Monday, March 2, 2015

Gathering information on the Arizona Trail

Drove up to the southern terminus trailhead at Coronado Pass yesterday with Farwalker.  Over her many years living in this area, she has gained expert knowledge of these mountains and the Arizona Trail. 
View from the southern terminus trailhead of the Arizona Trail.
I soak in her and her husband’s advice as we pour over her old hand-annotated forest service maps.  Wildlife, water sources, lightning storms, border patrol, and side trails for bailing options.  Farwalker’s husband chimes in about canyons the drug runners use.  This is NOT the PCT. 
Flower guidebooks and more maps.
All the advice and details ease my worry— the Arizona Trail is different, rugged, and wild and it will stretch my abilities, but I feel prepared.  I take notes and decide how I will adjust given the parameters—don’t hike alone, stay visible, be aware of footprints and sounds.
Farwalker in the Huachuca Mountains.
Farwalker and her husband weave stories of the local Native American, ranching and mining history.  I try to imagine this area as a major cattle operation until the drop in the water table and overgrazing left bareness.  After restoration of the prairie, the grasses are tall and trees dot the landscape. Cottonwoods are leafing out, but Farwalker notes that the other trees are still waiting to bud— they know winter isn’t over yet.
Natural history short course.
After a wet spring, water sources are flowing that haven’t had water for several years.  A relief, but will they still be flowing in a few weeks?
Scouting water sources in the Huachuca Mountains.
There are a few warnings that I do not heed.  Don’t want to heed.  Am I inflexible and too set in my ways?  Or do I know my gear and what works for me?

“Wear pants because the desert trail is overgrown with plants that will cut you up.”  But I do not have pants that don’t chafe.  Will my tall gaiters and long underwear under my skirt provide enough protection?  Probably not. 

“Don’t bring a hammock.”  This advice is from an experienced hammock hanger, who has also hiked the AZT.  But my hammock setup all I’ve got--short torso pad, tarp, groundcloth are for "going to ground."  Which I've only done once before on the PCT.  Will my ground setup keep me warm, with my narrow top quilt?  Will my tarp stand up to the harsh wind in a storm if I set it up on the ground?  Probably not.

At least Jan and I have decided to change our itinerary to avoid this:
50 mph gusts in the Huachucas today.  Happy to be heading to Superior instead.
I also exchange emails and notes with other backpackers heading out for the Arizona Trail this week.  I like this informal network, the information sharing.

Be sure to check out the blogs of these other AZT hikers:
Brian “Beardoh!” and his wife, fellow hammock hangers
Sheriff Woody, who hiked the PCT last year
Mike Cavaroc and his girlfriend- who are great photographers

We are off to pick up Jan from the airport now...

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