Wow! Hardest day yet—but definitely worth the effort!
I started right at sunrise at 3100 feet, topped out at 8600 feet by mid-afternoon and headed back down to 4300 feet over 24.6 miles. The day’s hike started in cactus field just outside the boundary of Saguaro National Park … flat trail w/cactus and desert plants of every kind. The first couple of miles were relatively easy uphill and I passed by a nice cold stream for water resupply.
About 2 miles in, I started some real climb and started seeing saguaro in earnest … everywhere were these giant cactus trees—thousands of them … along with expansive views of the valley below.
Saguaro are really cool—they live to be 150-200 years old and grow 40+ feet tall. They only grow in the Sonoran Desert, and they only grow below 4000 feet.
As I climbed, the Saguaro grew sparse & landscape changed to juniper, boulders and big stretches of flat granite slick-rock. I lost the trail a few times on the rocks (the trail in the Park was frustratingly poorly marked—thank God for my Guthook app!). The sun came out in force w/a beautiful, cloudless AZ Sky & I was sweating buckets.
After lunch, the climb got relentless—Every. single. step. was steep & rocky for about 5 miles. Then, suddenly, I was in a thick pine forest with patches of snow and was getting chilly. The trail was really difficult to find at times beneath all the pine needles. That, combined with lack of trail markings led me to more than one “side excursion” off the actual trail.
I finally hit the high point of 8594 feet around 3:00 with 10 miles still to go. The views opened up and they were incredible … huge views of giant buttermilk boulders and the valley on the other side of the mountain I had just climbed.
Unfortunately, the trail down wasn’t a ton easier than the one up … it was horribly overgrown—I felt like I was bushwhacking through the jungle—and steep enough that I needed to break out my trekking poles.
I met up w/Foggy around 5pm. Foggy is another thru-hiker(from Georgia), and the first human being I had seen since just after lunch yesterday. He was looking for company, and asked if he could hike with me since he was also hoping to make Redington Road today. I was going to be hiking in the dark & really grateful for someone to walk with.
The sunset was unbelievably beautiful, as were the views back towards the park. But once it got dark it was pretty much a slog. I almost cried when I heard my dad call my name 1/2 mile from the trailhead about an hour after dark—I made it!
Foggy & I feasted on fried chicken and fresh-picked oranges in a warm car w/my mom while Parker & my dad set up the tent in a nice spot down out of the wind (that is some above & beyond trail angeling!).
This was my hardest day so far & I hated the “have to keep pushing so I can make the checkpoint” feeling all day. But I’m glad I did the whole thing in a day—to get the full “sky island” experience; the full gamut of cactus, juniper, pine forest and back down in one day made it special (and brutal).
I’m planning to sleep in a little tomorrow and start hiking w/Parker again … looking forward to some quality time w/my fav!
Daily Miles: 24.6
Total Miles: 153