Arizona trail day 28: Saguaro dream trail


22 miles

For breakfast, MJ feeds us the best gluten free waffles I’ve ever had. Plus a mountain of bacon. I drink orange juice and coffee on top of it and now my stomach hurts, but I’m not mad about it. MJ shuttles us to the trailhead. She’s so generous! And gracious about helping all these needy hikers. I don’t know how she does it.

As soon as we cross under the highway and start heading south, the trail becomes… incredible. Like, the most perfect tread. Shade says that he read this section is the best singletrack in all of Arizona. It’s gently graded, and free of loose rocks. No encroaching catclaw swipes at us. Straight up PCT grade trail! I don’t need all trail to be like this, but I’ll definitely take it! It’s hot today but not too hot- or maybe I’m finally adjusting to the heat? These things, plus the two days of rest, combine to make me feel pretty amazing. Alan, Shade and I are cruising. We feel great!

We’re walking through a burned saguaro forest, which I’ve never seen before. Many of the saguaros are still alive, which is cool- they seem pretty fire resistant. Some of them look dead but are alive at their very tops- we wonder if maybe saguaro time moves so slow that those ones don’t know they’re dead yet? And then a few are totally scorched. The regular brush that would be there is gone, and instead there’s buffelgrass, which I know is invasive- I wonder if the brush burned and then the invasive grass was able to move in? We’re climbing up into stark, rocky mountains, everything sharp and baking in the heat. Midday we stop at our lunch water source- a cow pond covered in green algae. There’s a better source in six miles but we’re nearly out of water and it’s hot, so this will have to do for now. Beneath the algae is yellow water- that’s ok, we’ve had yellow water before. I treat it with my steripen and take a sip. It is… awful. It smells and tastes super strongly of cow shit- like salt and sulfer and decomposition. Shade and Alan both drink some. It’s almost impossible to swallow. It’s hands down the worst water we’ve had so far on this trail. Nuun doesn’t help. Alan adds the flavoring packet from a creamy chicken ramen to his to try and mask the taste.

“It’s fine,” he says, after drinking it. And then “I think I’m gonna vomit.”

We decide that the water tastes the way gutshot smells. We’ve each drunk about a liter. Shade is trying hard not to throw up.

“I better not get sick from this,” he says.

I open our navigation app to read the notes about the next source.

“Oh shit,” I say.

“What?!” Says Shade, immediately suspicious. “What!”

I misread the mileages earlier. Our next source, a rainwater catchment tank full of crystal clear water, isn’t six miles away… it’s one mile away.

“Oh fuck,” I say, laughing. “I’m sorry you guys.”

A mile later we’re sitting in the shade of the catchment tank, chugging water that is honestly incredible. Everything’s great, except Shade’s filter is maybe broken now? It’s haunted with the taste of that cow water. Our bottles, even our mouths are haunted with the taste of that water. It’s terrible and it’s also really, really funny.

Today’s trail continues to delight. We leave the burned saguaros for some plump, happy, uncharred saguaros, with intact brush, no bufflegrass. The gentle tread contours around the rock mountains as the light grows long and yellow and anoints every object that it touches.

At dusk we’re descending towards the Gila river and at dark we’re there, at a sandy campsite next to the clear water, cooking dinner in our shelters, content.

Day 29 of this AZT blog is written and ready to go- I’ll post it (and its corresponding tiktok video, which you can see here) when this fundraiser reaches $13,200, and when I have service again. Thanks so much to everyone who’s contributed so far!! 

I’m using this AZT blog to raise funds for Trans Queer Pueblo, a rad org that provides support to trans and queer people seeking asylum and/or in immigration detention along the US/Mexico border. Here is the fundraiser– it was at about $9k when I first posted it, let’s see if we can reach their $15k goal! For every $150 raised, I’ll post another blog post. And thank you!