After bidding Al and Nellie goodbye, I started up the trail. Like many sections of the Arizona Trail, this was an existing trail that would connect to other trails either previously existing, or specially made AZT sections. The trail was really a back country road, steep and rough and rocky. It was labelled a "forest jeep road" in the guide book, but I certainly wouldn't take MY jeep on it. The only vehicles I saw on this road were ATVs, the buggy-style ATVs that you can rent for fun. And it did look like fun on the ATV. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly as fun on foot. All those steep rises and whoop-do-dos and soft sand made for hard hiking. I was pretty disappointed to see that at the end of a long day of hard hiking, I only had 13 miles under my boots! Fortunately, the beautiful views made up for the arduous climbing.
I was quite happy to find a nice, established camp spot off a dirt road. It had ample flat ground, a fire pit (though I did not light a fire. I just set up camp, ate, and passed out), and a water source close by in the form of a river. It was a comfortable camp.
Around 2 am, when I woke up to go to the bathroom ( I wish I could sleep through the night without getting out of the tent!) I heard soft pitter pattering on the tent.
"Oh," I thought, it's sprinkling out"
Once I unzipped my vestibule, I saw that it wasn't raining, it was in fact, snowing! My tent was covered with about and inch of fluffy, white stuff. So after I did my business, I took a few minutes to shake off the tent. I also took a moment to be grateful that I had decided upon my free standing tent, instead of my lightweight, single layer tent. Had I gone the other way, I would at the very least be dealing with condensation inside the tent or worse still, a collapsed tent. Thank goodness!
In the morning, I took a bit longer than usual to break down camp and get going. I was waiting for the snow to slow down. Plus, it was just so cozy in the sleeping bag! I eventually got myself motivated and broke down camp as the snow dwindled, though never quite stopped. It was interesting to see what nocturnal visitors I had, who had left their prints in the snow. A deer, a rabbit, chipmunk or squirrel, and a fox. All of whom appeared interested in my food bag.
I hiked along, all my insulating layers under my rain gear until I reached a trail head about 7 miles away, my stopping point for a mid morning snack. While I munched on my Cliff bar, a border patrol truck rolled up. It was the first of several visits I would have from border patrol that day. The officer got out to make sure I was okay, not suffering from hypothermia, that I had enough water, food, and layers. And to give me the option to bail and head back to town and a warm bed, if I wanted. It's nice to feel looked after!
After the trailhead, the trail took a little detour and followed along a system of pipes that were built in 1904 as a way of carrying water to Kentucky Camp, a mining operation headquarters. Kentucky Camp has several buildings including a visitor center and a rental cabin.
I arrived and pulled out my wet tent, hanging it over a couple saw-horses on the porch of the visitors center to dry. Then I went inside to check out the displays and eat some lunch. My timing could not have been more perfect! As soon as I got inside, the wind picked up and snow started flying. I sat inside, eating my lunch and watching the snow outside. After about and hour, it cleared as suddenly as it had started. I packed up my stuff, shouldered my pack, and continued on my way.
Back out on another dirt road, I encountered another border patrol agent, checking on my well being. We chatted briefly and then went our separate ways. After a brief climb, I crested a high point and began a long, gradual descent to lower elevation. As the elevation dropped, the temperature rose. By the time I stopped for an afternoon break, I had shed the rain gear and my mid layer. I encountered a trail runner and mountain biker in the late afternoon, for after-work training runs. And I once again found a perfect little camp-site for my needs. No snow that night, just a giant, spectacular full moon!
The final day of this leg could not have been any more different. The trail continued to drop in elevation so that much of the day was right on the desert floor. My concern now was not staying warm and dry, but instead staying cool, getting adequate sun protection, and keeping and eye on water.