“Firearms training! No trespassing! Arizona Trail hikers okay.” This sign on the side of the trail does make me a little queasy. But what can you do? After all, we have to move forward. So I open the rusty barbed wire gate and hike into the shooting area. At least there are no shots to be heard right now.
Today is a great day, because after eight days I’m finally going back to a small town. It’s about time, because my powerbank is completely empty and I could only supply my devices with my ultralight solar panel. Plus, I can’t see the fish-shaped crackers anymore – the only edible left in my feedbag.
Pine is a charming small town surrounded by coniferous forest, with deer and elk roaming freely. The local brewery not only serves the legendary Arizona Trail Ale – a specially brewed beer – but also new shoes, which I had shipped here. After more than 700 kilometers, I have to say goodbye to my first pair with a heavy heart. We have been through a lot together. In the evening, I meet up with a few other Thruhikers at the only pizzeria in town. A feast that no one can get enough of.
Bye bye, des(s)ert!
With the ascent out of Pine, I finally leave the desert behind. The rock still bears the typical reddish color, but pines, juniper trees and deep green shrubs grow around me. Again and again I stumble across a rushing stream filled by the melting snow or an ice-cold spring. I also meet the East Verde River up here again – as a rippling mountain stream.
The Mogollon Rim wants to know it again. Steep and rocky – I climb the edge of the massive Colorado Plateau over the Arizona Trail. It’s warm, but the fragrant conifers provide lovely shade. Although I’m quite fit by now, the elevation gain is a real challenge.
Made it to the top! That was some effort. But the beauty here on the Colorado Plateau compensates for all the pain. At 2,200 meters, a turquoise stream meanders along the forested Arizona Trail. And what do I see flashing through the trees? Snowfields! It’s not like the nights are getting warmer.
The season does change from winter to spring to summer. But the further north I get, the higher the individual sections are as well. Temperatures around the freezing point are still not uncommon at night. So tempting are the places where other hikers must have camped before me. Artfully piled up stone fireplaces let me become almost weak to call it a day. But it’s still a few miles to the Utah border…
Instead, Ranger and I hike on to the Blue Ridge Campground, where I had deposited a few gallons of water in the high snow in mid-March. At least I thought it would have been just around the corner. In fact, I have to hike just roughly one mile to the water supply and back to the campground with four gallons of water in each hand. Lord, also one copes with that in the meantime. For the first time in a long time I also start a real campfire for Ranger and me. Normally we are much too tired for that. Today we manage to stay awake until 10 pm.