Wednesday, March 4, 2015

AZT Day 2-Gila River

Mile 291 to 277 (along Gila River) 
Arizona Trail Passage 16 Gila River
14 miles

The well-graded trail today was lined with poppies and other wildflowers. How could this be the desert?!? So lush and alive with color! This was why we'd chosen to start with this passage of the Arizona Trail, and our timing was paying off.
Wildflower-lined Arizona Trail.

So many flowers!
This is why I am here- to witness this beauty, to experience the desert in bloom, to have our preconceived notions of what we'd thought Arizona would look like shattered- the reality out here is beyond anything we could have imagined.
Saguaro cactus. 
On the long descent from high rocky mountains down to the Gila River, we meet our first backpacker- a section hiker out for his first long trip. Weathered and wild-looking, he said there hadn't been much water in the last several passages so he'd carried 2 gallons, filling at the caches. That made me worried because I'd been hoping there were other water sources after the rain.
Down into the Gila River canyon.
Jan and I stopped for a break a short ways beyond him in the cool of a wash. We spotted a pot hole of water, and started pulling water from it. He came over and stared at us as we filtered the brownish water, still too dazed to talk. I wondered what lay ahead for us, seeing in his eyes the stark country that must lay ahead.

In the afternoon, just as I begin to get my hiking groove on, I felt a sudden burning sensation beneath the big toes of my feet. Oh no! Horrified, I immediately stopped and taped my toes up. I'd never experienced anything like it before, in all the miles and years I've hiked in these shoes. But then again, I'd never done this many miles carrying this much water in this type of heat. I remembered Stacy, my hiking mentor, teaching me about footcare and saying how blisters can form on the bottoms of feet as a reaction to heat. These darn keens are so frickin hot I longed for my old altras, and had to remind myself I was choosing these shoes for the support after the stress fracture scare. After taping my toes up like Stacy had taught me, I continued hiking, adding more tape and allowing my feet to cool whenever I felt the burn. Eventually, they stopped hurting- the taping and care worked- at least so far.
Wrapping my feet and applying anti-friction cream.
When we reached the Gila River, we went down to the paradise cool green banks. We'd read warnings not to drink the water- that it was polluted but we needed water so double treated with both filter and aquamira, surprised that the water was more clear than the pothole water. But it's the invisible stuff that will get you.
Many barbed wire cattle gates.  These are sometimes tricky to open and close.
Jan and I stopped in the shelter of a scrub thicket moving aside cow pies to set up camp. Joking that surely the cows never get down to the river to pollute the water. At night I slept fitfully again, dreaming my toes exploded in painful blisters. But when I woke, my body felt well rested and healthy, ready to take on whatever lay ahead.
Hanging my hammock above the cowpies.
Read Jan's excellent account of our hike through Passage 1 on her blog here.


  1. Beautiful flowers! The toes look painful! :0

    1. The toes got a little better when I started carrying less water after we got into the next Passage. Still had to tape them up everyday but at least they finally got less painful.