March 24, 2021
It rained all night long. We were so thankful for our hotel room, but felt kind of bad for our hiker friends who’d skipped town and were camping in the rain. I guess that’s what you sign up for, on a thru-hike. We’ve definitely done our fair-share of camping in inclement weather in the past. Still, I hoped our friends were able to stay nice and dry. I doubt I would have, in my single wall tent. That’s the risk I take bringing a lighter tent. So far it’s been worth it, but only time will tell.
Chris, bless his heart, came to pick us up around 8:30am to take us to the trailhead. I managed to rush over to the local dollar store and grab a strawberry milk for some extra calories, since I’m still having trouble eating in the morning. On the drive over, Chris told us all sorts of things about Kearney and the trail surrounding the town. He even offered us some instant coffee packs. Such a super-nice guy.
We were on trail by 9:00am, and the entire day was spent hiking near the Gila River. We left the hotel with 4 liters of water each because the Gila River is kind of gross and there isn’t a lot of easy access to it along this stretch of trail, so it was a very heavy carry day. We found Bass camped just a little ways in from the trailhead and he passed us later in the morning. Then the three of us ended up taking a break together in a wash in some shade. It was surprisingly sunny during our break, but dark clouds kept coming and going and we got sprinkled on a few times during the day.
I’m pretty sure my shoes are dying already. I can feel it in the bones of my feet as I’m walking. That could also just be all the extra water weight, but still. Not a great feeling. Thank God I have new shoes coming soon.
I pulled ahead of Ghosthiker later in the afternoon and there was some miscommunication about where we were going to meet up. I pushed a little farther than normal to get to the last water source (which was the Gila River, bleh) before a big climb, but Ghosthiker had to stop a ways back and take a shoe-off break. Along this stretch, the cows were kind of scary. I could hear one mooing angrily not far off trail, but I couldn’t see it for all the scraggly trees and brush. It was close enough that I could hear it huffing and puffing, so I hiked quickly. Then I came upon another cow right on the trail that looked absolutely pissed to see me, so I yelled at it until it moved, then scurried along and hoped Ghosthiker didn’t run into any mean cows behind me.
I found Bass at the last water source and probably sat there for about 45 minutes chatting with him and waiting for Ghosthiker. Turns out, she thought we were skipping the Gila River water source and going directly into the climb, which she started doing before realizing I might be waiting for her back at the river. I felt really bad about that, though I’m not sure where the miscommunication happened. Oh well. At least she didn’t go far.
Unfortunately, we had to climb for 2 miles before we found a decent place to camp, and it was already taken by two other hikers. We didn’t know them, and we didn’t want to pitch on a slant, so we started looking around for other flat spots. There was nothing. We would have camped at the river but we’d heard there were a lot of javelina’s around, not to mention all the angry cows. We didn’t want to deal with that.
By this point the sun had gone down, it was getting dark and chilly, and we were both pretty tired and hangry. Our miscommunication had cost us these tent sites that were now taken.
However, these two young hikers were super sweet. One of them, Oklahoma, immediately got out of his tent and started helping us search for some flat spots we might be able to pitch. When none could be found and we were thinking of hiking on in the rapidly fading light, the other hiker, Cameron, immediately got Oklahoma to help him move his tent to make space for us! He even moved his tent onto a slant so I could have the flat space, which I fought him on, but he absolutely insisted. These two hikers were so incredibly nice! Cameron even asked us if we’d like to partake in the “Devil’s Lettuce” with him! I politely declined on that, but internally vowed to pay him back at some point for sacrificing his tent site for me. Such a sweet guy.
Two other hikers arrived much later hoping to camp there as well, but they ended up hiking on. There was really no way to rearrange our tents at that point – there was just no space left. I felt bad for them. This is another reason why having dedicated tent sites marked on Guthooks would be really useful on this trail.