October 31st, 2019
American Flag Trailhead mm 590.4 to mm 609
Distance in miles: 18.6
The space heater barely kept pace with the cold overnight. I was so glad I wasn’t outside. I ate breakfast in my room from what I scrounged from the hiker box and was ready to hit the trail again. Marney offered to stop at the cafe on the way, where I got a piece of rhubarb strawberry pie as well as a peach strawberry scone. Yum!
The trail immediately started heading up, so I was then thankful for the cold. I was about to climb over 3500′. The trail gained the ridgeline and I had great views for hours. I could see the outskirts of Tucson and all the way back to the Gila River valley. The nearby Biosphere 2 complex was also visible. This was where researchers are trying to simulate an artificial Earth environment. Biosphere 1 is Planet Earth, the original.
The climb was steep in places, namely where it followed a jeep road. But I made it up in good time and drifted into the little resort of Summerhaven, not knowing what to expect. In climbing so high, I entered a magical realm of ponderosa pine forest mixed with a few oak and aspen. Fall colors re-emerged. The town was merely a collection of a few shops, restaurants, a PO, and visitor’s center, along with many fancy vacation homes.
I had a burger at the Sawmill restaurant, which was pricey but very good. Then I went to the general store, where they gave out free coffee or hot chocolate to thru-hikers. I opted for the latter and it really hit the spot on this cold day. It had warmed up from the morning but at such an elevation, it was still really chilly. A lady at the general store reported that it was 24 degrees overnight!
The same lady also invited me to stay inside in either the visitor’s center bathroom foyer or the post office. Both were heated, had outlets, and wifi. Apparently a lot of hikers did this and the town condoned it. But I’d already decided, I had a hot date with some duff this night. The beautiful forest was calling my name. It would have been a shame to have come all the way up here and not spend a night camping under the pines, smelling a bathroom all night instead. Cold be damned, I was sleeping outside.
I left the tiny town, stuffed and happy. The sun disappeared behind the ridge and cold pockets started to appear. I walked the road down a valley along a stream, then the trail climbed out of the valley, descending into an area with lots of big round boulders.
Something about the type of rock and weathering process had created numerous balancing rocks. While searching for a campsite, I found a huge one. I called it Spaceship Rock and had fun taking silly photos holding it in place. It’s the classic move one does at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. After this, I pitched my tent in an amazingly soft bed of pine needles (duffalicious!) and enjoyed a cup of wine that I purchased at the general store. It’s how I celebrated Halloween this night. Ahhhhh, the good life.