Thursday, April 21, 2016

Arizona National Trail—Passage 12 Scouting Trip (April 21, 2016)

Oracle Ridge – American Flag Ranch Trailhead (Passage 12 ends and 13 begins)


I actually hiked southwestward from the Trailhead about 2 miles, first time carrying a big pack rather than a day pack.  I learned while I was stuck in Tucson that the Volunteer Vacation I paid to be a part of, is actually a 9 mile hike in the first day, to base camp.  The information I received before I signed up did not specify that, only said we would cover 2-4 miles a day working on the project.  2-4 miles a day is what I have been training for.  I did not plan to train for my full pack until after the Volunteer Vacation.


Here it is, and does not include my sleeping bag or mat, or even a full days’ worth of water, or food…. just enough water for a 1/2 day hike.  My goal was to hike two miles or more out on the AZT and two miles back.  At about 2 miles I began to have calf cramps, so I stopped, drank water, ate a bit of trail mix, rested, and turned back.  Took about 2 hrs. to go 2 miles.  Return was faster.  Got strange abdominal cramps (surface muscles) from getting the pack on and off… something I did not realize would be so hard.  Made some adjustments on the pack.  Return was faster even with a couple more breaks. Got back to van at 12:04pm.  Had begun at 7:24am.   Four and 1/2 hours to do four miles.   I actually think that is pretty good.  But I was really tired and had to nap after loading the van.  Walked some in the afternoon to get stretched out and limbered up.  Overall I felt pretty good but even by 9pm, my pulse was about 85 beats per minute and resting pulse is usually much much lower.



I did not quite make it to Oracle Ridge TR #1 due to cramps.

So I have to push my training ahead to see if I can hike 9 miles with my full pack.  I have serious doubt after hiking two with it yesterday (4/21) that I will be ready to do 9 miles by May 1st.  I may plan to start up to base camp the day before on my own… so I don’t have to try and keep up with the group on May 1.  I am pretty upset that the information I was given in advance was not more complete… as I may not have signed up for this “vacation.”  They gave me the option of transferring to an Oct. vacation, where I can camp from my van.  WTH????  By October I plan to pretty much be done with the thru hike.

There is a nice trailhead at the American Flag Ranch.  I saw a nice man with a dog there… probably the caretaker… there is an RV parked behind the building.



The road was closed off past the Ranch, but the road forking off to the right was open.  There are homes along that road that I could see from the ridges.


The Agave stalk was about 5’ tall so far.  I saw many Agave/Century plants after my hike, on the way down into the Peppersauce canyon area.  Many had been cut off.  And also many Ocotillo cactus.


On the right, a bird nest in a cactus plant.


On the right, Manzanita bushes, with berries.  Are they eatable?


It was exciting to find the 200 mile marker, that means this point is 200 miles from the Mexican Border, meaning I have now checked our and scouted 1/4 of the AZT.


Rockie agrees with me, this is tough hiking with a big pack.


Nothing out here but birds.  I do see scat of various kinds on the trails and hoof prints.


This was a far as I could safely go and be able to return to the van under my own steam.  Got a small cramp in my left calf, and a couple steps later got a small cramp in my right calf.  I immediately found shade and sat down to rest, drink and eat a bit.  While I was resting I got a major cramp down my whole torso, surface muscles, which frankly scared me a lot.  They finally relaxed.  I have never experienced such a thing.


I checked my pulse a few times, letting it come back down to a more normal level, and let myself cool off.  I sat there until I got bored… and began the return 2 miles.  It seemed to be going a lot faster.  Once I mis-stepped and stumbled a bit, and when I caught myself, the inside of my left leg tried to cramp up a bit… but I slowed my pace and it all calmed down.  I am sure asking a lot of this old body.


Soon, I found another 200 mile marker I had not noticed on the way up.  Older and smaller than the first… and I wondered what I story was about them being in different places, but probably within 1/4 mile of each other.


My buddy, Rockie and I, needed to rest a couple more times.  Wow, can I do this or not???


Luckily is was not hot, and shade was available.  I enjoyed the rest breaks in the wilderness, alone.  I never saw another person.


I wonder if this is eatable?


Some trail worker carefully placed these rocks on a water bar, with the lichen facing up.  I was once told it looked nicer that way, and they are right, if stones are moved for trail work, they should be laid back down with the lichen (life) facing upward.


Nearing the Trailhead, I was not too tired to notice other things, like a feather stuck in some plants, a large old stump, bigger than most of the standing trees in the area.


And a blooming Prickly Pear that was not blooming when I went up the trail

Actually going to check out another trailhead northeast of Oracle… on Old Tiger Road later today.

I next headed to Peppersauce Campground area… an other-worldly place everyone should see.  There are suppose to be fossils there.  I will write a separate post about all that as it’s not on the trail itself.  During the night I heard something near the van and looked out my open back door, where the head of my bed is, to see about 1/2 dozen Javelina grazing.  A couple were really big.


Photo borrowed from .

Last: Passage 11 – Santa Catalina Mountains

Next:  Passage 13 – Oracle

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Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.