**** Later on, I learned that I really didn't need to get so worked up. It seems that the rangers in Saguaro are fairly lenient when it comes to thru hikers. We thru-hikers roll into camp at sundown, set up camp, eat and go right to sleep. Then, camp is packed up and we are out of there before sunrise. Plus, I would have been in the park on a Sunday night, not traditionally a high volume day for campsites. Other hikers had just printed out their permit request, even though they didn't have the actual permit to show rangers. Oh well. I was in full-blown freak out mode, though, so I made a different decision. *******
I decided to slack pack the next section.
In some ways, I felt like I was cheating. I wasn't hiking every single mile of trail (though I was generally hiking MORE miles than if I had just hiked straight through). On the other hand, I was having a really good time.
When I was just hiking through, I wasn't really meeting many thru hikers. I saw people on the trail, sure. I saw day hikers and mountain bikers and equestrians and, of course, border patrol agents. Just not many thru hikers. When I started the out and back slack pack hikes, I started meeting thru hikers.
Plus, I think this helped with my lack of conditioning. By putting high miles with low weight on my feet for the next several days, I built up my endurance on the steep sections, without killing myself.
After hiking up and back down Mica mountain in Saguaro National Park, I drove around to Mount Lemon where I set up camp in a fairly busy campsite for two nights. I walked south from the campsite on day one ( I ended up hiking almost the entire section in and out) and then north from the campsite day two out and back. Plus, I didn't have to break down the tent. And I had some nice camping neighbors who shared chocolate with me!
It was interesting. As I came into contact with other thru-hikers, they all were saying the same thing: "Wow, this is kind of a lonely trail." Even though I met 4-5 hikers, they were all about a half day apart. Just far enough to not encounter one another on the trail.
I kind of feel like, had I not been slack packing, I would have been a bit down in the dumps, myself. I would have been right in the middle of the half-day-in-between-hikers bubble and I would not have met Bill and Mike and Dan and Steve and the other Bill. I would have ben a lot more lonely than I was as a slack packer.
So even though my execution of the hike over Mica Mountain and Mount Lemon was NOT what I had originally planned, I think it was the right decision for me.
Maybe I should always be a slacker-girl!