Dates Hiked: March 14-15, 2015 (Days 12-13)
Passage 9: Rincon Mountains (including Saguaro National Park)
-Italian Trap to Hope Camp
-Elevation: Low Point 3,130′, High Point 8,601′
Climbing is not my strong suit. I have asthma, exacerbated by exercise and altitude. My legs are strong, as someone recently said I have bikers legs, but even with my wonder-drug inhaler, I suffer. Joan floats up the climbs, she loves climbing, she float walks, she’s in endorphin heaven. I on the other hand plod or trudge, slowly making my way up, but like a tortoise I eventually conquer each summit.
This section was particularly difficult because there weren’t a lot of visual distractions (aka breathing photo breaks) and we had a fierce wind which at least kept me cooled during my uphill grudgefest.
Saguaro National Park is a 17.5 mile section of trail. Camping is limited to either Manning Camp or Grass Shack Camp and ONLY if you obtained a permit in advance, otherwise you can camp just outside the boundary on the north and/or south ends. Originally, we had a permit for Manning Camp but had heard it was windy and exposed, thus we’d changed it to Grass Shack Camp once we were able to gauge our expected arrival date.
My biggest mileage day on the AZT thus far was 16 miles. I was doubtful I could make it the 17.5 miles through the park knowing a big climb was included. However, with our timing off, it seemed unlikely we’d want to stop at Grass Shack Camp. Restrictions such as these make it very difficult for long-distance hikers who prefer to hike until they’re tired or until dusk, then set up camp.
Joan and I implemented a strategy to (1) make the climb fun for Joan (2) make the climb tolerable for me and (3) make it possible for me to make it through the park in one day. Joan made camp early in a hammock-friendly area, while I attempted to reach the park boundary.
I found a little hideaway protected from the strong winds about a half-mile below the south boundary gate, and enjoyed a scrumptious dinner (eating away at some of that pack weight) while being treated to spectacular views and a grand sunset.
After 150ish miles on the Arizona Trail, I was shocked at the condition of the northern section of the Saguaro National Park. The trail had significantly more debris and many down trees than the AZT. It looked completely unloved and neglected. My brain couldn’t process why dispersed camping was not allowed. Furthermore, where are the saguaro? I was so confused . . . maybe it was the early morning hour and lack of sleep the previous night.
I’d happily conquered the climb by the time Joan caught me at Manning Camp around 9am. We found a beautiful clear stream to replenish our water supply and eat up more of that Trader Joe’s pack weight (yes, I was cursing my decision to replace all that dehydrated food, in the future I’ll try to remember MODERATION).
Being tired has consequences of carelessness. In this passage, I had a run in with a pear cactus and a yucca, plus sliced my finger while cutting open my avocado.
Sharing the Trail:
- Joan met Sheriff Woody on the PCT. We were looking forward to this date when our path’s would intersect. He’s hiking with various partners and on this section it was with Bill Murray. They are a big miles team, beginning their northbound (NOBO) quest on 3/7 whereas we began on 3/3. He saw a couple gila monsters on this section the previous day, sure wish one would have made an appearance for me.
- Jules, she’d planned to spend the night at Manning Camp in Saguaro NP but said the wind was unbearable and her timing was off. She was hurrying to lose some elevation before dark.
- Sandpiper, was freezing and exhausted after a miserable night at Manning Camp. She said the wind was unbearable and she’d had a sleepless night.
- Twix, Olive Oyl and Salsa. Here’s a link to Olive Oyl’s AZT Journal and to Twix and Salsa’s AZT Journal. Salsa and I share ascension tortoise syndrome.
- Met a Park Ranger. She asked to see my camping permit and since we wouldn’t be staying, I gave it to her asking her to pay it forward to anyone she finds without one rather than ticketing.
- Met a section hiker with a companion. He was interesting as he biked the sections open to bikes and was hiking the rest to fully complete the trail.
- Also met two mountain bikers just outside the gate, taking the alternate route.
- Saw a group of 4-6 backpackers heading to Manning Camp with large heavy packs.
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