Tuesday 1 May 2012

Arizona trail 2010 - Part 5, Superior to Pine

After leaving Superior you climb into the Superstition Mountains which was designated a wilderness area in 1964. It looked like it might finally rain, but didn't! Soon the clouds shifted and normal service resumed.

Trail or stream bed? Probably both depending on the season. Progress was slow weaving up Reavis Trail Canyon. Dense foliage covered much of the trail making snake spotting hard.

The trail opens up at Reavis Saddle with some fine views of the surrounding Superstition Mountains.

Then descends briefly to Roosevelt Lake which was completed in 1911. Roosevelt Lake has an RV camp and over the road an Information Centre that has running water available for hikers. The Marina also serves food and snacks. It appeared to be a very popular place for fishing.

The initial ascent out of Roosevelt Lake was brutal in the midday sun.

Soon you find yourself of a ridge looking down on Apache Lake through a forest of small Sagauro Cactuses. This is one of my favourite pictures from the AZT. I never got bored of Sagauro Cactuses.

Often setting up the tarp wasn't necessary in Arizona. When I did it was for protection from windblown sand and not rain. Here a bivi bag was more than enough, and kept out the hordes of ants that appear during the warmer daylight hours. The ground is baked hard and very uncomfortable to lie on. My closed-cell pad did not prove adequate and later would be replaced with a Neoair mattress.

The Four Peaks Wilderness suffered a major fire in 1996 that consumed 60000 acres in a single week making it the largest fire in Arizona's history. While the landscape is slowly recovering the trail has all but disappeared in many areas. Progress is slow and a GPS very helpful. There are many burnt trees straddling the trail that need to be climbed over or slid under. The fire was started by campers and should be a warning to us all. Is that camp fire really necessary?

No-mans land gives a short break between the Four Peaks Wilderness and the next and greatest challenge of the AZT, the Mazatzal Wilderness. 

The 1/2 way point of the AZT is reached in the Mazatzal Wilderness. Somebody has made a nice little marker on the trail for us to celebrate around.

The Mazatzal Wilderness was also destroyed by a more recent fire in 2004. Progress here is even slower  and more difficult than in the Four Peak Wilderness. AZT hikers often road walk around this wilderness because of its fearsome reputation. Even the great Andrew Skurka drew the line here and found an alternative. It was certainly the toughest section of the entire trail but also surprisingly satisfying. I made a live audio recording from this section which you can listen to over on Andy Howell's blog.

As always water is hard to find and even with a guidebook and GPS this source proved elusive. Hardly surprising giving its small size and all the surrounding foliage.

More photos of the Mazatzal Wilderness and its slow recovery. The trees will take years to regrow but the scrub and cactuses are growing fast. Bad news for hikers! Everything in Arizona is sharp and legs and arms were soon lacerated.

This poor tree was strangely beautiful in its own way. More of a sculpture now than a tree but it caught my attention.

Final stretch to Pine is across the Hardscrabble Mesa and is a much easier hike than the two wildernesses already passed through. On this section I caught up with GT (German Tourist) and Li Brannfors who had joined GT for a few days. Both Li and GT are Triple Crowners having hiked the AT, PCT and CDT. One day I hope to join this club.

Pine is a very pretty town and full of tourists. Accommodation was scarce and very expensive but of high quality. After the exertions of the last few days I took a day off to relax.

Continue to part 6