Check out earlier posts: Days 1-3; Days 4-6; Days 7-9
Day 10, 15 miles, random camp
We slept well at the motel. And then ate burritos for breakfast. And then had to digest. With freshly lubed chains, new pads, and Adam’s new seat post, it was around 2pm by the time we were packed up and on the road. Perhaps not the smartest time to leave but we both knew if we stayed much longer, we’d end up spending another night in the motel. Unfortunately, after about an hour into the heat, Adam started to feel quite ill and the heat just really got to him. We found some shade and rested for about an hour, getting back on the bikes around 4pm.
The section just outside of Oracle was the most incredible single track on the trail to date. Once you got a ‘feel’ for the trail, you could truly just fly through it. At one point I vividly remember I was going so irresponsibly fast given I’m on a loaded bike surrounded by cacti and snakes. We hadn’t seen many up to this day. Apparently they all hid out and decided to come out because today was the day-o’-snakes! It was super windy out so we couldn’t really hear anything, including yelling at each other for snakes in the trail (Adam nearly ran over one). In an effort to combat the wind, we made up silly hand signs to warn each other whether there was a snake or a spiky (cactus) thing on the trail. They came in very handy. We had been warned that groups of 3 are the worst (regarding snakes) to travel in: the first person wakes them up; the second aggravates it; and by the third it’s angry and will tend to lunge out. Even though we were only two, we didn’t want care to tempt fate. If one of us saw the signal, we would pedal-pedal-pedal really fast and then lift our feet and legs up to coast by the spot. It actually worked more than once!
Day 11, 45 miles, Kearney Trail Head
Yes you are reading that correctly and that is not a typo: 45 miles! Despite our very heavy packs from resupply, we had a magic combination of solid trail and great weather. It threatened to storm on us the whole day but merely rained all around us. It was windy but the storm brought in some much cooler temperatures, which we were both so grateful for! One section of trail was up on a high ridge and we were watching those storm clouds closely, but no lightning or rain with a wonderful section had me literally giggling. It was gorgeous and fun.
We were having trouble with water and water sources. The app I had on the phone was proving inaccurate a number of times in this section, significantly enough that we missed multiple water source points. One we intentionally skipped due to the multiple dead birds in the water tank. And we ended up with a navigation error that had us detouring through (another) mega wash and ended up going up a forest road to try to reconnect with the trail. This detour, however, brought us to clean, flowing water out of a water holding tank with a pipe…so that was kind of a bonus! And we had no troubles reconnecting with the trail.
We came across a wonderful rest area with benches and this, friends, is where we both had SPAM for the first time. We were apprehensive. Confused. Excited, maybe (?). We have, of course, heard about SPAM. I know many people eat SPAM on long-distance treks but, to-date, I had not felt desperate enough to eat it as there was always something else (tuna packets or salami, say). In Oracle, though, our options were limited. And thus, we bought and ate SPAM. We mixed it with potatoes and…I dunno, I don’t think there is anything really wrong with the actual taste but the texture was weird and our brains were firmly anti-SPAM. It is never going to be my first choice of meat product but it will do in a pinch, I suppose. Plus, we were both extremely hungry.
There was one very devastating downside to the day. Part of what pushed us to get to the Kearney Trail Head was that you can have pizza delivered to you. And pizza really motivated us…that and a Coke – I was dying for a Coke. Anyway, we made it; we rejoiced; we discussed toppings…and we had no phone service. Tantrum(s) may have followed. We had ramen for dinner.
Day 12, 18 miles, best campsite of trip
The first part of my journal entry pretty much sums up this day:
Big mix of confusing emotions right now!
- 1st: Holy beautiful site for the night. Best one of the trip, we’re on a saddle but tucked behind trees to protect us from wind.
- 2nd: Last night on trail. I’m done and, apparently, so is Adam.
- 3rd: Disappointed in our mileage today. I know it’s my fault by I’m tired. 11 days, no zero days. Just exhausted!
- 4th: I just did 11 days of hard riding in a row! WOW! Some, but minimal, symptoms.
We woke up on April 17th after a mega downpour all night. The storm we had been racing caught up and unleashed itself on us. The corners of our tent leaked and there was a substantial puddle at my feet. Despite that, overall our gear stayed quite dry, including the stuff in our bags that were outside all night. Nevertheless, we had a fairly slow start to the day as we had to wring out and dry a few items.
Today was the day we made it to the Gila River – the major river in Arizona. It’s such an interesting contrast to be up in high desert country and then ride down the canyon into a lush, fertile river valley. The sun was out and the temperature starting to ratchet up so we took an extended lunch break at the river. While there, 2 guys in a jeep came up (it’s a big 4×4 area). They were friendly (gave us cold water) and we got to enjoy our second motorized vehicle entertainment of the trip: watching them cross! It was kinda cool watching the drive across this river!
As we left the Gila River Valley, we had a 10 mile climb on exposed, but lovely, single track. By AZT standards, it was a really nice climb! Sure we pushed a little bit but it was mostly riding. This area felt like the most remote section of trail we had been on: envision the typical “Old American West” type of landscape. It felt pristine – there were no forest roads or jeep tracks, just this ribbon of trail slicing through the canyon. It was the highlight of the trip for me and where we ultimately decided to end the day, about a mile short of the top of the climb. One thing I’ve learned is when you come across the perfect campsite, you should take it. As it worked out, we met a hiker going south and he let us know there was no spot to pitch on the other side so, despite it being quite early, we opted to park our butts on the ridge and watch a beautiful, mountain desert sunset. #NoRegrets!
Last AZT blog coming up soon with final day and reflections.