Even after all this creative driving and moving around and hiking in and out, and even though I put in19 miles that day, I feel like I didn't walk much of this section at all. I saw some nice views, I got some fresh air, but I didn't get the real gist of this section, which was essentially a long, slow descent. And while part of me was happy that I didn't experience "all those awful rocks!" as some other hikers described, another part of me was feeling like I wasn't really walking this trail at all.
It was getting time to put the jeep back in storage.
Oracle is, however, home to the Chalet Village Motel, probably the friendliest place on trail. Marie and her husband are the proprietors and they are super hiker friendly. I had sent a resupply box there and after my day of hop-scotching around to different trailheads, I got my box and got a room at the Chalet.
I reunited with many of the hikers I had met on Mt Lemon: Dan, the Bills, Allen, and Steve. Most were taking a zero day after the hard descent. I decided to do a short day on the 9 mile section that began and ended in Oracle. In the morning, I drove to American Flag Ranch Trailhead and did a quick 9 miles to the Tiger Mine Trailhead on the other side of town. I got a hitch back to the motel from a lady driving a convertible with a cat riding next to her by the stick shift. The cat was standing on her hind legs with her forefeet on the dashboard, watching the scenery go by and getting her fur blown around in the wind. When I got in the car, she promptly jumped in my lap and I had a friend for the short drive back to the motel. Around noon, when "The Three Amigos" were hitting the trail, I rode with them to the trailhead to fetch my car.
The next day, I decided to challenge myself. A BIG slack pack! Early in the morning, I dropped the jeep off at the Tiger Mine trailhead and got a ride to Freeman trailhead with Marnie. She was picking up a couple hikers who were having a difficult time and wanted to come back into town for some rest. The Freeman Trailhead is way out in the middle of nowhere. We drove for an hour down winding dirt roads out into the middle of the desert floor. There was a trail angel (whose name I cannot recall now) hanging out at the trailhead in his RV with water, food, and a satellite phone for emergencies. (The community on this trail is amazing!) I said hello to everyone and started hiking southbound- back to the jeep.
Today would be a 28 mile day.
Over the course of the day, I passed 5 of my northbound fellow hikers; The Three Amigos who had started the day before at American Flag Ranch, and later the two Bills, who had decided to hike together. Both Bills are pretty hard core ultra-light: base weight of 5 and 7 pounds respectively, and both striving for 25-30 mile days pretty much every day on the trail. The younger Bill is doing the AZT as a "warm-up" for the PCT. ("Dude", I told him "If you are doing 25 miles on the AZT, you'll be banging out 45 to 50 mile days on the PCT!" ) Apparently, that's what he had in mind- he's going to attempt a PCT yo-yo in 2018. (Hiking northbound and then turning around to hike the whole thing again southbound). The older Bill (Yoda) was using the AZT as a "warm up" for the Colorado Trail later on this year. What is it with these warm up hikes?
And the marathon + day? Went great. I got back to my car about 15 minutes after darkness fell (just a little hiking by headlamp). Got out of my hiking clothes and into my camp clothes, made some dinner, and got all settled down for sleep about 20 minutes before the real rain started falling. Perfect day!