October 27th, 2019
HWY 60 Picket Post Trailhead mm 487.5 to mm 507
Distance in miles: 19.5
I woke with lots to do still. I needed to go grocery shopping for resupplies, but the store didn’t open until 9 am. MJ made me an omelette and I had more of her delicious fresh bread. She also gave me some of her homemade granola to take away. MJ is a mom, grandma, and even a great grandma and she just loves caring for people.
Al did his part by resupplying the nearby water caches. Today he was off early in his jeep to deliver water to FR4, which had been out of water for some time, making for a 21 mile water-less stretch from Picket post trailhead to the Gila River. I’d be one of the first beneficiaries of his efforts. It took him 3 hours to make the round-trip, but he seemed to enjoy the drive. A friend went along to keep him company. I left some money in their jar to cover some of his gas expenses. Having water delivered to you along the trail is kind of priceless in AZ.
MJ drove me to the grocery store to get my resupplies and then to the trailhead. We found a group of 5 hikers there, hanging out at their van. I met 3 of them in the Mazatzals. They had a flip-flopping, key swapping scheme involving the van. I didn’t understand all the logistics but hey, whatever works. It’s a nice idea to have a support van, especially given the scarcity of water. MJ invited them over to take showers and they seemed really excited about the offer. She would be having 7 dirty hikers in her house, so I was glad I was getting back on the trail.
It was late in the morning when I set out and already pretty hot. The trail wound in and around the dry landscape. I crossed over a couple high points and then followed a wash down into the Gila River valley. At one point, I came around a bend and saw a big cat standing in the trail. It was a bobcat, only 30 feet away. We each had that moment of shared surprise and then it bolted away, lightning fast. Bobcats are so beautiful. I couldn’t believe how much wildlife I saw on this trail! So varied, too. I later saw a tiny ribbon snake slither to the side and it stuck me then that it was the first snake I’d seen in Arizona…a state that prides itself in having the most species of just rattlesnakes (13). I had not seen or heard one.
I came to the water cache that Al had just stocked, finding tons of good clean water. I took what I needed for a dry camp, since it was too far to make it to the Gila. I also took a short break, since it was very hot. There were a lot of bees swarming around the cache, attracted to the scent of the water. They kept landing on me, ultimately forcing me to keep moving. I like bees and don’t mind when they land on me. Sometimes I even lightly stroke their backs, like a pet. But I was worried that they might be mixed with the African honey bee, which can make them very aggressive.
I continued up a series of valleys and canyons. The trail was so much better in this section: well graded, the vegetation cut back, and smooth. It cooled down a bit in the late afternoon and I was just loving the experience and geology. The scenery was spectacular. There were buttes, pinnacles, hoodoos, and escarpments everywhere. Plus every kind of cactus. This was the backdrop I always pictured for the AZT.
I went over the high point of the section, getting grand views of the topography to the south, including the Gila River valley. The sun was setting and the desert felt so peaceful. Everything was breathing a sigh of relief, getting that much needed break from the scorching sun. I settled down for the night on a on a small rise with incredible views. It was a bit exposed but worth it. Every time I woke up in the night, I a nearby pinnacle backlit by a universe of stars.