Saturday, October 6
Camp elevation: 8346 ft
I wake in the juniper nook in which I am nestled around 5 am. Have to go to the bathroom! Although I am sure something is going to get me in the dark, again if course nothing does, and I survive another cathole digging experience. I make coffee, pack, and am on trail by 7am, eating leftover couscous for breakfast while I walk.
Pretty sunrise. Lots of clouds in the sky. Kinda chilly. I pass 2 nobo section hikers who tell me about the run ahead. Run? Yeah 50k ultramarathon on the trail. They’re happy to be out of the section, but I think people? Yay! They also warn me off rain this afternoon. Dang I thought it was over! Another nobo section hiker passes and gives me the same news. And the dirt road turns to a real trail! A mountain-biker passes.
I stop at a cache to repack my pack and put my stuff inside the waterproof bag. The mountain biker returns – his name is Paul and he’s biking this small section for AZT-in-a-day! Different people sign up for each section and hike or bike them all in the same day. I was just wondering wondering when that was! Paul takes my picture and I get his. We chat and he joins me on the trail, biking slowly. He is recovering from a fast pace high tech career and is a West coaster at heart. More people, some bikers and hikers. At the aid station, where the trail intersects the race I stop for a break. We run into Jam Jam, apparently of YouTube fame. Paul joins me as I continue, even though his section is over, and we chat about hiking, bikepacking, his life, and Sedona. Only 2 runners go by, the last of the pack. Lots of day hikers and mountain bikers. It’s windy, cold, and the threat of rain looms. Pretty aspen. Paul turns around. It was nice to have someone to chat with – it really made some miles fly by.
I run into “Double Deuce” and “Garbage Disposal”, the two section hikers who I met spotting a car yesterday. More friendly faces! They fill me in on the weather forecast: 50% chance of rain at 3pm, 75% at 5pm. Snow likely in Flagstaff, which is 1500 feet lower, so most definitely snow here. Yikes! Better get going! It’s noon or 1 now, so I’ll try to get as far as possible before it gets too wild.
Hike on. Pee break. When I get back on trail, I meet up with a runner of the ultramarathon. Her name is Michelle and she’s walking quickly at this point, like me, so we have a well matched pace. More company! She lives in the Phoenix area but used to live in the NH/MA coastal region and still works for a company based in Portsmouth NH – small world! After 4 miles, we split ways, around 2pm.
Then the rain starts! I don all my gear, including my umbrella. It’s certainly raining, but there are tons of day hikers still out and about – including a gaggle of high school kids, which keeps me going. Fill up water at the Alfa Fia water tank (small pond). I figure I’ll go a little further – the longer I hike the lower I get, but I also get wetter. It’s a balance. Around 3pm I pull off to a secluded spot. The rain lets up long enough for me to pitch my tent. I get in and settle down for a long evening. Hot chocolate, reading, writing, listening to podcasts, dinner (a Patagonia Provisions kamut thing which tastes good, but my guts aren’t too thrilled about). Eventually I go to sleep and await the thunderstorms…