Day 9: Getting to Vail, AZ

March 11, 2021

Mile: 112.6

Last night a couple of people drove their truck into the stock pond shortly after we arrived. We’re pretty sure they were drunk because they were being kind of raucous and actually playing in the pond! Yuck!! Well, I guess if they don’t die at least their immunity will be off the charts! Their truck was obviously stuck, but they eventually got it out and left, thank goodness. I was worried they might come over and start asking us questions about our hike. I mean, I’m always (always) happy to talk to people about hiking, but preferably not late in the evening when I’m tired and hangry, thanks.

We’d been told last night would be even colder than the previous night, but it wasn’t. Either that, or it just didn’t bother me. This morning I made coffee with some butter I packed out of Patagonia (which is easy to do when it’s not very hot outside), plant protein mixed with hot cocoa, and then boiled what was left of my pond water for a little extra sanitation. I let it cool while I packed up and then poured it carefully into my clean Smart Water bottle. 

My freshly boiled and filtered water, complete with collagen and gut health add-ins.

We hiked out around 7:00am and shortly thereafter came to the 100 mile marker! We would have missed the little “100” stone marker entirely if I hadn’t had to stop and blow my nose, it was that small, and we were that eager to get to the nearby road and rumored trail magic so we almost hiked right past it. 

We did 8.4 miles without stopping, saving our break time for the spot where the trail crosses Sahuarita Road. Here, we found the rumored bear box full of trail magic! Oatmeal cream pies, fruit roll ups, Gatorade, and gallons of water! What a relief! Considering the rather specific health issues I was dealing with on the PCT, I am especially nervous about staying well-hydrated and am trying to balance that with the need to not weigh myself down unnecessarily with extra water. Therefore, whenever possible, I camel up a lot when we’re at a water source. I don’t normally do this if the water is in jugs provided by trail angels unless there are a ton of jugs (I mean, I don’t want to be selfish), which thankfully at this bear box, there were. So, I drank my fill. Here, we also met thru-hikers Five Star and Songbird, who are seasoned pros. We sat chatting about hiking and stuff while enjoying the provided snacks and sitting in the shade.  

Just as we were starting to think about hiking on, a trail angel named John stopped by to check the bear box full of goodies, and he offered us some fresh donuts! We chatted with him for a bit, and when the topic of foot maintenance came up, he pulled what looked like Band-Aids out of his shirt pocket, but they were actually stick-on blister packs. I’d never seen them before, so he gave me three and wished me luck. Super nice guy! I wish we’d taken a picture with him. Thanks, John! 

After that it was only 6 miles to the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead, which put us at about 15 miles for the day. There was an earlier exit point where we could have tried to get a hitch or an Uber into Vail, but we opted to go the extra six miles because we knew we’d be getting a late start tomorrow out of town and preferred to only have to hike 11 miles (as opposed to 17). There’s a trail angel with a camper who is parked at mile 122.8 named Jim Hugo, and he is apparently set up to grill burgers and provide all kinds of trail magic for thru-hikers for a few weeks. Comments on Guthooks say there’s lots of places to camp all around where he’s parked, and Ghosthiker and I definitely want to camp there tomorrow night, not only to enjoy some delicious burgers but to mingle with other hikers. 

The Gabe Zimmerman trailhead is a nice, well-maintained area with lots of parking, a pavilion with picnic tables, lots of winding day-hiking trails, and pit toilets. It is a memorial to Gabe Zimmerman, a hiking enthusiast who died in a shooting in Tucson in 2011. It was heartbreaking to read his story but so great to see what a lovely memorial was put together in his honor. 

We got an Uber to the Vail Post Office, but the address on Google Maps took us to a USPS distribution center and not the actual post office where we could pick up our packages. However, a sign on the door pointed us in the right direction. The actual public Post Office was across the street behind the Dairy Queen (very well hidden, for some reason), so we walked over and picked up our boxes, then went to a bar and grill a few doors down and enjoyed burgers and margaritas while we decided where to stay for the night. I feel like I went so much longer between town stays and showers while hiking the desert section of the PCT, but for some reason, this trail just leaves us feeling so gritty after just one day that every town stop feels like absolute heaven so far. 

Unfortunately, Vail has absolutely nothing available as far as hotels or hostels go. I ended up using to book a room a little closer to Tucson. We didn’t really want to go all the way into the city, but you do what you’ve got to do, right? We got another Uber to the hotel, got checked in, and then immediately exploded all our stuff all over the room. By the time we got our showers it was already hiker midnight and we were almost too tired to think about eating. I had some casein and PB Fit mixed with water and Ghosthiker ate a tortilla. I inspected my feet (which are not great) while Ghosthiker analyzed the weather and our coming route to Mt. Lemmon. Sounds like the weather is going to be cold and rainy and garbage tomorrow, so we decided to take our first official Zero. Yatta!

During this leg of the hike I finally started getting some serious inspiration for my book. I’m pretty excited about that. 

Now it’s time for sleep. 

Day 10: Cheesecake Time!

Published by rogerssj23

I'm a long-distance hiker, an audiobook producer, and an amateur writer. I live in the woods in a renovated 1972 Airstream with my Golden Retriever Zoe. Read more about my hiking adventures at

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