Dates Hiked: March 5-7, 2015 (Days 3-5)
Passage 15: Tortilla Mountains
-Kelvin Bridge to Freeman Road
-Elevation: Low Point 1,777′, High Point 4,034′
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.”
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.
Reptiles made their presence known.
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.
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.
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:
- Link to my other Arizona Trail (AZT) posts
- Rambling Hemlock (aka Joan)
- Arizona Trail Association
- Fred Gaudet’s Water Report
- Umbrella and Mariposa Pack Links
- Disclaimer: As a Gossamer Gear Ambassador, I was gifted the pack, but paid for all the rest of my gear
- In Kelvin, AZ
- Food – Old Time Pizza – Gary & Lorraine, 520-363-5523