Day 6: Santa Rita Mountains to Northern Foothills

March 17, 2016
Sunrise on Mount Wrightston

Last night I heard something I haven’t heard in a while: crickets. I don’t remember hearing them at all in the Canelo Hills which would signify a horrible breakdown in the ecosystem. Nonetheless, they were a welcome addition to the environment as I watched the stars come out.

This morning I woke up noticing it had gotten a little chillier than expected. It didn’t seem to matter too much though since I was on my way again just shortly after 7am, which isn’t far after sunrise. I crossed a small creek a number of times where I stopped to top off water before making the strenuous climb up to the pass in the Santa Rita Mountains.

On my way up, I met another thru-hiker, this one finally with a trail name. His was Don’t Panic. We had a nice conversation up the climb where I learned that he was only on his fourth day, and that he had also done the Triple Crown, as well as the Florida Trail, which I was curious about. We made good time up to the saddle where I took a break and he continued on.

I took my time on the way down from today’s high point, enjoying the mountain air and evergreen forests. It was very calming and relaxing coming down.

I passed over a creek and followed the trail a couple of miles around a large hill, which kept the trail pretty flat most of the way. A nice breeze also kept it from getting too warm.

Mount Wrightston and Surrounding Forests

The trail dropped back down into Gardner Canyon where almost right away I ran into Canada Dave! (Sorry Dave. That’s your unofficial trail name.) I was confused how he got ahead of me so I asked him, "How did you get ahead of me?" He told me his story about how he made it almost to the top of Miller Peak, then camped because it was already getting dark and the storm wasn’t letting up. Unfortunately, he was high on a ridge at the only spot he could find and a gust of wind took his tarp off toward Mexico. He was then down to just his sleeping pad and bag. Then his sleeping pad popped. He stayed up there all night, then spent the next night and two full days hiking back to Sierra Vista. After recuperating from what sounded to me like severe dehydration, he took a shuttle to Patagonia and got on the trail from there just a few hours before I did.

I was very glad to see him OK and he appeared to still be in great spirits, even though it was only about 1pm and he had already setup camp. Regardless, it was good to see him bounce back.

I continued down Gardner Canyon where some blue birds I haven’t been able to identify teased me by flying away just before I could get a shot.

Santa Rita Mountain Foothills

Soon the trail left the canyon and began meandering through and over rolling grassland desert hills on the way to Kentucky Camp. I began to wonder if it was too far for me to make it, but I kept trudging on anyway. I was a couple of miles out when I found what would’ve been a great campsite at around 5pm. I debated it for a few minutes, and then ultimately decided to press on.

I followed the trail over a long grassy ridge before dropping into a small ravine for another mile or so. Finally I was at Kentucky Camp right before sunset. I refilled my water and had an enjoyable chat with a guest there from Houston who was enjoying panning for gold and getting in a bit of bird photography when possible.

I left the camp and climbed up the small hill heading out and found myself on a ridge with extensive views to the east as earth’s shadow was just beginning to crest the far horizon, dozens of miles in the distance. I tried to keep going, but every time I turned around the desert was turning into a classic painting full of pastel colors. I got many shots of it while also keeping my eye out for a potential campsite. It didn’t take too long to find one which also has nice views, but that also means it’s a bit windy. Fortunately the strongest winds have died down so it should be a nice night under the stars.

Categorized: The Arizona Trail
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