Arizona Trail – Part 9: Winter is still here

May 15, 2021

“Gee, what’s that?” When I wake up in the morning, glittering ice crystals are beaming at me from inside my tent wall. And even the residual water in my charcoal-blackened pot is frozen. At 1,700 meters, it’s still winter in Arizona in mid-April. But the rising sun sizzles away the ice in no time, leaving a comforting warmth in its wake.

It is Easter Sunday. But apart from an encounter with a Cottontail Rabbit – a rabbit with a cotton-white fur – the Easter holiday passes me by without a trace. For the first half, the Arizona Trail is like a long, drawn-out roller coaster ride. Every conceivable mountain range is taken along. With the Four Peaks Wilderness I now leave the penultimate one. Its beauty with all the fascinating rock formations and babbling brooks will be hard to beat.

 

 

Half full or half empty?

I have to run, run, run. Not because time is breathing down my neck. Contrary to my expectations, I’m a day and a half ahead of schedule. It’s the scenery that drives me forward. The constant new impressions. What might it look like around the next bend? Rolling, cactus-covered hills? Massive mountains? Endless flatlands? Or something completely different?

In the middle of the unpronounceable Matzazal Wilderness I cross the so-called Halfway Point – I have made half of the Arizona Trail. And already I get wistful. Only half of it lies ahead of me! The kilometers fly away in the meantime only so under my feet and the ascents are no longer quite so deadly.

In the meantime, I sleep more often without my tent than with it. Falling asleep in the evening with a view of the stars simply can’t be beat – even if I can’t really see sharply without my contact lenses, one of which I lost about two weeks ago. But all that somehow doesn’t matter at all out here.

 

No air left

At some point it had to happen with all the pieksigen stuff yes times: My sleeping pad has a hole. Shortly before bedtime, I notice that my “bed” is running out of air. Countless attempts to find the tiny tear without the popular bathtub trick cost me several hours. But still two days march away from civilization I have no other choice. In the end, I find the tormentor and patch it more or less expertly.

Good enough that the mat will still be my companion years later.With a disgruntled mood I hike the next day through the wilderness. With such beautiful views, it’s hard to imagine that a bad mood can arise here. And yet, the trail wears me down today. It always goes along the slope and my ankles hurt. The trail is even stonier than usual and Ranger is suddenly going faster than me. I think it’s the chocolate I’m missing….

 

 

Shower? What’s that?

What goes up, comes down. Slowly and steadily I leave the heights of the Mazatzal Wilderness behind me. In the distance, I can already see the Mogollon Rim: the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, which stretches across the four states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and, of course, Arizona.

Several times I was already there on a discovery tour. But I have never hiked so far there. The emotions just take over and so one or the other tear of happiness rolls down my dusty face. The last shower I enjoyed in Superior – that was over seven days ago…

Time for a swim! Fortunately, the East Verde River is on today’s route. Shirt, pants, socks. Everything gets pulled through the clear water several times; and still doesn’t get clean. I bathe in the river like a sparrow in a puddle. Ranger sits on the bank and can’t comprehend this at all. One day more or less of stinking, what does it matter?

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