Great Western Loop: Day 11-13: Superior to Mammoth
Day 11: Gila River (22miles)
Sam dropped me and another hiker off at Picketpost Trailhead at 9:15am. After passing a group of redneck girls with beers on horses, i followed the AZT for the rest of the day.
(Picketpost Mountain...and horseriders)
Last year I took a 5mile shortcut by following the Grand Enchantment Trail for 9miles.
The scenery on the AZT was different, but also very spectacular.
(Rainwater collector for AZT hikers)
On trail I met Hobs (Hike or Bike), a ~70year old trail veteran, that plans to finish his tripple (!) "Tripple Crown" (TC: PCT, CDT, AT-Thruhike). Unfortunately, he recently got bitten by a fox in his big toe, while cowboy-camping and was therefore going rather slow.
And than I met Jesus.
Just after filtering water for the night, a hiker with a grey rim-hat, shoulder long hair, sandals and a long, white penitentinal robe suddenly appeared in front of me. I was so confused about his look, that I just stopped and starred, while he passed me. I didn't get his trailname, but it HAS to be Jesus...
Day 12: Desert floor (35miles)
Due to the lack of water sources and the fact that I wanted to get as close to Mammoth as possible, I had plans for a big day and got up early. I followed the green band of the Gila River for several hours and even took a little shortcut, that saved some time.
(heavily polluted Gila River...my water source...)
Instead of following the AZT over some 3mile PUDs (pointless up's and down's), I followed an abandoned railroad track that remained close to the river for 2miles. This alternate was rather cool and much easier.
After some 14miles I had made it to the Pinal County Maintenance facility, where hikers can get drinking water. One of the few reliable sources for clean water...Half an hour after stopping here, my stomach hurt so much, that I had problems to continue.
Another 20mins later, I had to grab my "fast response kit" (Toiletpaper, trowel, handsanitizer) and jump into the next bush - no time for digging a cathole. I'll spare you the details, but rest assured, I created quite a mess...but it helped. My stomach issues got better and I regained some energy for the rest of the day.
(That's how most of the day looked like)
Water was scarce again, so that I decided to camp nearby one of the few reliable sources on trail. That campsite however, was a rather bad decision as I would learn the next day...
(Take a closer look at my shoes...with my hiking socks inside...)
Day 13: Animal attack and a...Mountain lion? (31miles)
The night had been rough. Even though I had a really nice tentsite, I heard an animal running around my tent all night long. I couldn't see what it was, nor what I did, but I woke up to this...
Well, what's wrong with the picture?
1.) My hiking socks are gone. I usually keep them in my shoes, but those were empty...
2.) My shoelaces are chewed off and completely broken.
I was really surprised upon seeing that and looked around for a full damage report. It turned out, that a part of my backpacks hip-belt was also completely gone and the grip and rope of one of my trekking poles was also damaged.
Luckily I always carry a little bit of cord with me, that helped me to replace my shoelaces, for the long day into Mammoth. The broken hip-belt might be harder to repair, which is an issue, because I'm expecting to carry heavily loads on the Grand Enchantment Trail, due to less reliable information on water sources.
The day had probably the least elevation changes of all day and so I made good progress. Just south of the Freeman Road Trailhead I saw a reasonably big cat.
To me it looked like a juvenile Mountain lion, but it could also have been an Ozelot.
I only saw it for a few seconds, some 300 yards away.
(Americans and their guns...)
(Solar-powered Beehive Well, Windmill is outdated)
After leaving the AZT at the Beehive Well, I followed the beautiful Putnam Wash again. That was followed by that horrible, long and monotonous 10mile dirt road into Mammoth.
(Putnam Wash almost looks like a road)
Once in Mammoth I went to the first Cafe in town, had some awful Chicken Tacos, 5 cokes and some ice-cream for 16.99 USD.
I than stayed at "the Lodge" again. This place is a rundown motel, build in 1952. Last year it was still open, but now it's closed for the public. The owner still helps hikers with a bed, some water and a hot shower in her private rooms, all just for a small donation. That worked for me, and allowed me to recharge my electronics.