AZT Passage 27 – Blue Ridge

Miles today: 17.5 miles
Elevation: 7,324 ft
Campsite: Northbound Mile Marker: 489.7
Water availability: Plentiful at this time of the year. East Clear Creek was flowing & cold. General Spring canyon was flowing nicely too. Stock pond was present but muddy.

We arrived on Friday night at the AZT Trailhead on highway 87 but the road was closed so we drove to another trailhead on Forest Road 781 and it was also closed. I think most forest roads are closed for the winter to prevent road damage while snow is still melting? Who knows… We should of called the Coconino National Forest ranger to get more information but it was late Friday and wouldn’t of gotten an answer anyways.

We parked off forest road 781 as there was another truck parked off road to not block the gate. We walk 2 miles on the road and crossed the AZT. Being at elevation, the night was chilly and the area was muddy. Snow was still present in patches through the forest.

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Snow and mud at 7,300 ft near Pine, AZ.

Our pack thermometers showed it was in the low 30s when we woke up. We decided to hike a few miles before eating breakfast. That way, we’d warm up a bit. Kevin, a friend who was visiting from Wisconsin, found a great sunny spot so we laid our gear out to dry and ate breakfast. Condensation from last night made our tent and sleeping bags wet. My 20 degree Enlightened Equipment quilt was fantastic but my feet got chilly. I need a way to cover the bottom of my quilt so I don’t lose so much heat through the opening. Perhaps for future cold weather hikes, I’ll bring down booties and I’ll be happy!

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Drying out our gear.

After a few miles in the morning, we came to a stop, we had the cross the East Clear Creek. No big deal in general but this water was so cold it numbed our toes for the few seconds we were crossing it. Frozen toes are painful! After the crossing, we were happy to climb back a switchback as it helped with heating up our bodies and thawing out our toes. According to the Guthook app for the AZT, this water source dries up as it gets warmer. Crazy how all of this water vanishes out here.

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Crossing East Clear Creek. Brrrrrrr but nicely flowing!

The rest of the hike was beautiful and uneventful. The trail winded through the pine trees and was generally flat. After reaching mile 12 for the day, we encountered more snowbanks that eventually soaked through our shoes and made for a difficult passage. Halfway through our hike, we came across Hiker Slim who’s currently thru-hiking the AZT. I know Hiker Slim as we both thru-hiked Florida Trail hike last year. We leaped frog one another a few times but we never chatted. Glad to see he’s still hiking and loving it. You can see his beautiful video blogs of his hikes here: http://hikerslim.com/

We eventually made it to 3/4mile from General spring trailhead but couldn’t go further with the snow. I was wearing shorts and sinking to my knees was painful so we turned around and headed back. Our goal was to hit General Spring TH to finish the passage. We will close the gap next time we come out here, we’ll wait until it thaws out a bit more. Having one vehicle makes it difficult logistically to do multiple passage in a weekend as we have to hike out and back to get back to our vehicle. Essentially, once we finish section hiking the entire AZT, and any other section hike of long trails, we will have hiked it twice southbound and northbound! HA!

We hiked back until we hit 17.5 miles for the day and decided to camp for the night. A pre-made fire ring was present and three nice logs was waiting for us to sit on so we dried our socks and shoes and made dinner. The peaceful and quietness of the trail is something I really love. Beside Hiker Slim, we did not see any one else. Something you wouldn’t get if you hiked on a popular trail near town or during thru-hiker season. We did see a coyote at a distance running fast towards something, perhaps its dinner?

Already looking forward to our next section hike of the AZT. Happy trails!

 

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