The Arizona Trail Day 11: Fake Missing Hiker

Thursday, March 28, 2013


My task today was to resupply in Vail. I decided to leave my pack in the El Bosquecito picnic area where I had camped the previous night, walk the eight kilometres into Vail, walk back to the ranch where I had left the trail yesterday, and pick up my pack when the trail passed the picnic area. That was a reasonable plan, right, RIGHT? You would do it too, RIGHT?

When I started walking down the road, a driver stopped and asked whether I was all right. Apparently I was walking outside of normal hours/locations. I asked about directions to Vail and he said that I was headed the wrong way. Oops. He was suspicious of me and asked who I was and what business I had in Vail, but eventually offered me a ride. As it turns out, he was suspicious because he owns the surrounding ranchland and has seen a lot of ‘weirdos’ in his time, but he quickly warmed up once he decided that I wasn’t a weirdo. He suggested that I buy a gun. No thanks! I would just shoot myself in the leg, and that would hamper my efforts in walking to Utah. He dropped me off at the post office and even returned after running his errand to see whether I wanted a ride back to the ranch, but while I had finished filling my baggies of Nutella and peanut butter from my bounce box (much to the horrified fascination of the PO employee) I still needed to buy sunscreen and some other junk.

After purchasing sunscreen and junk, and more adventures with the PO (I had ordered a GoLite umbrella to be sent there but getting it was a trial, the employee couldn’t locate it the first time and told me it wasn’t there), I started walking back to the ranch. In the correct direction, I’m happy to say. I was quickly offered a ride by another fellow, a Tucson business owner interested in the AZT. He was nice as well, even offered to drive me back into Vail had I forgotten anything. I had forgotten lemonade but that seemed like a poor reason for making him drive me back into town.

The trouble came after he dropped me at the Colossal Cave gate. While I was walking down the road, a woman pulled up in a car and asked (yeah, they just kept pulling up) whether I was the one ‘they’ were looking for.


Someone had found my pack at the picnic area and called the police because they thought I was a missing hiker! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great when people show concern, but is it really so bizarre that someone would leave their heavy pack somewhere while going to do something else? Shouldn’t there be a time consideration for this type of thing? I was only gone for a few hours! After being carted back to the picnic area by a Colossal Cave employee who had been driving around in search of me, I was lectured by an officer about leaving my gear where people could steal it. I was embarrassed and repentant despite doubting that tourists would want my dirty gear. He then asked me what I can only assume were some form questions always asked of hikers who get into trouble, because they were irrelevant to the situation. At the end of it all, I collected my pack, walked to the ranch and started off on the trail again. No slackpacking involved.

What a weird day. Such is visiting the PO in the life of a thru-hiker. Who is negligent with their gear.

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