March 16, 2021
We were camped below 4000’, so it wasn’t terribly cold during the night, but it got colder as the morning came on. The snow started coming down in sharp pellets shortly after we started hiking and didn’t let up for a couple of hours. The wind was biting and pretty soon we were hiking in whiteout conditions, but there was no cover anywhere where we could hunker down and wait it out, so we just kept going. I think if we’d known what was coming, we might have opted to stay in our tents until it passed. That’s certainly what other hikers were doing, because we passed a few tents along the way that were covered in snow. I’m pretty sure Ghosthiker and I hit the trail earlier than most hikers we’ve met on the AZT so far.
During the course of the snow and wind, I kept stopping to try and get a good photo of some of the snow-covered cacti along the trail. Probably not the smartest thing to be doing, but I’m pleased with the photos I got.
Even after the snow and slush let up, it didn’t get very warm. We were able to delayer after lunch but only down to our rain gear. We still needed base layers and gloves to climb the saddle to Sabino Highway. Ghosthiker was a ways ahead of me when I came upon a big black lump in the middle of the trail. It was a newborn calf! I’d heard what sounded like a very angry and distressed cow from quite a ways off, and now I understood why. The cow was hovering a distance from the calf, mooing and huffing angrily and anyone within earshot. The calf looked very recently born and very wet. It also didn’t look like it was moving. I felt terrible leaving it, but I knew there was nothing I could do to help. If I approached, Mamma Cow would probably trample me to death. I had to trust that the ranchers looking after these cows know what they’re doing – maybe they opt to let nature decide which calves live and which ones die? I ended up giving the cow and her calf a very wide birth, hiking up along a steep hill to keep my distance until it felt safe to climb back down to the trail and hike on.
I felt kind of sick after that, so I tried to listen to some music, but it was too windy so I put my earbuds away and decided it’d be smarter to keep my ears open for more angry cows.
The rest of the afternoon is kind of a blur to me. I just know it was long and cold and we had to hike a long, long way down winding switchbacks to get to Sabino Highway. It was a surprisingly busy road that hugged the canyon wall and campground right off the highway for RVers. At the trailhead before crossing the road, we found a bear box and water cache. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect! My period started yesterday and I desperately needed good, clean water so I could wash myself in the pit toilets nearby.
We emptied our trash in the bear-proof bins (still haven’t seen any Arizona bears), used the pit toilets, and sat in the sun eating snacks and taking a shoes-off break. It’s a little warmer here by all the cars and campers, with the sun shining on the pavement, but it’s still cold. It’s been a rough day for me but I’m trying to refrain from complaining. If my feet would just stop blistering, I think everything else wouldn’t even bother me. It’s stupid that I’m getting blisters two weeks into this hike.
We are in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness now, camping at Sycamore Canyon. A nice woman at the campground by the highway told us we’re already officially on Mt. Lemmon! We hiked 18.1 miles today and my feet are feeling it. It was another one of those days where Ghosthiker just thoroughly enjoyed the trail and thought everything was beautiful, and meanwhile I spent the whole time trying to distract myself from the pain in my feet.