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AZT – Gardner Canyon to Santa Rita Foothills

The Arizona Trail winding through grassland hills below Mount Wrightson, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

Day 9

I woke up surprisingly not too chilly. Apparently the forest of oak trees that lined the creek that we were near had helped shelter us from some condensation, since for the first morning my tent was completely dry.

Bill Murray and Sheriff Woody were off early to make a much better pace than we were. While Twix, Salsa, Olive Oyl and I ultimately made nearly 15 miles for the upcoming day, the other two were out to get in about 25 miles. Sure enough, we never saw them again after breakfast.

I started my hike a bit behind the other three, but not by far. I felt very carefree and in love with the trail as we climbed out of the canyon and onto the grassy foothills where we’d spend most of the day. I was missing Giggles so I gave her a call and found out she wasn’t doing much better. I was glad to talk with her though and continued on my way after the others.

The Rincon Mountains beyond the Santa Rita Mountains grassland hills, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

We reached Kentucky Camp much sooner than we thought we would and were welcomed by the caretaker, Steve. He was originally from northern Idaho and enjoyed looking after the historic mining ranch and sharing information about it. Plus he really seemed to enjoy meeting new thru-hikers.

We explored the main building that had been restored and stopped there to have lunch and refill on clean water before heading out.

The trail for much of the day followed a number of intersecting dirt roads and meandered in and out of trails that went over and around the hills, not offering an incredible amount of diversity, but did present us with two horny toads resting in the trail. It ultimately began to take a toll on my feet as a soreness began to intensify. Once my pace had developed into a short limp and I had fallen behind, I caught up with them at our next reliable water source for 13 miles: a bee-infested tank of murky water with many other things in it, both dead and alive. We got some necessary water from there and took a much needed rest before deciding to go just a bit more down the trail before finding camp.

Oak trees among grasslands in the Santa Rita Mountains Foothills, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

We found a quiet spot near some oak trees where the tallgrass had been been worn down and set up camp there. The others packed it in pretty early, but I stayed up for just a bit longer to get in a small amount of night photography.

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