AZT Day 2: Natural Horsemanship

Today’s miles: 14.5

Total miles: 20.2

Toby and I sleep well in the cool night, listening to some cows mooing in the distance. Actually, I sleep great. I’ve never been able to sleep well while backpacking but that all changed this trip, partially because my pack is now mostly full of sleep aids (two different mats, an inflatable pillow, and my stuffed bear). It is so refreshing not to have to listen to an audiobook for hours in the middle of the night because I am trapped in a tent with insomnia. 100% worth the weight.

The hike starts out beautiful and stays that way through the first half of the day. After the exposed climb yesterday I’m excited to be in tree cover and on a trail that’s rolling just enough to keep things interesting. We stop at a road junction after a few miles and had planned to hike off trail for a water source, but we still have plenty so we snack in some shade and then keep hiking.

Me with morning views

The water source we do stop at is a quarter mile off trail. [We have to follow an unmarked cowpath to get to it, which requires a small leap of faith. –Toby] It is a cow trough surrounded by barbed wire, leaving us to wonder how the cows get in. We can tell that there is a section that’s supposed to act as a gate, but we cannot for the life of us figure out how to open it. [Spoiler: Gates will continue to be a frustrating puzzle for my entire time on this trail. –Toby] We can move only the top of one post so we kind of push that aside and then very carefully climb over the wire to get to the water. It is green with algae and teeming with bugs. Mmmmm, desert water. It filters okay though and we fill four liters. We have a nice break in the shade again since it’s starting to get warm and then hike on.

Lens flair, somewhere around the cow trough I think.
This was actually pretty good water after filtering.

Shortly after getting back on trail we pass some mountain bikers coming the other way. These dudes with their e-bikes–which are banned on this trail, by the way–begin to monologue to us about an upcoming mandatory detour that we already know about and that they don’t actually have any real information about because they didn’t take it. And yet they drone on as we try to extricate ourselves from the conversation — it’s not a backpacking trip unless there’s some mansplaining. Sigh.

But then we leave them behind and stop for lunch in the shade of a trail sign at the detour junction. As we’re lounging in the dirt we see this wild looking green caterpillar with a horn on its tail. It starts crawling over to me and I don’t want it to so I take a stick and start beating the ground in front of to discourage it from coming closer and it works — the caterpillar turns and goes a different way. I joke to Toby that I’m using natural horsemanship techniques to set boundaries with the caterpillar and he laughs for a full minute (he has been listening to me go on and on about horse things for days since I bought a horse I am head over heels in love with a few weeks before this trip, and I think I’ve broken him down at this point). [Natural horsemanship!! LOL. –Toby] And then we laugh for another minute about how that joke would not be funny to literally anyone else.

This was possibly the best ever trail lunch – a tortilla wrap filled with deli tuna, sour cream and onion potato chips, and Tapatio from packets I swiped from the Grand Canyon cafe.
Proportionately, the spike on its butt was pretty sizable.

The caterpillar gets its revenge though. I am lying in the dirt with my shirt unbuttoned because of the heat when I feel something tickle my ribs. I reach with my hand and feel something squishy and I scream. Loudly. It’s the caterpillar and I fling it away and now Toby is holding his sides he is laughing so hard. Time to hit the road, we think. These things are coming for us.

Resting post-lunch, pre-caterpillar attack.

The rest of the day is. . . monotonous. We are on the detour now and walking through a burn area so there is no shade to give us a break from this afternoon sun. It’s just hot and dry and dusty. We do pass a pond and there are ducks floating on the surface. Ducks! In the desert! How did they even get here! I exclaim “ducks!” to Toby and of course that makes them all fly away and I hope their next water isn’t too far off. [Those ducks were not expecting to see anyone. They were out of there so fast. Also, I was very glad we didn’t have to get water here, it looked much grosser than the green cow trough water. –Toby]

After that it’s just burned out trees on both sides of the trail. We’re thinking about camp and there’s plenty of space for a tent but it’s all surrounded by widowmakers. So we keep hiking. I bonk around mile 13.5 of our day and ask Toby to hike on ahead. I think Toby is slogging too but he slogs faster than I do. Sometimes it’s easier to suffer in solitude. In a mile, though, we cross the burn line and find a live pine forest with ample tent sights and shade. It’s only mid-afternoon so we hang out to eat and read books before we set up our tent and eat our cold soaked dinner. We are asleep before 8 p.m.

Toby trying to catch a breeze on an exposed, hot stretch between the burned-out forest and our campsite.
Home for the night.

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