Day 12: Slow Mornings

March 14, 2021

Mile 135.3 at Grassy Shack Campground

Pi Day! Kind of sad I don’t have any pie to celebrate with. I guess I should have thought of that while I was in town. 😞

We had a slow rise this morning. Woke up around 4:30am whether I wanted to or not, and it was too early for trail magic coffee, so I made my own. Gotta make sure I get that protein in! I was surprised to find it only pleasantly cool this morning considering how freezing it was all night long, with scattered rain and snow throughout the night. But it was a foggy morning with lots of cloud cover so there was a lot of condensation in my tent and on my quilt. Another benefit to getting a late morning start is that my stuff will have time to dry out really well before I pack it up. 

It’s gonna be another short day today, only 13-ish miles to our next intended camp spot. There are two designated camping areas within the Saguaro Natl. Park boundary: Grassy Shack Campground and Manning Camp. The first one is a few miles from the top of the highest point and Manning is at the very top, so considering our fragile tents, we opted for the spot at lower elevation and will push over the high point tomorrow morning. 

I enjoyed my protein-enhanced coffee while watching the sunrise over the mountains from inside my tent, bundled in my quilt, which was lovely. The sun was really fighting to peek through the heavily roiling clouds and my tent is facing almost due East. It was pretty cool. 

Got some pancakes and more coffee from Jim Hugo (Thanks, Jim!), then we packed up our stuff and were hiking out by 9:00am. Such a late start! The trail was wide open and mostly flat, not a lot of shade to be found until we’d gone about 4 miles and found an area with a bunch of abandoned cement pads. There, I managed to find enough cover to go to the bathroom. That’s been a unique challenge on this trail so far – finding cover and privacy for the necessaries!

This is a really cool part of the trail, though. We’re in the Sonoran Desert and the Saguaro cacti are everywhere! It’s been a slow and steady ascent all day until near the end, where the climb got steeper and we gained elevation pretty quickly. Even though it’s really sunny now, it’s been pretty chilly, and our breaks have been short because we keep getting too cold. 

At the last water source before the big climb, we met hikers Bolo and Crutch. They’re a neat couple who’ve done a lot of traveling together, so it was fun to chat with them for a bit. They’re planning to camp at Grassy Shack Campground as well, so we said we’d see them up there and pressed on. It really is too cold for long breaks. 

Six more miles of climbing took us to the Grassy Shack Campground. It was an interesting climb full of long stretches over stone slabs, where we only knew where to go thanks to the little cairns set up along the way. Given how open and exposed the trail has been the last few days, the campground was surprisingly sheltered with tall, scraggly trees. I arrived first and saw what looked like some recently abandoned camping gear, which was kind of creepy. But there were more tent sites down a short path, hidden from the main trail, and there we found a woman who informed us that the stuff that looked abandoned actually belonged to a solo hiker. Phew! No creepers or possible dead hikers to be worried about. 

Ghosthiker and I set up our stuff with the woman in the secluded area. This spot is really nice. Last night we were so close to the highway we could hear traffic all night long. Here it’s very remote and quiet, and there’s actually a babbling stream right next to our camp, which makes for a nice change. Kind of like being in the Sierra Nevada again. There are even bear boxes here! Ghosthiker and I soaked our feet in the creek and then retired to our tents. 

I cooked one of my Good to Go hiker meals, but it ended up being too spicy for me. I ate all I could because I needed the calories but now, I feel kind of ill from it. Hope it doesn’t give me horrendous gas in the night! 

Day 13: From Sand to Snow

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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