The quest continues as I work towards my Arizona Trail completion date of May. This weekend we had Sections 20-21 on the docket. These passages made up just under 40 miles of trail leading from Roosevelt Lake to Highway 87 near Sycamore Creek. We planned to do it as an overnighter, which was aggressive but doable. As is typical of these trips we under estimated the abuse from the topography and overestimated the availability of water. Through all the pain, we were granted with gorgeous views of Roosevelt Lake, Four Peaks, as well as a few beautiful bits of trail.
After passing through the Miles Trailhead we began hiking up an old road grade. We were excited for the potential easier trail, but that was short lived. It turned back into single track and began taking the most direct route up hills, rather then skirting up. This section lacked switchbacks, anywhere.
As was the pattern the trail level out after a few miles. We were able to recollect ourselves, as we mentally prepared for the next climb we could see ahead. None of the climbs along the route were sustained. The day was a series of tough hills, with loaded packs. The weather was on our side luckily, but you would not want to be caught climbing this area in the heat of the day.
For the first 10 miles of the day all water sources were dry. We had anticipated this. The most recent reports had us confident that Granite Springs would have a pool to pull from, but we were wrong. The pool was dry and there was little evidence of water, even after the recent rain last week. We were pressed with the decision to turn around and abandon the trip or push on 10 more miles and hope for water a Pigeon Springs. Luckily we had 4G and were able to review some reports on HAZ and the AZT app (you need to get it). We also put out an emergency request to friends, seeing if someone could potentially pick us up at the top if there was no water. Between are friends pulling through and the high likelihood of water we pushed on up the trail.
Literally right behind us lay the spring. It looked rough, but how bad it was didn't hit until it reached our noses. The smell was a mix of a dead animal and deer smell. We checked the source to make sure there was nothing rotting in it and treated some water. We made dinner as always but Sara's meal couldn't mask the taste. We added copious amounts of lemon to mine, but were unable to tolerate drinking the water. Suddenly we were back to square one. Spirits were particularly low as we went to bed. According to the app our next reliable water source wouldn't be for 18 miles at Sycamore Creek.
At 4:30AM we packed up camp with hopes of making a fast track to the creek for water. Luckily 11 of those 18 miles were on dirt roads so night hiking was fast. When we left camp I carried three liters of undrinkable water just in case. Sara and I rationed the remaining water she had left over from the day before.
After the sun came up we still had a few miles of road left. As was the norm, all water sources along this portion were dry. Along the way we developed a way to drink the terrible water. Drink a huge gulp and chase it with trail mix or the a swig of the good tasting water. The gross taste only lingered for a few minutes this way. It wasn't perfect, but it allowed us to stay semi-hydrated.
Five miles from the finish we came across Crab Tree Springs which was not on the AZT app, but luckily had pools. Large pools! We dumped my water and filled up with six liters. My resevoir was tainted from the Pigeon Springs water so it ruined the water we had just treated. Luckily Sara's reservoir was untainted so we shared gear and she carried all our water.