On the morning of April 9th, Ranger and I leave early. It’s supposed to be the last of three super-hot days for now – on a stage of the AZT where there are no water sources. Actually I wanted to store some water gallons here in March before the start of the trail, but my rental car was absolutely not designed for the road conditions that prevail here. I was all the happier when I read a few days ago in the Guthook app that a trail angel had just dropped off several gallons here. And indeed: in the supply box at the Telegraph Canyon we find enough water to survive the stage even with over 90 degrees and bright sun.
A siesta to the hardest midday heat is nevertheless necessary. There is almost no shade here. If you see only one tree for miles, then you take advantage of it. About two hours Ranger and I lie in the shade of the shrubby undergrowth and hope that the worst will pass. But at some point we have to leave and keep sweating.
Around 3 pm we arrive at the Picketpost Trailhead. From here Ranger wants to get to the small town of Superior and tries to reach a trail angel located there via his telephone. Just in this moment a car stops behind us and two women get out. Marie-Jo, M. J. for short, has just driven a hiker back to the trail and asks us if she can help us. Ranger is already on board. My plan is to hike a few more miles today. But a warm dinner, a shower, a bed and the opportunity to wash my clothes convince me and I get into the car. Hardly driven off, we see Larryboy standing at the roadside, who actually wants to go back to the trail. As soon as we have listed all the advantages of an overnight stay with M. J., he sits next to me and we all end up in Superior.
Marie-Jo and her husband, who by the way had filled the water cache at Telegraph Canyon, turn out to be the greatest selfless trail angel I meet on the way. They are happy about every story of ours, show us the best supermarket and I eat the best apple pie of my life there. I spend the night together with one of their dogs in the bedroom on a foam mat.
After a restful night, the three of us start into the Superstition Wilderness. This is an area where rattlesnakes are abundant. But the Superstitions provide more than a surprise and incredible views. In a cement tank there are said to be goldfish. At least that’s what my app says. Curiosity is the death of the cat and so I walk, although I still have enough water, the small detour to the tank. What I find in there is cloudy, greenish water. No trace of fish. But after I play around a little with my hands in the water, really bright orange goldfish come to the surface and nudge my fingers. In the middle of the unspeakably hot desert. As I learn later, goldfish ensure good water quality by keeping the tank free of algae. The goldfish have been eagerly nurturing there for years.
Colourful spring flowers accompany me and the grass along the trail gradually gets higher and higher. So high that I simply disappear into it. I fight my way along the steep path through the wild grass landscape and arrive at Reavis Pass in the late afternoon, where there are several nice campsites waiting for the tired hikers. A room with a view. The whole area here is marked by the name Reavis. Little is known about the so-called “hermit” Elisha Reavis. Once he moved to the Superstition Mountains and found fertile land at a rushing brook. Still today you can find relics of the Reavis Ranch like iron tools and even gnarled apple trees that he planted there.
The Superstition Mountains also seem to be the area where trail builders have forgotten that there are switchbacks. The ascents and descents into the mountains lead straight and extremely steep up and down. Fortunately my backpack is already quite empty and light, because tomorrow there will be supplies at the Roosevelt Lake Marina.
The very first guests
Almost every Arizona Trail thruhiker sends a package to the marina in Roosevelt Lake. Between Superior and the next shopping opportunity in Payson or Pine there are several day walks and the selection of food in the marina shop is poor and expensive and therefore makes it necessary to store self-assembled supply packages. Although the marina accepts (currently still) packages from the hikers, one already notices on arrival that one does not correspond to the target group as a thruhiker. Although both Ranger and I bought some things in the shop, we were informed that we should not fill bottles with water and please keep our boxes far away from the other customers. Charging our devices for the duration of the stay was also prohibited, although we were the very first guests to come to the newly opened restaurant and ordered quite a bit. Some employees seemed to be more annoyed by us and our packages.
Freshly strengthened by burgers and beer we start our ascent to the Four Peaks Wilderness with our bulging and ultra-heavy backpacks. The elevation gain is strenuous and the extra pounds of food often make us stop for micro breaks looking back at Roosevelt Lake. We finally leave the huge Saguaro cacti behind us.
We want to make it to Buckhorn Creek, the first and only water source over many, many miles. Violet lupines, bright yellow poppies and a rainbow in the distance make for more than one photo stop before we arrive in the late afternoon at the cool, crystal clear stream. There is room for exactly two tents. Of course we already know that camping right by the stream will take revenge with lots of condensation, but the place is too nice to look for another one.
As it rains for the first time in the night, we have trouble getting the tents dry for the next morning. Inside and outside thick drops hang from the thin tent walls. But when the sun throws its first rays into the small canyon, the drying process is quickly completed.
During our ascent we always have the four peaks that gave the Four Peaks Wilderness its name within sight, while the trail winds its way along the edge of the mountain. Today is a long and intense day. More than 3,000 feet of elevation gain and almost 21 miles are on my watch as we arrive at Little Pine Flat on the evening of 13 April. The tents are quickly set up and food cooked, as the night is about to get very cold.