November 2nd, 2019
Italian Trap Trailhead mm 639.8 to mm 672.8
Distance in miles: 33
Oh boy, what a climb that greets me in the morning! I get an early start and Stellar gets an even earlier one…he has to pick up a box at Colossal Cave gift shop before it closes at 5 pm and it’s 31 miles to there. He leaves around 4:30 am. I enjoy a beautiful sunrise and the climb is mellow at first. But then I must go up 3000′ in 4 miles and ugh! is all I can say. I’m not feeling my energy on this climb, tired from the hard days before. Luckily I’m fit enough to go into auto-pilot mode. Up, Up, Up.I keep checking my GPS, unhappy with my pace but going way faster than average. At least the morning temps are cool and then I’m at the top by 9 am. A short side-trail leads to the peak and heck-yeah I make the side trip. I’m not letting this mountain slide by without getting to the very top. 8,666 feet in elevation.The trail goes straight down afterwards, which seems like a whole lot of trouble just to return to the hot desert. At least there are a few miles of ponderosa and fern forests to enjoy at the top. The fall colors are so beautiful, I want to linger all day long. But a permit is needed for camping in Saguaro National Park, which is where I am now. I take a short break at Manning Camp, collecting some water and enjoying the cool breeze. Then I get too cool and have to press on. This trail, I’m constantly oscillating between too cold and too hot.On the 10 mile hike back down to the desert floor, I find a sizable pool of water in a creek. It’s getting hotter by the minute and every foot of descent. Plus, my body is coated in sticky sweat from the previous days. So I go in the pool, fully clothed, to cool off and rinse the salt. The cold water makes me gasp but is so refreshing. For another 40 minutes, I hike blissfully in my wet clothes. But they dry so quickly in this arid land, the enjoyment doesn’t last long enough. Then I find a much smaller and more stagnant pool. I have to lay flat on my back to dunk myself this time but again, it’s worth it. I get another few miles of cool relief.
Back on the desert plain, the cactus and ocotillos present a bleak but beautiful landscape. It’s very hot once again and a long 10 miles to the next water source. My clothes are bone dry and so is my mouth. I sip my water carefully, making sure it will last over the next 3 hours. At least the trail eases up considerably. It’s very smooth and flowy…perfect for an easy mountain bike ride. I wish I had a bike in this moment.
I put up my umbrella and face the music. Just make it to 3 pm and it will start to cool down. And it does. It’s rather an enjoyable section, much easier than the first 20 miles of the day. It’s just too bad that I’m so tired from the previous 70 miles of tough trail.
I reach a picnic grounds with a spigot at 4:30 pm. Oh what a relief to have some running water, even if it tastes metallic. I rinse down a bit, washing all the salt from my face and legs. I also down a couple of liters. I get a message from Stellar that he has his box and is heading back to the trail. I figure I will run into him in the next mile but don’t see him. I see his shoe prints, so I just keep going. It starts to get dark, then is dark, still no Stellar. So I pitch in a small wash, barely big enough for my tent. It’s cozy. Turns out Stellar is 1 mile behind me camped in a wash where I couldn’t see him. No big deal, we’ll meet up again in the am.