Last night I slept great tucked away in my sleeping bag. At the lower elevations now, it wasn’t too cold and there was a faint but pleasant breeze so I even left the rain fly off to have the stars out above.
I woke up at dawn this morning and was able to enjoy coyotes howling both near and far in nearly every direction. I was also able to spend some time working on my charging situation which was about to be desperately needed. After discovering my biners wouldn’t fit in the solar panel grommets, I had to use what I suspected to be a troublesome USB cable as a way to tie it on. To better secure it at the bottom, I used some string that had come with sausage I got from the German Sausage Company in Phoenix (who, by the way, has amazing sausage). This worked well enough to get a charge going into a small portable battery which helped my phone survive the day, as well as my nerves about battery life in my phone and camera.
I was camped at the Parker Lake Trailhead, which is just 1-2 miles from the lake runoff which is a very reliable water source. While filling up there, two mountain bikers from Phoenix who were out for an overnight passed through. I wound up leapfrogging with them a few times in the day thanks to a lot of brutal uphill climbs. As I was getting ready to go, another hiker came down the trail. His name was Dave and he said he started about the same time we did, but at Montezuma Pass, which means I must have passed him at some point. Also, so far I haven’t met anyone with a trail name, and yet everyone last year had one. How peculiar.
I headed up the trail and after loading up on water, began a series of steep and strenuous climbs. For an area that looks very mellow, it has some deceptively challenging trails. On the lighter side though, the day was spent on high desert grasslands covered in oak, juniper, and manzanita. Just like last year, the entire area resonated a relaxing, pleasant environment.
An interesting thing I noticed is how quiet the trail has been so far, including air noise. For the first couple of passages, there’s little to no air traffic at all. I found this to be extremely refreshing and a great asset to help relax after the stress of the preparation. Think about it though, when was the last time you went two full days without hearing any air traffic at all?
The trail eventually dropped into Pauline Canyon where the vast desert landscapes disappeared for a more intimate view of the Canelo Hills. The trail meandered through a thick forest of high desert trees where plenty of shade was a welcome change. It unfortunately didn’t last long though.
Down the trail after some more up and down, I filled up my water at the only place available: a murky pond shared by cattle and a number of other things I’d prefer not to know about. Fortunately, I have a great water filter. In classic AZT style though, I had to fill up on water before starting another seemingly endless climb upward.
It was also around here though that I noticed my hands getting pretty badly sunburnt. I had managed to cover everything else on my body, but neglected to properly cover my hands. I knew I needed to cover them up, but I was limited on what I could cover them with. I dug through my bag and found the only option: a pair of thick wool socks. My hands were now hot, but at least they were protected. Of course this made using hiking poles and especially my camera a bit tricky though. If you want to imagine what it looked like trying to take a picture with thick wool socks on my hands, just picture a Muppet using a DSLR camera.
The more I climbed up this hill toward the hilltop, the more hilltops seemed to appear out of nowhere. It finally crested a ridge after some fantastic views back east, but now forcing my focus on the west. I dropped down toward the end of Passage 2 where I actually felt myself picking up the pace and making much better time. I raced past the marker signifying the border of Passages 2 and 3 and continued a short climb to a short hill pass. I pressed on through more rolling grassland hills before finding the perfect campsite to watch an epic sunset. It was a classic Arizona sunset and couldn’t have come at a better time because the Canelo Hills West just happen to be one of our targets for good photography to protect the scenic resources along the trail. Sadly, someone out there actually thinks it’s a good idea to put a mineral mine right here. That doesn’t seem right to me. If an area is part of a National Scenic Trail, it seems like it should get similar protections for other National treasures.