Friday, March 20, 2015

AZT Day 13-Saguaro National Park

Miles 148 (before the Saguaro National Park boundary) to 128.8 (Rincon Creek)
Arizona Trail Passage 9
19 miles

Made it all the way through Saguaro National Park, a gorgeous stretch of trail, climbing up into oak and then pine conifer forests above 8,000 feet with creeks running everywhere.
Climbing with the sunrise.
Jan got a head start last night by camping higher up and closer to the park boundary. Because I was hiking by myself this morning, it was the first day I got to climb at my own pace. So refreshing to stretch my legs and finally get my heart pumping!  I loved every minute of the climb wishing it would go on longer.
Pine forests above 8000 feet.
WOW!  A douglas fir cone!
The wind picked up at higher elevations and I put on my puffy jacket and gloves against the cold wind. Fingers still got frozen, even hiking uphill. What a contrast to the heat at lower elevations!

Today ended up being Ladies Day on the Arizona Trail-all the Arizona Trail backpackers we met were female.  Met Sandpiper who had spent a sleepless night in terrible winds at Manning Camp. Then ran into Twix, Salsa, and Olive Oyl. Yay for the ladies of the Arizona Trail!

Had lunch with Jan at Grass Shack Campground. We had a permit for the night there but it was too early to stop so we decided to hike on past the border of the park to camp. Note to future AZT hikers that Grass Shack would have been much more sheltered and a better campsite than exposed Manning Camp- it's not always this windy, but better not to take a chance.

As we dropped down all the way to 3000 feet, we passed through many different landscapes. Down by the saguaro cactus, the sunflowers carpeted the desert floor.
A wildflower garden along the trail.

Jan in Saguaro National Park.
Saw an NPS ranger on the trail checking permits. Most other Arizona Trail hikers didn't see rangers, but we did so be sure to get a permit. They are easy to get and we called in to change our permit a few days ago without any trouble.

This section of trail was in great shape with good switchbacks. Stonework on the trail made for good footing and tread-obviously a lot of work went into constructing this part of the trail which made it a pleasure to hike. However, signage was very confusing. Signs didn't say which way the Arizona Trail went at junctions. I was glad I had GPS tracts and maps on my iPhone (via the Gaia app). Also, signs were oriented for northbound hikers, further confusing routefinding. Jan and I both independently missed the turn at Quilter Trail and instead started heading down to Madrone Ranger Station. When we backtracked we realized that we'd missed the turn off because the sign was off the trail facing the other way. Once again, we were glad to have the GPS tracks of the trail on our phones, as well as sense enough to keep double checking our position.

The afternoon heated up and we found a sliver of shade along the still flowing creek/drainage (at waypoint 9-015). We took off shoes and walked barefoot on the rocks. A slice of paradise!
Mimulus along the creek.
We are camped down at Rincon Wash surrounded by a chorus of crickets and hooting of owls. Stars are coming out, and the wind has died down. Happy after all the activity today.
Jan sets up her tent while I relax in my hammock.
Another great hang.  Another great day.
Jan's account of this passage is quite a contrast to mine.  Check it out here.


  1. I have a picture of Manning Camp with hail in the middle of the summer!

    1. That's so cool! Definitely a different world up there. :)

  2. I just changed to Gaia GPS and am loving the app. Glad to hear it is working for you both.

    1. Delighted to hear the app is working for you! I used it all the time on the AZT. Gotta watch the battery usage, but as long as you use it sparingly and close it out when not using it, I didn't have any problems. Very reliable and easy interface.

    2. I'm still using Trimble Outdoors and on my Droid Maxx the battery use is very minimal.

  3. Really enjoy your hammock hang pics, silly huh?

    1. Glad you appreciate the hammock hang photos! Made it part of my camp routine to take a photo of my hammock every night to celebrate another great day on the trail. I didn't think I'd be able to hang EVERY SINGLE NIGHT but oh yeah I sure did hang and feel so proud.

  4. Perspectives differ significantly between mountain goats and wombats . . . glad we were both able to enjoy this special day and that you finally had an opportunity to stretch those long legs and expand your lungs.