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, walk the eight kilometres into Vail, walk back to the ranch where I had left the trail, and slackpack back to the picnic area. A perfectly reasonable plan, right? Nothing could go wrong… 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. Ha ha oops! Whether because of that or my naturally twitchy aura or the fact that he’s seen many weirdos in his time (his term, not mine), he found me suspicious, but eventually he offered me a ride to Vail. 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. I had finished filling my baggies of Nutella and peanut butter from my bounce box, much to the horrified fascination of the post office employee, but I still needed to buy sunscreen and some other junk, so I declined.
After purchasing sunscreen and junk, and more adventures at the post office (I had ordered a GoLite umbrella to be sent there, but the employee told me that it wasn’t there, and I had to return after checking the tracking information), I started walking back to the ranch. I even managed to walk in the correct direction this time! Another driver stopped to offer me a ride, this one a Tucson business owner interested in the AZT. He was nice too, even offering 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 off 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! I don’t want to criticize the act of showing concern for other people, but is it really so bizarre that someone would leave their heavy pack somewhere while going to do something else? Should there be no time consideration? I was only gone for a few hours! New rule: start The Dark Knight playing and don’t report anyone missing unless they’re still gone by the time it ends.
A Colossal Cave employee who had been driving around in search of me carted me back to the picnic area, where an officer lectured me 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 standard questions always asked of hikers who get into trouble, because they were irrelevant to the situation. For instance, ‘do you have experience hiking in the desert’. Well, I walked here… At the end of it all, I collected my pack, walked to the ranch and started along the AZT 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.