Skip to content

AZT – Canelo Hills East to Patagonia

Storm clouds gathering over Juniper Trees and the Canelo Hills, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

Day 5

Most sites along the AZT are rocky. It’s highly recommended that hikers bring a light foam pad to put under their air pads to avoid springing a leak. We didn’t do that. As a result, my pad sprung a leak the night before, and while I still slept ok, it could have been much better.

Outside the tent, some clouds had rolled in overnight that didn’t threaten any weather, but broke up the blue sky nicely. The others got on our their way and we weren’t too long in following.

After a few miles of hiking, we were feeling good and Tatiana had even begun to teach me some Spanish. We were laughing and enjoying our hike when we once again caught up with the other group at a water tank. It was a little bit dirty, but we filtered it easily enough. As we approached though, they gave Tatiana her new trail name: Giggles. They said they could hear her coming for quite a distance. They went on their way and again, we weren’t long after them, except when we reached another water source, we began to get confused.

We had assumed the previous was one on a map, which made us believe we missed an unmarked turn that wasn’t signed. We backtracked for .25-.5 miles and scoped it out, but it clearly wasn’t the right way. Concerned, we headed back down the trail, past the new water source, and found another AZT sign. The water source we had stopped at that we thought was mapped wasn’t mapped at all. The one we were only just now getting to was the one we were looking for.

Sunset casting warm light over the Canelo Hills, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

Giggles’ leg began to act up a bit again, slowing us down slightly. We stopped for a lunch in Middle Canyon in the hopes that a short rest would help it out, but as we crested one hill after the other, it only began to bother her more. For a distraction, she put on her headphones and began listening to podcasts, which oddly enough, seemed to help. Our spirits lifted once again as we dropped down to the end of Passage 2, where shortly into Passage 3, ran into the group who already had camp up. Since we were both still feeling good, and seeing that there was a nice sunset in the works, we continued up the trail for another mile or so to watch sunset from a small pass where we would also have dinner. We both agreed on it and it turned out to be an excellent decision.

With daylight fading, we picked up our things and began the long descent down Passage 3 to find a campsite. We dropped through a small canyon which brought us out to open, grasslands hills. As we hiked on for another mile or two, the stars began to pop out overhead. It was quiet, peaceful, and sublime. We found a campsite soon enough and took our longest time to set up the tent since we were both completely distracted by the stars. As we crawled into our tent, a pack of coyotes began to howl only a few hundred yards away.

Day 6

I never could get my sleeping pad patched, so it was another uncomfortable night for me, though I still got enough sleep. Plus, once we got going, it was slow from the start because Giggles’ leg was now becoming a problem. We were descending into Red Rock Canyon, another subtly beautiful area of the Canelo Hills, when our pace came to a screeching halt around lunchtime where the emotional stress of the injury caught up with her. We plopped down under a tree for a siesta with bees buzzing around the top of the budding tree and cows staring at us just a few dozen yards away.

Large grassland hills that make up the Canelo Hills, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

After a brief rest, we were both feeling better and were easily making up miles again. During another rest later in the afternoon, I discovered that we were doing much better than we ever thought would have been possible. Apparently my slow-and-steady pace was actually paying off. All of a sudden we were determined to make it to the end of Passage 3 that night, the end of it being the town of Patagonia. The thoughts of pizza, beer, and other foods were getting us even more motivated. Giggles had discovered a limp that she could do that wouldn’t hurt it as bad, but would still allow her to make progress.

Large grassland hills that make up the Canelo Hills, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

We crossed the last pass about 30 minutes after sunset. All that remained was about a mile to a road that was two miles away from town. We took our time on the descent and sure enough, reached the road. We stepped to the side to refill water and were just about to begin the home stretch when Border Patrol passed by and turned around to ask us if we were ok. Before I could even open my mouth, Giggles went to the car and quickly said, “I have a hurt leg can you drive us to town!?” He accepted, and we were on our way to meet up with the others at the Patagonia RV Park. Awaiting us were two leftover slices of pizza, and more food than I would ever normally eat thanks to my first trail angel experience. We can’t thank Charles and Paulette enough. They were camped in the RV park visiting from Virginia and had been quail hunting from Montana to southern Arizona. Their generosity was the exclamation point on our arrival.

Day 7 (so far)

We woke up and joined Charles and Paulette for an amazing breakfast at the Wagon Wheel Saloon, and then bid them our farewells back at camp before packing up. Happy Tree was also having pain issues, so her and Giggles decided to head back to Tucson to rest up. I’ve just completed some errands in Patagonia and will be back on the trail shortly. Patagonia is easily one of the cutest towns I’ve ever visited. Everyone is overly friendly, and there are all kinds of galleries and shops. As the trail passes through town, it even goes by a Butterfly Garden, where I stopped to talk with a resident who reflected everything I was admiring about the town.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All content © Copyright Mike Cavaroc, Free Roaming Hiker & Free Roaming Photography