Day 7: Northern Foothills to Mulberry Canyon

Sunrise over Arizona Deserts

So much for my relaxing day. While the day itself wasn’t bad at all, I wound up going much farther than anticipated. I was shooting for about 15 miles or so today, but as soon as I was ready to start looking for camp, there was nothing to be found. I wound up going nearly 18 miles as a result and my feet are feeling a little unforgiving. Actually it’s really just my left. My right foot is slightly larger than my left and so it fits perfectly into a size 11W. My left foot however doesn’t seem to like the difference. I’ll have to check with REI about some solutions when I’m off the trail next.

For the most part, it was a relatively uneventful day, which on the AZT is still a spectacular day. I woke up to the sound of owls hooting at dawn, which is always a welcome start to a day. I got up and began taking advantage of the same colors that created such a magical sunset the night before, only in reverse order, the sun increasing illumination over an enormous expanse of desert lands.

As I was about to head out after getting everything packed up, a pickup truck pulled up and a friendly older guy got out and started asking about my hike. We also got to chatting about his passion, panning for gold. Like the other guy the night before, he wasn’t concerned with getting any big nuggets. He just enjoyed the hobby of it.

Yucca Plants on Desert Hills

We said our goodbyes and I started up the trail where I was surprised to see a few other vehicles exploring the area. All were friendly though as I made my way into the site of the proposed copper mine.

Here the trail drops down into a small canyon filled with oak and juniper trees. While it’s certainly not the most picturesque canyon you’ve ever seen, it’s still quite pleasant. More importantly, it’s priceless to the hundreds or even thousands of animals that call that area home. It’s a shame the short term interest of a few misguided people is put before so many more long term interests.

After climbing out and following the trail to the top of a hill, I took a break in some shade while overlooking a near 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. The Santa Rita Mountains dominated the south, while to the north their grassy foothills stretched out toward the Sonoran Desert to the north. It was here that I started to feel all the stresses of life and especially all the preparations for the trail finally start to fade away. I was beginning to feel a rhythm being on the trail.

Up, down, and all around I followed the trail through the labyrinth of grassland hills, every crest of a hill revealing a similar but uniquely new view. Gradually, every step was eeking me one step closer to the Sonoran Desert, evidenced by a few sporadic brave cactus testing their limits.

Mesquite Tree in Desert Grasslands

I found the last reliable water for the next 14 miles and maxed out while having lunch. After a long break I continued along the trail, though my body wasn’t fond of all the weight. Nevertheless, those four liters would have to last.

Later in the afternoon, I ran into a couple of cyclists going the other way as I was starting to look for a campsite. I could feel it was time to stop, but this is where I ran into the problem of not finding anywhere to stop. After pressing on much longer than I had anticipated, I found a decent enough spot where I plan to give my legs and feet some much needed rest. I might even take my time getting going in the morning. We’ll see.

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