November 8th, 2019
Canelo Hills saddle mm 761.8 to Bathtub Spring mm 780.5
Distance in miles: 18.7
What to do with a whole day on the trail when you have less than 20 miles to hike? Go on a side-trip. I found a good one…a lake and marina store were just off the trail 6 miles ahead. I could get some easy water and extra snacks. I traveled down from the saddle and past a few creeks. The temperature was perfect for a leisurely morning stroll. It felt weird to be going so slow, after pushing pushing pushing for months. I guess I earned a break but I really like moving all day and getting somewhere. It just became habit.
I took the short side trail to Parker Canyon lake and I perused the marina store shelves. The pickings were slim, since they were nearing the end of the year. Earl and Matt ran the store and told me it’s the slow season. I thought this place would be hopping in the winter but no, most visitors come up in the summer to escape the heat. It gets too cold in the winter, apparently. Mexico was only 6 miles as the crows flies, but here, incredibly, was a place with 4 seasons.
I bought some snacks and Matt gave me a beer from his personal stash. I lingered for a few hours, listening to the locals tell stories and watching ripples on the man-made lake. It wasn’t as nice as a lake in the Sierra, but for AZ, it was pretty good. They even rented kayaks by the hour, which I considered for a minute. But eventually I just wanted to get back to the trail and find an early campsite.
Leaving the resort, I walked some different dirt roads to hit the trail again. They took me past some of the little vacation cabins. Then I was on a series of jeep roads and trail, leading into the last set of mountains, the Huachucas. The tread was good, following a stream up it’s watershed. The surroundings were pretty lush and I really enjoyed walking along it. I spotted some weird animal but couldn’t make a positive ID…maybe a coati? There were also some deer. I wished I could see a jaguar, but they are a very rare sighting.
I was reminiscing about the CDT all morning and afternoon, going over each day in my mind. I could almost recall every day from all my other trails, too. It was fun to relive such good memories. Nearing the end of the AZT and the rest of my CDT hiking season, I did’t know how to feel. I should have been overwhelmed with emotions, but I wasn’t. I looked forward to being done but not to figuring out what to do next. I was tired of being asked that question. I just didn’t know.
I began the last big climb towards Miller Peak. There were many switchbacks and then I was on a ridge. This was some of the last climbing I would do. I’d done so much this year, I must have gone up Everest the equivalent of a thousand times. I reached Bathtub Spring just before 4 pm. The pipe was flowing really strong and the water in the bathtub was clear. What a luxury to stop so early and have a fine water source, to boot. There was even some ponderosa pine duff nearby.
For the first time in awhile, I pitched my tent AND had dinner in the light of day. But then I was left with many hours of darkness with nothing much to do but go to sleep. My last night on trail promised to be cool and maybe even a little damp. But I loved being high in the mountains, surrounded by my most familiar and useful belongings…almost all I needed in life, really. The gear had done it’s job and withstood the test of time. Much of it had been through 8000 to 9000 miles and I didn’t even feel the need to replace any of it. The nice thing about very used gear is that I know it works and don’t stress out about blemishes anymore. My clothes and shoes were done, though. My water bladder also had a small hole…all consumable items during a thru-hike, and this has been an especially long one. I was counting the CDT and AZT together as one thru-hike. I was finally back to the Mexican border and ready to close the book on this one.