Day 11: When the Cacti Bite

March 13, 2021

Mile: 122.8

Ghosthiker and I both had packages of things we wanted to mail home – extra things we realized pretty quickly we didn’t need on this trail. However, we had to wait around in the hotel until about 9:30am because the Vail PO doesn’t open until 10:00am on Saturdays, so we took advantage of the free hot breakfast in the lobby – scrambled eggs, waffles, yogurt, fruit, and muffins! Also, coffee. Because, of course coffee.  

We got an Uber to the Vail PO, mailed our packages, and then got another Uber back to the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead. Lots of Uber rides during this town visit! We set off around 11:00am and it was cold and cloudy. The higher mountains were obscured by dark clouds and we were warned at the trailhead that another front was coming through. Wonderful. At least the trail was damp and settled after yesterday’s rain, rather than dry and dusty. My lungs are greatful for that. 

We’re doing two shorter days out of Vail so we don’t have to hike straight through Saguaro Natl. Park. Ghosthiker got us a permit to camp tomorrow night at Grassy Shack Campground, which is about halfway through the park. We can see the Saguaro Cacti already and we’re not even in the park yet! 

At mile 113.5 we made a wrong turn and went maybe half a mile in the wrong direction before we realized our mistake and had to backtrack. We got up and over the saddle and got hit with some slushy rain coming down the switchbacks on the other side. It had been threatening to rain and/or snow for a while and we had our rain gear and pack covers on already, so we were prepared. Shortly after that the sun came out, of course, so we quickly delayered again. 

We took our first break at La Posta Quemada Ranch, but it was still pretty cold, so it was a short break. There were pit toilets and picnic tables so that was nice. It was also .2 mile off trail, but that was okay. After that, it was just a short stretch to the trail magic setup at mile 122.8, where we met a few new hikers, Splash, Chris, and Rada, who were already sitting around a small bonfire enjoying beers and burgers. Sailor and Alfredo were also there in their van! Ghosthiker and I sat around with all the hikers, chatting and enjoying cheeseburgers and cookies from trail angel Jim Hugo! Thanks, Jim! 

It was cool to hike among all the saguaro cacti and to see snow-dusted mountains in the distance. The sky vacillates a lot between sunny with puffy white clouds to dark and stormy. It’s weird. We threw down our packs near the trail magic setup but it’s still kind of windy so hopefully our tents will hold up. While we were pitching our tents, Ghosthiker accidentally backed up into a cactus and got a butt full of tiny stickers! It was a new level of friendship for us as I used my tweezers to help her get all the stickers out. (ᗒ ᗨᗕ) 

And of course, as soon as the sun set, the wind died. It’s crazy how that always happens out here. We hung out in Sailor and Alfredo’s sprinter van for a bit talking strategy for the next couple of days. Sailor is a super-fast hiker so she’s able to take lots of zero days and subsequently has been going about the same pace as us, which is nice. 

Apparently, it was too cold for anyone to be interested in hanging out around a campfire once it got dark out and everyone retired early to their tents to keep warm, so Ghosthiker and I did the same. Just before dark, Jim came around to let us know what time he’d be serving breakfast in the morning. What a saint! 

It is so cold. We only hiked about 10 miles but I’m exhausted. Sleeping with all the warmth gear tonight.

Day 12: Slow Mornings

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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