October 30th, 2019
Mm 572.8 to American Flag Trailhead mm 590.4
Distance in miles: 17.6
It got really cold and clammy overnight, with a little condensation on my tent. A cold breeze was blowing when I hit the trail. Cirrus clouds diffused the sunlight and it continued to be chilly throughout the morning. This was a nice thing, since it made for easy hiking through an exposed section. I was headed for another town and only had about 10 miles to go. I caught up to a guy named Gabriele just before the trailhead. He was an aeronautical engineer for the Canadian Air Force and had gotten just enough time off to hike the AZT as a long section. He’d already called for a pick-up at the trailhead, so it was great timing.
A new option occurred to me. I could ditch my pack at the trailhead and slack-pack another 9 miles to a second trailhead that was accessible from Oracle. I confirmed the plan with Marney once she arrived. She was the town trail angel, caching water at the previous 4 places, shuttling, and even leaving candy out for hikers. She ran a small cabin rental and offered hikers a discounted rate. It was good for her business to support hikers, but she was also a very kind person.
I ditched my pack in her truck and took only a few snacks with me. I guzzled water at the trailhead so I wouldn’t need to drink again for awhile. I roadwalked for a bit, then enter Oracle State Park. The trail was very nice and so easy without my pack. Near an old wind pump and tank, I met a man out for a walk with his very energetic and adorable pointer pup. There was no water in the tank but a local brewery had set out water containers with their company label…another clever marketing strategy. I still didn’t need any water, though.
The trail wound through more low hills and desert scrub. There were good views of Mt Lemmon at over 8,000′ in elevation. I would climb it tomorrow. This day, I was content to get some easy miles done. I gained a little elevation too…less to have to do tomorrow with a full pack.
I got to the trailhead just after noon, perfect timing to meet up with Marney. I arrived at the Chalet to find my pack already in my room…bell hop service! All the rooms were cute little A-frame cabins with private bathrooms. Laundry and loaner clothes were included in the deal. I found some tiny cut-off jeans that were almost too small for me…maybe I gained back some weight on this trail. It’s possible.
I went to lunch with Gabriele at a Mexican restaurant. It was very busy, so I did some table diving, rescuing a nearly full guacamole bowl that would have gotten thrown out otherwise, along with a bunch of chips. The portions were huge but I didn’t have any trouble clearing my plates. We found another hiker sitting by himself and invited him over. Balto had been in town for a couple of days, nursing an injury. He was hiking with another, Eric, and they were also staying at the Chalet. They got off the trail at the Freeman road junction, back where I met the FKT support crew, so they were now days behind me. According to the most recent trail registries, there were fewer than 10 thru-hikers left ahead of me. Some had probably already finished, but I might catch a few more.
I did all my chores at the room and by the time I was done, it was time for dinner. I went to the nearby Italian restaurant to get pizza, having one last meal with Gabriele, since he was getting off trail to go back to work. Boooo. I did my resupply shopping after dinner, which I deplored, but I didn’t want to make the trip in the cold morning. The dollar store was the only grocery in town and almost a mile from the Chalet. Good thing I was a practiced dollar store shopper and got things done quickly. The DG had the best variety I’d ever seen…fruits, vegetables, Bear Naked granola and Kind bars!
I headed back to the room in the cold wind, wearing all my layers. It dropped into the 30’s overnight, which is pretty cold for southern AZ. Elsewhere, it was much colder…my parent’s location in CO was going to hit single digits. I was very happy for a roof with a space heater this night!