The Arizona Trail Day 2: Introduction to the Gates

March 19, 2013, 25.5 km

My first thought when I woke up on day two was ‘another lovely day in Arizona’. Then, ‘damn it’s cold’. The wind was brutal. You’d think that once I managed to drag myself out of my sleeping bag, the cold would have inspired me to get moving, but after finding a sheltered spot to eat breakfast I didn’t want to return to the absurdly cold location of my tent. I finally began walking around 8:30, two hours after I woke up. Easy wake up, hard go.

The trail climbed up and up, passing a spring that I didn’t bother to investigate, until reaching a junction with the trail to Miller Peak lookout. I slackpacked up, the distance feeling longer than 0.5 miles even without my backpack, but the view was worth it.

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From the junction, the trail descended through a shadowy forest that reminded me of home. The temperature was pleasantly cool in the shade. One section of trail was covered in icy snow and I felt grateful for my hiking poles.

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I filtered three litres of water at Bathtub Spring, which has a ‘no camping’ sign. In this land of scarce water sources, hikers are supposed to be mindful of allowing animals space to access them.

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Bathtub Spring, of course.

The AZT proceeded onto the Crest Trail, jauntily rising and falling to an extent that I became irritated and was glad when I reached the junction for Sunnyside Canyon, which contained good campsites as well as water. At one point I became confused because I was walking on what looked like a dirt road and the ATA description says that the trail only follows a dirt road for a short distance. I checked my GPS to make sure that I was still going the right way. I was, and there turned out to be a huge sign marking the end of the wilderness area, so it was impossible to miss.

After the AZT moved into a meadow with stubby trees, I reached a gate with a sign reading ‘please close gate, U.S. department of agriculture’ or something similar. Ah, the gates. There were three of them before Scotia Canyon, all with the same structure of two loops of wire holding one of the gateposts in place. When you remove the loops to open it, the gate falls over. At the first gate, I didn’t notice the lower loop and only replaced the top one, so I hope it was still securely shut. At the second, I noticed the lower loop but couldn’t get the post in, so I just replaced the top one. I couldn’t get the third gate open, so I climbed over the fence via a metal bar to one side of the gate. The third area was filled with cows, which I dislike greatly, but these particular cows were nice and frightened and trotted away.

I wanted to reach Parker Lake by nightfall, but had trouble finding the trail on the other side of the road. The sun was setting, so I found what looked like a cow dung-free section of the pasture and set up camp there.

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