Monday, 30 April 2012

Arizona Trail 2010 - Part 4, Oracle to Superior

Leaving Oracle the pack felt heavy with a fresh load of food and enough water to cover 60 km. This is a long dry section and to save carrying too much water I decided it best to hike the 97 km to the Gila river over 2 long days. The hiking was easy but the heat intense and with no natural protection the umbrella came in very handy. The first day is spent hiking down Pipeline Road which, not surprisingly, is a service road for a pipeline! It's long, straight, hot, dusty and boring. The peak in the background is Antelope Peak and it will be many hours before you get there, however, it WILL tease and taunt you all day. But... even a boring section like this has much to offer... first real snake! This guy puzzled me, it didn't have a rattle and wasn't in the slightest bit aggressive so I was fairly sure it wasn't poisonous... but, it looked like a Rattle Snake so I kept my distance anyway! He was around 1 m in length.

Also my first Gila Monster! This is poisonous but is so slow and docile that it's not a problem. I saw about 5 of these guys on my hike but some AZT hikers didn't see any. I felt very privileged.

Hiking around Antelope Peak brings you to the first water source for nearly 50 km. I already knew from the guide book not to expect much but by this time I was ready to leap in just about anything, until...

...I saw it! This was probably the most disguising water I had seen on the whole trail. Pee green in colour and about as thick as soup, I left it well alone. I still had just enough water to get to Freeman Road where I hoped some water had been left for me by John and his support team. Fortunately he came good and I enjoyed clean water that night.

The final hour of hiking to Freeman Road was much rougher. A change in landscape was evident, which was rockier with some small canyons and the Superstition mountains looming in the background.

This guy I heard before I saw. It was obviously a Rattle Snake and it was not best pleased to see me. I watched him move slowly off and carried on. Over the next hour I met another 12 Rattle Snakes, all laying on the trail soaking up the last rays of the evening sun. Most moved but some stood their ground and made me detour round. Not having met a Rattle Snake in the wild before I wasn't sure what they would be like, but these things were not at all aggressive. Yes they made a lot of noise, but all they wanted was for you to leave them alone, and as long as you didn't get too near everything was ok.

I camped just over Freeman Road and the next morning it looked like it would rain. It didn't and soon the sun was out as normal. Todays hike was just like yesterdays with around 40 km to Kelvin and the Gila river. Another long hot day with a heavy water filled pack.

Crossing the Gila river at Kelvin was easy via the road bridge. The Gila river was a horrible brown colour and the water source guide warned about metal poisoning from mining operations in the area, so I was not keen to drink this water. The RV park in Kelvin was more than happy to offer clean water to AZT hikers and I would recommend you get your water there too.

The landscape north of the Gila river is much more how I had expected Arizona to be before hiking the AZT. Cactuses, increasingly red rock, canyons and desert. 

Artesian Spring is close to the AZT and offers nice clean water and some welcome shade for a change. 

Walnut Canyon is a glimpse of what's to come on the AZT further north.

The route into the town of Superior is by either the main highway or down quiet dusty lanes. I took the lane option and it was a very pleasant hike. Superior is a perfect example of a dying town. Once grand and probably living up to its name, it's now all but dead. The centre was in need of a major revamp and many shops were boarded up and closed. It was a real shame to see a town in such a state but the locals were friendly and appeared to like having hikers around. The only area that was doing well was out of town and right next to the highway, and its here that the Motel and a few Restaurants are found. The Motel was nice and I finally caught up with GT (German Tourist). She was just leaving but we had lunch and a chat before she went. I also met Kimberlie Dame that evening and after having swapped a few emails and talked on the phone many times it was good to actually meet the real person. We went out for a pizza (I like pizza!) and a beer. Kimberlie was heading back south to complete a section that she had missed because of heavy snowfall (she set off 2 weeks before me). I would meet both Kimberlie and GT later in the hike.

Continue to part 5