finally got a trail name: Radiator. The three of us hiked around each other for the last bump of the day and descended into Pine Creek where Pimento was setting up camp. The four of us ate dinner together and made loose plans to hike into Roosevelt Lake tomorrow morning. I am mentally tired and ready for bed.

Day 25: 16.3 miles (Roosevelt Lake Marina, mile 349.6)

I was ready to quit today. The day started off fine, the handful of hikers that were gathered at this campsite all set off as the sun rose. Truffles, Pimento, and I were the last to leave (per usual). We had a short climb right out of the gate, but the three of us powered through and hiked together. We even sang our favorite morning song, “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” by Travis Tritt. The scenery was pretty, but again I don’t understand what all the fuss about the Superstitions is.

Looking at the elevation profile on FarOut we knew we were in for a big descent and ascent, the elevation profile literally looked like a letter V. We went straight down and straight back up. The downhill took it out of our knees, and the uphill made our muscles burn. They were both fairly short, thankfully, and we made good time and didn’t let that dampen our day. We hiked along a ridge for a couple miles and got our first views of Roosevelt Lake. It was super windy and we could see for miles, it made for good hiking weather.

The last climb of the day was less than 1,000 feet but it kicked my butt! Maybe it was the heat or the hunger was starting to get to me, but either way I had to fight to get to the top. Days where we know we’re getting town food for lunch we don’t typically eat anything other than breakfast and some snacks along the trail. I was working up quite an appetite in preparation for the burger and beer I hoped to consume at the marina.

The rest of the day was pretty much all downhill. The trail went back and forth between crossing through washes and dried up stream beds, ATV tracks, and actual trail. We took a short break at a spring, one of the few water sources that wasn’t a cow pond, and tried to hike hard into the marina.

The last few miles the trail turned into an ATV road that was very steep. We all slipped and Truffles even took a tumble. The road was hard on our knees and we were all getting hangry by the time the marina came into view.

The Roosevelt Lake Marina has a small convenience store and is home to Ffinch’s restaurant. We were heart broken when we walked up to the building and saw a sign posted on the restaurant saying they were closed due to water issues. I am not being overly dramatic when I say this made me tear up. I had been looking forward to real food for days. It’s hard to describe how when you’re thru hiking something so small can have such large effects. Being so upset over not being able to eat a town meal isn’t rational, but in that moment I felt myself deflate. We sulked over to the hiker picnic tables they had set up and brooded with other hikers over our bad luck.

The one positive was that the marina store was still open. We bought drinks and a handful of snacks when we picked up our resupply box. We even found Radiator hanging out on the restaurant’s back patio. Since the restaurant wasn’t open, we had full access to the lakefront patio, complete with outlets for us to charge our electrics. The plan had been to eat at the marina and then hike out a couple miles, but we were all pretty down after not being able to eat town food. We decided to spend the rest of the day enjoying some piece of civilization and posted up on the patio. We could get whatever we wanted from the store, we had bathroom access at the nearby ranger station, and we had good company. We spent the evening sorting the food from our resupply box and trying to order delivery pizza to no avail. The marina lets hikers camp on their back lawn, but since the restaurant was closed we decided to be rebels and cowboy camped on the patio. Hoping no one wakes up us and asks us to leave in the middle of the night…

Day 26: 17.8 miles (Adler Saddle Trail Junction, mile 367.4)

My alarm went off at 4:30am. We wanted to vacate the marina before the store opened, thankfully no one came by to tell us we were trespassing. My first night cowboy camping on the AZT and it was on astro turf outside of a closed down bar. Sometimes the trail is funny like that. We had a big day planned with lots of elevation gain, so we also wanted to hit the trail early so that we wouldn’t be hiking in 90+ degree weather.

The day started with a road walk. The trail went up an over a couple hills before dropping back down to Highway 188 to walk over a bridge. We decided to shave off a mile by walking the highway all the way to the bridge. By 7am we had crossed the bridge and were back on the trail climbing our first mountain of the day. The initial ascent was about 1,000 feet in just over 1.5 miles. It was beautiful because of the early morning light and views of the lake, but it was tough. We took a short break at the top to enjoy the views before continuing on. We had a lot more climbing ahead of us. Our goal was a campsite about 20 miles from the marina. Our resupply box had 6 days of food, which meant we would need to cover the 100ish miles in 6 days or less.

We got to cruise for a little while through fields of wild flowers before beginning yet another big climb for the day. We filled up with water and just tried to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This ascent felt like it came in waves, there would be a steep section but then a moderately flat stretch before again turning upwards. I think the worst part was that we could see the road crossing way off in the distance that we knew we’d eventually reach. We were on top of a ridge line working our way up the mountain. On either said of the trail were sprawling views of the lake and mountains and canyons beyond, all surrounded by blue skies. Wildflowers and cactus dotted the hillside, it looked like something out of a postcard. It’s hard to enjoy how pretty the landscape is when you’re heaving for breath and sweat is pouring down your face. Every time I’d stop to catch my breath I found myself looking around saying “wow”.

As we approached Mills Ridge trailhead, we could see a car. I turned to Truffles and told him I was trying really hard not to get my hopes up. On the AT, especially in the beginning, trail magic was a regular occurrence. Almost daily in Georgia I was greeted by trail angels cooking hot dogs or passing out cold drinks. We have encountered trail angels on the AZT, but none actually on the trail. So far all the trail angels we’ve met have been in town providing invaluable services for hikers. That is what made this experience so special, we weren’t expecting it at all. We walked into the parking lot and a man and a woman were sitting by their car in folding chairs. They asked if we wanted a drink and we threw our packs down and eagerly flipped open their cooler. Pimento and Radiator soon arrived and the four of us sat and chatted with the trail angels, Scott and Becky. We snacked on their chips and savored their cold drinks and company. They graciously invited us to ride back to their house with them to shower and do laundry, but we declined and chose to keep hiking. Stupid us! Scott and Becky were so kind and we said goodbye as we began yet another big climb for the day.

The rest of the day can be summed up by saying we hiked uphill in the direct sun. It was about as fun as it sounds. In almost 18 total miles today, we did nearly 6,000 feet of elevation gain and 2,500 feet of descent. It was absolutely brutal! Hands down I think it was the hardest day on trail yet just because it never let up. The sun and the heat just made it all the more challenging. We had initially planned to go several miles farther, but by the time we all arrived at the water source by Adler Saddle trail, we were beat. We hadn’t seen many campsites all day (just because we were literally scaling the side of a mountain), but thankfully there were three decent spots tucked into the bushes near the creek. The four of us pitched our tents on somewhat slanted ground but were just glad to be finished for the day. We ate our dinners quickly and went to sleep as soon as it got dark. I think we’re all wiped after today.

Day 27: 12.6 miles (Little Pine Flat, mile 380.0)

This morning was probably my favorite so far! When we pitched our tents last night it was growing dark, so we didn’t know we were on a ridge with stunning views. Imagine my surprise when I peaked out of the tent and saw the sunrise over the lake! The warm glow of the sun slowly illuminated the world around us as we packed up our tents and began to get moving.

After the absolute beating we endured yesterday, we decided to change our itinerary. Rather than hiking into Pine in 6 days, we opted to hit up Becky and Scott, the trail angels we met yesterday, for a ride into Payson/Tonto Basin and take them up on their offer to stay with them for a night. This way we can get some extra food and not have to rush into Pine. That meant today was going to be an easier day!

We made quick work of the trail between our campsite the night before and the original site we had planned to stay. We got water from Shake Spring and Truffles even took a plunge in one of the pools! We hung out for a bit so he could dry off before heading down the trail.

We crossed over small ridges that still had obvious signs of fire damage. As dry as it is out here, I wasn’t surprised to read on FarOut about the 2020 Bush Fire that burned part of this section. We crossed another spring and collected enough water to get us the remaining 7 miles to camp.

The trail once again became an ATV road. We had great long range views as we walked. The road walking quickly got boring and we all out headphones in and tried to power through the last miles of the day. We arrived at camp around 1pm and it was lovely! Normally this would have just been a lunch break, but because of our change of itinerary we only had to do 12 total miles today. It was so nice to do absolutely nothing the rest of the evening! Everyone took naps and just lounged around our campsite. As we were eating dinner more and more people started appearing at the campsite. Thankfully it’s super spacious and we all gathered around to talk about our hike so far. There were probably 10 people here, which is a rarity! We’ve gotten used to camping just the three or four of us. Another short day tomorrow and town after that!

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