AZT Day 28: The Hiker’s Lie

Today’s miles: 15.4

Total miles: 453.7

In the morning I feel better, mentally. Giving myself an extra day to reach town has alleviated a lot of my stress. I have only about a half liter of water left, so I’m eager to get a good start this morning while it’s still relatively cool out. I emerge from the little campsite and poke around until I find the trail again. In the morning light, it’s clear how I got so turned around last night — this small canyon is confusing. There’s some trickling water through here and I have to cross back and forth a few times on the rocks before finally getting back on trail that’s easy to follow. I climb up for a while into the sun, then walk along the mountainside with some views over the landscape before descending to today’s good water source.

Early morning, before dropping down to the Reavis Ranch area.

Reavis Creek is flowing clear and cold, and there’s plenty of shade to sit in while I filter and eat second breakfast. I drink a whole liter here, and pack out three more. I’m on the edge of the ruins of Reavis Ranch, a homestead and farm established by Elisha Reavis in the late 1800s. After his death the property was sold to a few different private ranchers, but it’s been in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service since the 1960s or so. It’s no longer a working ranch or farm in any way, but apparently there’s an old apple orchard that still produces each fall. I push my way through very tall grasses that tower over my head, getting turned around and slightly off-trail a few times because my visibility is so limited. I keep craning my neck to look for apple trees, but I never find them. This is a bummer — fresh fruit would have been amazing today. The trail takes me past some very old scraps of buildings and farm equipment, so old that they’re fading into the surrounding environment now.

I hike a gradual uphill through a forested area, and the trail tread is so reasonable by AZT standards (just a little overgrown grass, with minimal rocks) that I zip along, glad to feel speedy again for as long as it lasts. A small mule train appears behind me, and I try to hike faster to stay ahead of them, but eventually they catch up and pass me. The trail finally moves out of the trees into a harder climb, topping out at Reavis Pass. There are two dads up here with a few young kids in tow, finishing their snack break. The kids are extremely into the joys of trail food. I find a clear spot for my own lunch break, though I have to swat away the fire ants that persistently approach.

Now there’s a long, long downhill. Several day hikers and weekenders are headed up, and I keep having to find little nooks and crannies to paste myself into, giving them space to hike past on the narrow trail. One hiker asks how much farther to the top, and I tell her she’s pretty close. She narrows her eyes at me. “Yeah, but is that the hiker’s lie?” she asks, suspiciously. I laugh and point to the turn just above us that will open out onto the end of the climb. When I finally reach the bottom, there’s a very long wash to walk through, lots of deep soft sand that’s tiring on the feet and leg muscles. There are a few surprise water sources along the way here, and I dutifully record them in the water report for others.

Long slog through this wash.

The trail climbs out of the wash and uphill to Roger’s Trough trailhead, where I find some shade by the parking area and eat random bites of things from my food bag. Two weekenders emerge from the trail and load their dogs into their car. I silently, fervently wish that they’ll offer me a soda, or even some extra water, but they ignore me.

Snack break views.

I hike speedily uphill to a dirt road, passing more hunters on ATVs, and then connect back to trail near the top of the climb. There are some good views up here, so I find a scrap of shade and have another snack break. It’s a four-mile downhill from here, and my left ankle begins to complain. But I’m distracted from this ache by the sharp thorny plants crowding the trail, which are impossible to fully avoid. It’s late afternoon, and down here in the canyon, dusk is coming on fast. In rapidly waning light, I find a tiny space for my tent literally right next to the trail, kicking a few dried cowpies out of the way. I make instant mashed potatoes but can’t finish them all, and have to seal up the remaining bites in the ziploc bag. I’m still about 50 miles from my next town stop.

Evening light on the mountains as I search for a campsite in the canyon.

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