March 20, 2021
Oh sweet, merciful Jesus. I don’t believe I’ve ever slept this well in my entire life. My hotel bed was so comfortable, like a nice, soft, broken-in bed you’d find at home. I definitely slept like the dead. I’m sure it helped that the last several nights I’d had almost no sleep whatsoever. But seriously, between the alcohol and the sleep deprivation and how comfy the bed was…I could have died happy.
We were awake around 5:00am because of course we were, but we both just rolled over and went back to sleep. We didn’t actually get up until around 7:00am! Honestly, there was just no reason to. We didn’t have to check out until 11:00am anyway, and we’d already decided that unless it was absolutely necessary, we weren’t ever going to rush out of a hotel or hostel to get back on trail. We want to get our money’s worth and get as much rest as possible whenever we’re paying for a room for the night. We took our time getting ourselves around, enjoyed our coffee, soaked and scraped our feet in the tub, got caught up on social media and trail journals, walked to the Salt and Pepper gas station again and got more coffee and donuts, and I got a big can of green tea to put in a bottle and take with me when we hike out. It was a nice, slow morning.
It was a Saturday, so there was no one at the office to ask about getting a ride to the trailhead. Ghosthiker put out a call on the AZT Trail Angel Facebook page, but we waited all morning and there were no takers. Not surprising, really. San Manuel doesn’t seem to be the place hikers ever detour to, since it’s not mentioned much on Guthooks and we haven’t seen a single other hiker since we got here. Thankfully, Ghosthiker happened to run into the motel cleaning lady, Tanya, who happened to also be someone who worked at the front desk of the hotel, and she offered to take us to the trailhead as soon as we were ready! It ended up being her husband who drove us, but we were very thankful regardless.
One of the things we’re quickly learning about this particular trail is that, even though it doesn’t have quite the support system that older trails have, the people here are incredibly friendly and anxious to be of help, and it just seems like everything keeps working out. When we got to Webb road yesterday it felt pretty deserted and no one was even slowing down for us. We were beginning to think getting to San Manuel would be impossible, and then Josh showed up! Seriously, everything works out!
We were at the trailhead and hiking by 11:30am. Yesterday when we got to the road, the trailhead was completely deserted, but today (Saturday) it was surrounded by parked cars and we met several day hikers out with their dogs (so many dogs!). We’re hiking in Oracle State Park now, and it’s very gently rolling with a smooth trail, so that’s been nice. We did 5.3 miles in 2 hours! And we could have done more, but we were kind of moving at a mosey pace trying not to punish our feet in this heat. It’s a long way to Kearney and there’s going to be some long dry stretches with lots of water carrying, so no point killing ourselves now.
We stopped for a break at the bridge under highway 77 at mile 205.2. Mountain Goat aka Casey had left a note on Guthooks saying the bear box next to the bridge was empty, and the note was date stamped today, but when Ghosthiker and I arrived it was full of water jugs, Capri Sun, Kool Aid drinks, and beer! It also looked like it had just been stocked. Poor Mountain Goat must have just missed it. We enjoyed a nice long break under the bridge where it’s nice and cool and there was even a bucket for us to leave our trash. Thanks, trail Angel!!!
I decided to fill up one water bottle at that cache and then another at the next cache in about 1.5 miles, but that cache turned out not to have much public water left, only gallons reserved for coming hikers. Ghosthiker and I managed to each get a litre, giving us just what we need to get to the next water source tomorrow if we dry camp and don’t cook our dinners. We try not to take all the water we can when there isn’t much to go around because we know there are a lot of hikers behind us who might be counting on these caches. Thankfully, we both have leftover pizza from San Pedro’s in San Manuel that we won’t need to cook.
The next 5 miles flew by. I barely remember them. There was a lot of scree and we needed to take another break at mile 210, but I spent the majority of that stretch in my head and not thinking much about the trail or the scree or my hurting feet. Just hiking. It was nice. It also helped that the clouds came out and the sun wasn’t too intense.
We stopped at 6:00pm and camped at mile 212.9 just off the trail along a dirt road. We’re a little higher up than the surrounding valley so the setting sun was cool, and we could hear the random coyote in the distance. I ate cold pizza for dinner.
We didn’t see any other thru-hikers today, just day hikers near the trailhead where we started. It was kind of weird.
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