Sunrise, sunsets and rain in the desert
I would like to acknowledge that this hike past through the ancestral and traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples. The O’odam Jewed, Akimel O’odham and the Hohkam who have all called the Superstition Mountains home since time immemorial. I acknowledge the many Indigenous Peoples in Arizona whose footsteps have marked these lands for generations and I am grateful to be a visitor in these lands.
With Christmas 2022 falling on a Sunday and my father coming early for his traditional one week visit the possibility presented itself for a hiking get-a-way. I had been leaning towards going to Death Valley as I had areas I still wanted to explore. Record setting rains in August resulted in flash floods which rendered much of the park accessible scuttling an idea of a trip there this year. I then secured a permit to hike the Grand Canyon. I have wanted to hike the eastern Grand Canyon to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado for several years. This would be my third attempt after abandoning the plan on my trip with Siobhan in 2017 and having to switch to hiking the Arizona Trail Passages 16/17 with Micah in 2020 when a snowstorm was foretasted making travel to the Grand Canyon ill-advised. With permit in hand I booked my flights to Phoenix and my hotels at the beginning and end of the trip.
With my plans booked I set about trying to get prepared physically for the trip. The summer hiking season had not ended well. I felt short of energy and both my knees hurt. After going to physio I was diagnosed with patellar tendinitis banned from running or strenuous hiking for until November to let my knees heal. My knees hurt so bad that for the first few weeks of school I had to use the hand railing to haul myself up the stairs to my classroom. Slowly my knees started to feel better. The two months off running was the longest I had not run in over 25 years. Once I was cleared to train again I rain and hiked the the local trails to get into hiking shape. I figured I had a good 8 weeks to train so I should be good for the hike. When I went to the Grand Canyon with Siobhan in 2017 the trip was planned for just three days so this time I was allowing myself five days to complete the same trip.
The weather threw a curve ball in my training plans when we had a two spell of temperatures of highs in the -25 C (-13 F). The cold temperatures had me working out inside on the treadmill and prevented me from getting in any long hikes to build my endurance. I guess all trips have their challenges and mine would be my fitness.
About a week out from my departure date it became apparent from the weather forecast that my trip to the Grand Canyon was on thin ice. There was a storm projected to come through the Grand Canyon area the weekend I was to arrive making driving not recommended. To compound my travel challenges my right knee (which has had two ACL reconstructions) decided to swell up leaving me hobbling around the house and unable to get any exercise at all.
I hastily put together a Plan B, hike Passages 14 and 15 of the Arizona Trail (AZT). I had hiked Passages 16 and 17 in 2019. I was quite happy with the proposed hike. At 93 km it would make for four comfortable 20 – 25 km days. With only 1900 m of elevation gain none of the days would involve much elevation. The hike actually had a net elevation loss.
My plan involved leaving my car at the end of my hike which would be the northern end at the Kelvin Bridge TH and get a ride with a trail angel down to the beginning of Passage 14 at Oracle from a Trail Angel. The Arizona Trail Association has a page on their website dedicated to Trial Angels. I did not use it on this trip as I had some questions about the Passages so I contacted the Trail Segment Stewards. After a little back and forth the Steward for Passage 14, Bev, offered to drive me. So my plan was coming together.
Next I had to prepare my food for the trip. I had some meals left over from the summer but I need to restock my dried fruit. I dry one banana per day on the trail. So I overestimated that I would be on the trail for five days so I prepared and dried five bananas and some blueberries and strawberries.
After Christmas was finished and cleaned up I entertained my dad by cooking up some cannelloni then chopping it up and drying it. I made four servings so this trip was going to be a lot of cannelloni. Luckily I was happy with my dinner choice even if it was a little limited.
I did get in one last training hike on December 29th in the milder temperatures that arrived after Boxing Day. I found it somewhat ironic to be training in the snow for a hike in the desert.
Friday was spent packing everything up and checking a list to make sure I had everything. It was to bed early Friday night with a 9:00 am flight meaning I needed to arrive at the airport before 7:00 am. The adventure was about to begin and what an adventure it would be.
What I Learned:
- Need to be flexible when planning since some things are beyond your control
- Good people are everywhere