AZT – Miller Peak Wilderness to Canelo Hills East
We woke up to frost all over the tent. Tatiana checked the thermometer and inside the tent it was 20 degrees F, with the wind still howling outside. I checked it a short time after the sun had finally risen and began lighting our tent and it had already jumped to 35 degrees F, a good sign indeed. The lack of sleep and challenges of the previous days were beginning to get to us and were affecting our pace, so we talked through a few things and managed to pick each other back up to make for a much smoother day.
We played a few different games as our spirits lifted while the trail maintained a steady downhill pace from expansive ponderosa pine forests to oak-lined canyons. With constant sunlight as well, it began to feel much more like what an ideal hiking day should. Cool temperatures, warm sunshine, and lots of fun and laughing. Earlier that day I even saw a brief glimpse of wildlife: a deer’s rear running into the woods.
The trail brought us farther and farther down Sunnyside Canyon and even out of Coronado National Forest where, looking back at the kiosk at the boundary, noticed a bear warning sign. Up to this point, we had been sleeping with our food in the tent. Leave it to a couple of Jacksonians to underestimate the bear danger in other areas. In addition, with recent weather and apparently a good winter, every water source appeared very healthy and reliable.
We found a nice place to camp at, as the guidebook puts it, "a confusing series of dirt roads."
Both of us woke up feeling much better after a quiet, restful night of great sleep. We both slept from 8:30pm the night before to 6:30am that morning. Though it was a little chilly outside, it wasn’t unbearably cold, partly due to dropping in elevation and partly due to no wind. We began along the "confusing series of dirt roads" only to find that they weren’t so confusing thanks to the trail being incredibly well signed, something that made me start to regret wanting a picture of every AZT sign.
Though we were getting a bit low on water, and the guidebook said that the next passage was scarce on water, we decided to skip the Parker Lake Store since the water everywhere else was so reliable. Besides, the next water source was the Parker Lake runoff, which appeared to have plenty of water. A few miles down the trail, and sure enough, the runoff was an excellent place to not only fill up on more water, but also to have lunch.
While filling up, four other hikers in a group caught up with us. Four other female hikers came excitedly down the trail at the sight of fresh water. We chatted with them while we both topped off our water supplies and had some food. Tatiana and I were a bit out of place since they all had trail names and we didn’t. There was Happy Tree who was from Hawai’i who was along with Olive Oyl who had met Twix and her mother, Salsa, on the Appalachian Trail. They were all out to conquer the AZT together and were promoting the Wild at Heart Raptor Center in Cave Creek, Arizona. They got going into the Canelo Hills before we had gotten everything back together, which made us realize just how long we had been lingering there.
Once we were back on our way, Tatiana began to notice an odd sensation in her right leg. She had a hard time describing it, so it limited anything that I could do to help other than just trying to motivate her. We climbed higher and higher into the Canelo Hills which, as the guidebook described, don’t get much love. It’s very easy to overlook them. There’s nothing grand or dramatic about them, especially when looking on them from the outside, but once immersed on the inside, there’s a constant pleasantness and peacefulness that is very relaxing. The hills are amazingly scenic and Tatiana remarked more than once about how they reminded her of Spain.
As the day went on, her pain intensified and dramatically slowed down our pace. Our imaginations began to worry about different scenarios and symptoms, and we agreed that all we could do is just press on. I was eager to find us a campsite as well so that we could just get her off the trail and rest.
It didn’t take long before we caught up with the others who had already set up camp at a spacious site. We camped with them that night where they put our minds at ease saying it’s probably just her "hiker legs" breaking in.
We relaxed much more once camp was set up and enjoyed socializing with the others. We even got in a bit of stargazing before the moon came up where I was able to finally do some night shots thanks to the pleasant weather.