Arizona Trail – Passage 15 – Powered by Pizza and Ice Cream

Dates Hiked: March 5-7, 2015 (Days 3-5)
Direction: Southbound
Passage 15: Tortilla Mountains
-Kelvin Bridge to Freeman Road
-Miles: 28.4
-Elevation: Low Point 1,777′, High Point 4,034′

Direction of Travel: Right to Left (Southbound)

With tummies full of pizza and ice cream, from the trail magic provided by Gary and his son (Old Time Pizza in Kelvin), and packs heavy with a few more days of resupply and 8-10 liters of water each, it was quite a challenge to climb out of the Gila River canyon.

This passage began and ended with a public water cache. Inside were bottles marked for either personal or public use. Both Joan and I have been schooled to not depend on these caches, especially since it’s a gamble as to whether they are being replenished regularly. These caches are used by day, section and long distance hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Due to the limited water in these passages, we’ve been told they should be well stocked, something I’m hesitant to recommend or expect. For those wanting to add a personal bottle, labeling should be as follows: “AZT Hiker Jan, 03/15, for public use after 4/15.”

Public cache north of Kelvin Bridge

Public cache south of Freeman Road

Many users of the trail cache water in areas other than these metal boxes. We’ve been advised that this practice is acceptable IF the bottles are labeled appropriately AND they are either taken at the time used or retrieved within a short period of time. Please practice LNT and keep the trail litter free!

This was our first passage where we were expected to share water with the local ranchers who maintain water sources for their grazing cattle. It’s a little nerve wracking when you hear their ATV’s nearby and worry about trespassing or a rancher with an attitude.

Racing us to the water?

A directional arrow pointing us to the water source.

Many times you can find the origin of the hose, others you need to dip into the tank or use the feeder hose.

Sometimes the hoses run for miles to a windmill or spring.

It’s extremely important to respect the ranchers by not wasting water and taking only what is needed for hydration purposes.

Flowers were less prevalent, except for the first few miles which showcased poppies and lupine much like we saw in Passage 16.

Reptiles made their presence known.

This snake was HUGE (4-6′ long) and didn’t move or make any sound. Anyone know type?

This was a little fellow (12-14″), it didn’t rattle either. Can you identify?

This boulder pile provided some nice shade, and a small rock well filled with water from the recent rains. As Joan was taking a peek, a bee grew concerned about her stealing it’s water and quickly stung her on the cheek. Thankful for our tweezers and first aid supplies, I extracted the rather larger stinger left behind and treated the sting with topical benadryl.

Do you see the owl shaped rock?

For several hours we hiked through howling wind. 

With so many cattle trails and rancher roads, and a less than accurate digital track (provided through the Arizona Trail Association), we experienced our first navigational challenges. The PDF version of maps we carried were much less useful than our digital topo maps. Joan used Gaia and I used Trimble Outdoors on our smartphones. They also show many of the springs and cattle tanks, which helps when you need more than intuition or basic instructions to find the water source.

We were glad for our umbrellas as we transitioned from single track trails to the roads.

I keep forgetting to take photos of my campsites. Here was one, minus my tent. Notice the flowering shrub in the background and a nice flat grassy area. I’d expected to be camping between cactus, but thankfully we’ve found much more acceptable areas, although stickery prickery plants are a given. 

Speaking of stickery prickery items, Joan and I were attacked simultaneously by jumping cholla. We were grateful for whomever recommended carrying a comb for effective removal.

Sharing the Trail:

We saw two mountain bikers out for the day, but no other humans on our trek through this passage. We were happy to meet a couple at the end of the passage sporting a Think Pink ATV. They provided a little Trail Magic by taking our garbage.

Tips and Resources:


12 thoughts on “Arizona Trail – Passage 15 – Powered by Pizza and Ice Cream

  1. Great Trip. Based on yours and Joan’s account of the AZT, this is now on our hiking “bucket list”. BTW – based on the coloring and head shape it looks to be a gopher snake or milk snake. Totally harmless…unless you are a gopher or a lactating cow.

  2. Beekeeper – I’ve been following along and reading Sheriff Woodys blog from the same trail. I mentioned you to my son, & he knows you. My son is Twinkle. He’s heading out in May to do the CDT & complete the triple crown!
    Best to you, Sue

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Broken Links? I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s