Day 17: Cold, until it’s not.

March 19, 2021

Mile: 199.9

It was a rough night. Ghosthiker and I both got super congested sleeping on the carpeted floor of the post office lobby, but no creepy gigolos showed up in the night and neither Casey nor Ryan snored, plus it was super warm and cozy, so that was nice. I woke up several times in the night, and when I woke up a little after 4:00am and saw that Ghosthiker was gone, I decided it was time to get up. I took my food bag to the restrooms across the street and found Ghosthiker there setting up her stove to make coffee and breakfast, so I did the same. Both of our faces and hands were kind of swollen, which was weird. There must be something in the carpet we’re allergic to. We took our time enjoying hot coffee (and a breakfast burrito, for Ghosthiker) while waiting for the sun to come up and our devices to charge a little more. The power sources in this town are kind of weak, but hey, at least they’re there! I’m certainly not complaining. 

Yesterday evening I spent some time in the bathroom brushing out my long hair really well. I have a little travel brush/mirror combo that I always bring with me when hiking (thanks for the tip, Dixie!), but I hardly ever brush my hair on trail just because too much hair comes out and gets all over my stuff (yuck!), so I wait until I’m in town and can put the hair in the trash or something. I also have really thick, somewhat curly hair, so I don’t brush it very often anyway, but oh my Lord it felt so good to massage my scalp with my little brush and braid it into a smooth braid once I was done brushing. I’ve been wrangling my hair into a messy bun every day and it shows.

Anyway, we left Summerhaven around 6:50am. It was a short road walk to the turn off to Oracle Ridge, and we managed to cover 4.5 miles by 9:00am. The trail runs through a burn area and had a lot of ups and downs, but it was a nice hike with great views and cool weather. Similar to the hike into Summerhaven, the hike leading out of town is well-maintained and my feet are doing great. We took a break about 8 miles from High Jinx Ranch. I’m sorry to say I didn’t take many pictures during our morning hike.

And, of course, with great highs come great lows. The ups and downs were gentle until they weren’t, and the trail was smooth and well-maintained until it wasn’t. A little while after our first break we started to encounter lots of scree on a downward climb and it was painful. All this well-maintained trail must have made my ankles lazy, because they were really hurting by the time I got to the water tank at 194.6. It was a bit of a push, but I really didn’t want to stop until I reached the water source. Just like me, to push a little too hard. Oh, well. 

I got there well before Ghosthiker but couldn’t figure out how to get to the water! It was a huge blue tank and I circled all around it, careful not to startle any snakes as I went, but there was nothing. No spigot, no ladder to climb to an opening on top – nothing. I’d hiked 10 miles with a single liter of water and hadn’t had much in the morning so I was pretty thirsty. As I was turning back toward the dirt road the trail had turned into a while back, I was momentarily blinded by the sun reflecting off of something nearby. About 50 ft or so from where I was standing was a big trough of crystal-clear water! It was right next to the road, just a short distance further up the trail from the entrance to get to the big blue tank. Ghosthiker arrived as I was filtering water and we took a break across the road in the tiny bit of shade some bushes provided. It is surprisingly sunny and warm today. 

During our break, Ghosthiker had cell service and decided to see if she could find us a room for the night. There are two roads hikers can hitch from after High Jinx Ranch that will take them to Oracle, which is the preferred town stop according to Guthooks. However, we noticed that there’s a small town called San Manuel near the trail if you hitch in the other direction. There were no comments about it that we could find on either Guthooks or Facebook, but we decided to give it a try anyway. After the brutal climb up Mt. Lemmon and getting almost no sleep in Summerhaven, we decided it was time for a hot shower, a hot meal, and a real bed. We found a room at the San Manuel Lodge (aka the Sky Motel) and booked it.

Hopefully, we can get a hitch or an Uber from Webb Road. 

Now that we’re off the mountain and back in the valley, it is so hot! My feet are on fire. Between the extreme temperature changes, that insane climb before Summerhaven, and all the scree we’ve been dealing with, Ghosthiker says this is the toughest hike she’s ever done so far, which is crazy to me because she’s done so many hikes. She’s literally a Triple Crowner. 

We stopped very briefly at High Jinx Ranch, just to check it out. It’s not open for the season yet, otherwise we definitely would have stayed there tonight instead. It’s a really cool historic sight, though, and the caretaker was kind enough to let me use the restroom inside. So rustic and cozy! I’m really bummed we won’t be staying here. Apparently, it’s a popular place for thru-hikers to stay overnight, when it’s open. Oh, well. I collected some water from the spigot outside and we carried on. 

We got to Webb Road and waited about ten minutes before a guy named Josh in a sweet Ford F-150 gave us a ride to San Manuel. He was a really nice guy! He’s moving to Illinois soon, so we definitely chatted about that since I’m originally from Chicago (confused yet about where I’m from and/or where I live? So am I). When he dropped us off at the Sky Motel, he wished us luck and recommended San Pedro Pizza. 

We got to the hotel, checked in, and then went to the Salt and Pepper general store to do a little resupply, which was basically just a gas station but hey, we weren’t about to complain. There was no shampoo or conditioner in our room, so we bought a couple full-sized bottles they had at the store. Good thing, because I plan to pamper my hair with conditioner tonight. We bought some pre-dinner snacks and stuff, including two cans of Four Loco (LOL!). When we got back to the room, I let Ghosthiker shower first while I went through my food bag again to make sure I have enough calories to get to Kearney. 

Let me tell you something. Hiking for eight days straight in the desert and the mountains will bring your appreciation for a hot shower to a whole new level. Seriously, it felt like I’d landed on another dimensional plane or something. Glorious! 

We did laundry, ordered pizza and salads, and now we’re watching The Proposal on cable. Well, mostly. I’m reading and Ghosthiker is on the phone with her son. We’ve been sipping Four Loco all evening, so I’m a little buzzed and more than ready to sleep like the dead. Plus Ultra, lol. 

Day 18: Oracle State Park

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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