This was the technical final hike of the 2017 “out and back” hiking season. Being a public accountant and with “filing” season at the office now upon me, unfortunately we have to shut down the hikes until the end of April. Living my life in these types of seasons is actually not too bad. Even though I will miss some of Arizona’s best hiking weather in the next four month, it grants me an opportunity to intently focus on work and then family and hiking the remainder of the year. So…. this hike was to start back down in the town of Patagonia and would be hike #40 of what will eventually be a total of 88 Arizona Trail day hikes.
Parking back in the exact same spot as we did in Hike #39, outside the Patagonia post office, Tom and I set out southbound, heading toward the Huachuca Mountains from the east. As we stepped off, the temperature was in the mid 30’s, although it was to be a clear day with forecast highs to be in the upper 70’s. Nice hiking weather for the desert terrain. So this hike was to start with a 3 mile road walk through the east side of town and stretching onto a paved one lane highway road leading toward the hills. At about mile 2.8, you will find the Harshaw Road Trailhead to the right side of the road, which I guess we could have driven to, but being trail purists we must must must hike every mile of the AZT to accomplish our ultimate goal.
Once on the trailhead you will be heading slightly north and northeast with a good amount of rough thorny shark-tooth like single track trail. Immediately, you will ascend a 500 foot hill-climb (8.4% grade) followed by another smaller 200 foot one. Once past this and cresting a ridge, it’s a nice little hike with some ups and downs and the most annoyance coming from a series of creek (wash) crossing’s from miles 7-10 that will cause you to hunt for carins, trail signs and your GPS maps. We got lost a couple times….duh…. I really have come to hate creeks and washes; they have proven to be the greatest challenge for staying on-trail.
Today’s hike was to be only 20 miles and at mile 10 we found a nice little shady spot right on the trail, which was a small old forest road in this section. Breaking for lunch and with the sun fully in the mid sky and the day turning warm, we enjoyed conversation and the reflections of all the AZT hikes Tom and I completed this year. Looking back now, it totaled exactly 500 miles in 26 hikes. Nice….. In 2018 we have another 500 miles and 24 hikes already scheduled, which will include the” rim to rim to rim” overnight Grand Canyon hike. So much looking forward to that one !!!!! Anyhow back to this hike, at our lunch break and to my surprise a very nice section hiker walked up on us and we enjoyed sharing AZT war stories with her for a while before tackling the long 10 miles back. The trail in this section was a fair bit thorny and my legs showed the signs of not having found a good gaiter solution. Had about a dozen lower leg cuts and scratches and tons and I mean tons of twigs in my boots. Even having to stop at mile 15 to deboot and clear them little suckers out.
All in all, the hike was an enjoyable day to end our hiking season. A couple small climbs but nothing too difficult. As I was hiking back to town on the 3 mile road stretch, I found myself in an emotional conflict of sensations of relief, accomplishment and sadness. Like the end of a chapter in a very good book.
See you next year. Happy trails…. Jim & Tom