March 17, 2021
Did I mention it’s been cold? Yeah, last night was the coldest. There was literally frost all over the inside of my tent and on my quilt this morning. I wish I’d taken some pictures but it was just too cold. I think it was like 9 degrees where we were camped. I had to pee all night despite having gone twice before crawling into bed, but I waited until morning because it was too cold and I didn’t want the blood smell to attract bears (periods suck).
I only have two hand warmers left, and I don’t know what it will be like tomorrow morning, so I saved one and used the other alternately between my hands. We took our time this morning and didn’t start getting out of our tents until the sun was up and warming us at least a little. I got some good stretches in, at least. I’ve been trying to prioritize that on this hike.
We set off around 8:00am which isn’t too bad considering the cold. The whole morning I was in my tent heating coffee and packing up, it didn’t even get warm enough to melt the ice on my tent, which sounds terrible but essentially means I was able to shake the frost particles off before I packed the tent up for the day, so that was nice. No sopping wet tent hanging out in my backpack all day! Yatta!
The hike out of the canyon, up, and into another canyon was fairy gentle. I had hoped the trail would be better maintained this close to Summerhaven and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. The time I’ve spent journaling about how terrible the scree has been is nothing compared to how much it’s been pissing me off lately. I’ve been reeling in my complaining because I understand that the AZT is still a young trail compared to other long trails, so it probably just doesn’t have the support and maintenance volunteers that trails like the PCT and AT have. It helps me be a little more patient when I roll my ankles on all this damn scree.
We stopped for a long break at mile 170.8 just before Hutch’s Junction because the water was awesome. The sun was out and felt so warm on our skin that we took off most of our clothes and rinsed them in the creek. I haven’t taken off my base layer pants since we left Vail, so…yeah. They definitely needed a good rinsing. We spread our wet things on the nearby rocks to dry in the sun while we ate some snacks and rested up before the big climb ahead.
After our break, I let Ghosthiker go on ahead while I found a spot well away from the water source to take a pee, then I set off up the trail. Literally. It was a long, pleasantly wooded climb out of the canyon for about 3 miles, and we took another break just before the shade broke and we were hiking in the sunshine again. Up, up, and up! It was a steep climb but I was feeling good.
At Romero Pass, the trail got brutally steep. I mean, seriously. Nobody warned us about this climb. Even Ghosthiker said it was the most intense upward climb she’s ever done. It reminded me of portions of the side trail I had to take to get off the PCT to get to Holden Village, only this one lasted for almost 2 miles. We often lost the trail entirely. It was really rough and slow going. Took us an hour and a half, and we were only able to stay on trail thanks to randomly places cairns (thanks, whoever did that!).
It was getting dark before we were able to find somewhere suitable to camp. The climb took way longer than we anticipated. The only area flat enough for tents that we could find was rocky, with the terrain being either wet from snow or hiding a slab of solid rock beneath, making it difficult to find a place where our tent stakes would go into the ground and stay there. I ended up pitching in a very wet spot, but I have a foil emergency blanket, so I spread that under my tent as a sort of footprint to keep my tent floor dry. Kind of missing my free-standing Big Agnes tent, not gonna lie.
I had to backtrack up the trail a little ways to get water, and damn it is cold! Shortly after I got back, Trash Panda and Loins of Arabia arrived and are camping with us for the night. I’m shocked they even found somewhere to pitch their tent but happy to see them nonetheless!
Just a few miles into Summerhaven. It doesn’t sound like there are any places to stay that are open for the season yet, but apparently the post office let’s hikers sleep inside on the floor if they want. We’ll probably do that. We need a break from this cold.
The blisters on the bottoms of my heels are back, and worse. I don’t know what to do. I’ll leave that for future Trooper to deal with. For now, it’s sleep time. Plus ultra, or whatever.