Twig Adventures

AZT Day 28: The Vail Safeway Sidetrip

November 3rd, 2019
Mm 672.8 to Twin Tanks mm 688.4
Distance in miles: 15.6

I was only a few miles from a trailhead, where I wanted to try to hitch into town. I needed resupplies from the nearby Safeway. I ran into some day hikers and tried to extract some local info from them, but it was like pulling teeth. I asked which of the next 2 trailheads would be better to hitch a ride from, but the guy replied that I should go back to the road to Colossal Cave, because that was the shortest distance to Safeway. Thru-hikers don’t do negative miles unless it’s an emergency, so this response was useless to me. The dayhikers didn’t seem to understand that I was trying to yogi a ride, not walk to town. I gave up and keep walking to the trailhead. As soon as I got there, a truck was pulling away and I chased it down. Two brothers, Kevin and Tim, were happy to give me a ride. And just like that, at 7:30 am on a Sunday, I was on my way to Vail.

The AZT has the nicest gates!

During the short ride, Tim showed me pictures of all the rattlesnakes and gila monsters he saw nearby over the summer. He had a LOT of photos of different snakes, which was a bit concerning (the area seemed to be infested with rattlesnakes). They dropped me off at the Safeway and I headed straight for the integrated Starbucks cafe. This also happened to be where the bathrooms were. Normally, my goal is to get in and out of a grocery store as quickly as possible. But on this occasion, the circumstances were perfect for lingering for hours. There were outlets, wifi, and ALL THE FOOD. Since there was no hotel nearby, the Safeway would have to suffice as a rest stop before my last layover in Patagonia, 2.5 days down the trail.

I got cleaned up a little, taking a pretty respectable sink shower. There were 4 private bathrooms in the store, so I could take as long as I wanted. I went shopping for my resupply, then breakfast, second breakfast, and lunch. There was a pretty awesome salad bar. I made a friend in the Starbucks line that offered to take me back to the trailhead any time I liked. The hours ticked by and eventually the Safeway lost its pull on me. It was time to get back on the trail. I called Mark and he came over straight away to pick me up. He worked at the medical campus for the University of Arizona and also liked trail running. It was so nice of him to give me a ride to the trailhead.

On a very sad note, the trailhead was named for Gabe Zimmerman, one of victims of the mass shooter that tried to assassinate Gabby Giffords in Tucson. There was a memorial here, honoring the other victims. It was a stark reminder of the real world that I’d been lucky enough to escape while hiking.

I continued down the trail, passing through the mouth of the viper and beneath I-10. Last time I went under I-10 was back in April, when I started the CDT near Lordsburg, NM. I also passed under it a little over a year before on the PCT. It was symbolic of the distances I’d traveled…progress marked by the interstates I crossed month after month. First I-90 in Montana, then I-80 near Rawlins, WY. I-70 streamed by on one of the hardest days in Colorado. I-40 marked the finish line of my SOBO hike on the CDT in Grants, NM. And now it had all come full circle here at I-10 again. I had less than 100 miles to go to the border of Mexico.

I had traveled through parts of the Santa Catalina mountains (Mt Lemmon) and the Rincon mountains (Mt Mica).  Now I was heading towards the Santa Rita mountains. I came to the second local trailhead to find some cold water in a cooler and also Dan, taking a break. I took a break with him and then we hiked together. Since I had a pretty easy day, I decided to night hike for a spell. It was still very warm and the trail very easy.

For some reason, we were discussing the topic of rattlesnakes. Perhaps it was the I-10 tunnel mural earlier or all of Tim’s photos, but my snake-y sense was elevated. I was in the lead and it was just getting dark enough to need my headlamp when I saw the unmistakable outline of a snake laying across the trail. And of course it was a diamondback rattlesnake. It slithered harmlessly off to the side without ever rattling. Less than half a mile later, there was another diamondback laying across the trail. It behaved the same as the first, keeping quiet and slinking away. After this, I nominated Dan to go first. I also suggested we camp as soon as we found a decent spot. No rattlesnakes in the first 700 miles but now there were 2 in less than a mile. Seemingly this area had a lot. We came to a clearing and settled down for the night. I hoped a rattlesnake didn’t decide to snuggle against my tent. At least I wasn’t cowboy camping.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.