October 30th, 2019
Mm 572.8 to American Flag Trailhead mm 590.4
Distance in miles: 17.6
It gets really cold overnight…and clammy. The air feels humid and I even find a little condensation on my tent. There’s a cold breeze blowing when we hit the trail. Cirrus clouds diffuse the sunlight once it rises. It continues to be chilly throughout the morning which is a nice thing since it makes for easy hiking in this very exposed section.
It’s another town day and we only have about 10 miles to go. I catch up to Gabriele just before the trailhead. He’s an aeronautical engineer for the Canadian Air Force and has gotten just enough time off to hike the AZT as a long section. He’s already called for a pick-up at the trailhead, so it’s great timing.
A new option occurs to me. We could ditch our packs at the trailhead and slack-pack another 9 miles to a second trailhead that’s accessible from Oracle. We ok the plan with Marney once she arrives. She’s the town trail angel, caching water at the previous 4 places, shuttling, and even leaving candy out for hikers. She runs a small cabin rental, which of course offers hikers a discounted rate. It’s obviously very good for her business to support hikers. After all the water she’s put out, how can’t we stay at her place?
We put our packs in her truck and I take only a few snacks with me. I’m not even taking water. I drank a bunch at the trailhead and I’m freezing cold. I won’t need to drink again for awhile. We roadwalk for a bit and then enter Oracle State Park. The trail is very nice and we fly along without our packs.
We meet a man out for a walk with his very energetic and adorable pointer pup. He’s at an old wind pump and tank. There’s no water in the tank but a local brewery cans water and puts it out for hikers…another clever marketing strategy. I still don’t need any water since I’m only just starting to warm up.
We wind more through the low hills and desert scrub. We have good views of Mt Lemmon at over 8,000′ in elevation. We will climb it tomorrow. For today, we are happy to get some more easy miles done. We’ve been gaining some elevation too. Less to have to do tomorrow with a full pack.
We get to the trailhead just after noon, perfect timing to meet up with Marney. We arrive at the Chalet to find our packs already in our room…bell hop service! All the rooms are cute little A-frame cabins with private bathrooms. Laundry and loaner clothes are included in the deal. I find some cut-off jeans that are almost too small for me…or maybe I’ve been gaining back weight on this trail. I wouldn’t be surprised.
We go to lunch with Gabriele at a Mexican restaurant. It’s very crowded and we do some table diving, rescuing a nearly full guacamole bowl that would have gotten thrown out, along with a bunch of chips. The portions at this place are huge but none of us have trouble clearing our plates. We identify another hiker sitting by himself and invite him over.
Balto has been in town for a couple of days, nursing an injury. He’s hiking with another, Eric, and they are also staying at the Chalet. They got off the trail at Freeman road, back where we met the FKT support crew, so they are now days behind us. According to all the trail registries, there are fewer than 10 thru-hikers left ahead of us. Some have already finished but we may catch a few more.
I do all my chores at the room and by the time we’re done, it’s time for dinner. We go to the nearby Italian restaurant to get pizza. We have one last meal with Gabriele since he’s getting off trail to go back to work. Boooo.
I have to go resupply shopping after dinner, which I deplore, but I don’t want to make the trip back in the cold morning. The dollar store is the only grocery in town and almost a mile down from the Chalet. Good thing I’m a practiced dollar store shopper to get things done quickly. This DG has the best variety I’ve ever seen. They even have Kind bars!
We head back to the room in the cold wind, dragging our foraged items. It’s so cold that I’m wearing all my layers. It’s dropping into the 30’s tonight, which is cold for southern AZ. Elsewhere, it’s much colder…my parent’s house in CO is going to hit single digits. We’re happy for an enclosed space with a space heater tonight!