Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 5: Patagonia!

Moonset in the morning!
April 17: Whenever I start nearing a trail town, I start picking up my pace. I'm looking forward to real food at restaurants and some of the comforts of home. And today, I'd be heading into my first trail town: Patagonia. The nice thing about this particular trail town--the trail actually runs right into town. I didn't have to hike off trail or hitch a ride into town. Those are the most convenient trail towns by far.

I stopped yesterday a little short of where I'd otherwise stop because the trail was going to hit a paved road that it followed the rest of the way into town, and I didn't want to try camping alongside a relatively busy, paved road. So I hiked as close to the road as I dared before setting up camp. And now I woke up and hit the trail, excited about my impending stop in Patagonia.

It didn't take long for me to hit the paved road and activity picked up greatly. A lot of border patrol vehicles passed me--there were far more border patrols than civilian vehicles, in fact. Two of the vehicles had pulled over to talk to me. Probably just to check me out and make sure I wasn't an illegal alien, but they were friendly, chatted a couple of minutes, then continued onwards to their destinations. Most of them drove by me without even slowing down.

As I neared the town, a fire truck and ambulance passed me with their lights flashing. I couldn't imagine where they might be headed--it didn't seem like there was very much out here except border patrols.

As the trail approached Patagonia, civilization thickened. Sidewalks suddenly appeared on the edge of the road and I tromped onto them. Buildings thickened, and traffic picked up so civilians now outnumbered the border patrols. And finally, I reached the center of town where the trail wrapped around three sides of the post office.

The post office was my first stop. I delayed my start in the morning so I wouldn't get into town until after the post office had opened, and it had opened maybe a half hour earlier. I walked in and told the woman behind the counter that I should have a package waiting for me, sent general delivery, and gave her my name.

"Oh, good! You're here! Your sister called! She's worried about you because of the fire!"

"She called here?!" I said, more than a little surprised. I suppose it was an obvious place to to call--it's the one place she knew I would be going to in Patagonia since I had asked her to mail me a food drop there. But she shouldn't have hit any panic buttons yet. Had I been turned back because of the fire and couldn't get around it, I would have gotten off the trail and somehow contacted her. My thought has always been "no news is good news," and I had no news. And anyhow, I had told her that I expected to get into town either the day before or today. I had hoped for the day before, but I lost nearly an entire day having to backtrack for water. But still, it's not like I'd been missing. I said I might arrive on the 17th, and it was now the 17th. Right on time!

Those red flowers are the tips of an ocotillo bush.
You'll see a lot of ocotillos in these parts!
"Yes, she called here. And she said you have to call her to let her know you're okay! She sounded pretty worried! And she mailed you a cell phone to make sure you'd call."

"She mailed me a cell phone?!" I laughed. Now that was just hilarious. As most of my friends and family know, I don't have a cell phone. And there was a good chance that the town of Patagonia wouldn't have a pay phone readily available. "Wow," I said. "I guess I should call her!"

"If the cell phone doesn't work," the woman continued, "you can use ours."

She went back and got my package, and I took it into the outer lobby with all of the PO boxes where I sat down on a bench and riffled through it. She also gave me the trail register which would be my first bit of knowledge about who was ahead of me on the trail. It wasn't very useful in that regard, though--the last person who signed it did so about a month earlier. Were there no other hikers ahead of me?!

I found the cell phone--a prepaid Virgin Mobile phone and figured out how to turn it on. It looked for a signal for a minute or so but never seemed to figure out that it wasn't getting one and eventually I turned it off. Stupid cell phones! Even when I have one, I can't use it!

I emptied my pack--most of my food goes at the bottom of it since I won't need it during the day. Only a bag of snacks goes on the top. Consequently, I needed to empty my entire pack to get to the food bag at the bottom and fill it up. I spent the better part of a half hour rearranging everything in my pack.

Then I went back into the inner lobby and told the woman that the cell phone didn't work and could I use the post office phone to let everyone know I okay. She gave me the phone and I used a calling card to call my sister. She didn't answer her phone, though, so I left a message letting her know I had made it to Patagonia and was doing fine. The fire hadn't gotten me.

I also called Amanda to give her an update on my progress. She was planning to come out to visit in less than a week and she needed to know where to find me! Amanda did answer her phone, and I told her I was a day behind where I wanted to be but I expected to be near Vail or Colossal Cave when she flew out.

I usually call my mom with updates on my progress, but I didn't think time because I didn't want to tie up the post office's phone line all day, but I did ask Amanda to call mom for me and let her know I was okay.

I returned the phone, then picked up a couple of priority mail boxes to mail some additional stuff. Somehow, I had too much food, and the extra could be mailed ahead to myself at Vail. And I decided to mail home tent stakes and a razor, neither of which I'd been using.

The tent stakes would be useful if I had to set up a tarp every night, but so far I hadn't set it up at all. Apparently, it doesn't rain very often in Arizona! And I figured the rare times I did have to set up my tarp, I could use rocks, trees and brush to stake things down.

I also had delusions of shaving on the trail, but it was now my fifth day on the trail and so far, I'd only seen one small creek that had enough clean water to shave with. There just wasn't enough water around to shave regularly, and I'd finally given up that delusion. So the tent stakes and razors would be sent home.

I went into the outer lobby to pack up the two packages, and while packing them, I heard a phone ring inside the building and the woman behind the counter answer the phone. "Oh, he might still be here! He was going to mail some stuff ahead! Wait a second!" I knew it had to be my sister. She had gotten my message and called the post office hoping I was still around.

I got up and started approaching the inner lobby and the woman came out with the phone. "It's your sister!" It was one of those cordless phones so she had brought it out into the outer lobby for me.

And Tierra told me about being worried sick about me because of the Brown Fire. She had called the border patrol, forest service, and everyone else she could think of to keep an eye out for me and find out how close the fire was to the trail. It wasn't a search and rescue exactly--not yet, at least--since I hadn't checked in late, but if I hadn't checked in by today when I told her I would, then she was going to get a whole search and rescue crew going! "Gee," I said, "I'm glad I checked in, then!"

Prickly poppy
I told her about the fire being maybe a mile off of the trail, but that I did run into four firefighters on the trail which made her angry. "They should have called me and let me know you were okay! They were all supposed to be keeping an eye out for you!" I didn't know what to tell her. It was obvious that the four I ran into didn't know anything about me, but I did run into them relatively early in the day that second day on the trail. I don't know exactly when Tierra found out about the fire (sometime that same day), but depending on the timing, it's possible I could have already passed through by the time anyone heard to look out for me. Maybe they did get a notification after I passed through, but then had no way to verify one way or another if it was really me they saw or some other hiker? Or maybe they just told Tierra they'd keep their eyes pealed for me to make her happy then didn't follow through. Who knows?

"Well, it doesn't matter now--I'm clearly okay! And I definitely don't need a search and rescue team looking for my decomposing body anywhere!" =)

We eventually ended our conversation and I returned the phone, mailed two packages to myself, then went out to explore the rest of Patagonia.

My next stop was the library, which I had trouble finding and had to ask a couple of locals for directions. It was a short ways off the trail and off the main drag, hidden in a nondescript building. It was still relatively early in the morning--getting close to 10:00--and I knew the library might not even be open yet, but I didn't see any hours posted outside of the building. I tried the front door and it opened, so I walked in and saw.... absolutely nobody. There was a front desk, but nobody was behind it. I poked my head around the corner into the stacks and still saw nobody. It was a little eerie. Was the library closed or open? The door was open, but nobody appeared to be home.... "Hello?" I said, tentatively. "Is anyone here?"

I saw a bank of computers ahead and started walking towards them, and a few seconds later someone came out.

"Oh, hi!" I said. I was glad to finally find someone, but I almost felt like I'd been caught doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing. "I wanted to get online. Do I need to sign anything or whatever to use a computer?"

The woman told me that they didn't open until 10:00, but it was close enough and I could go ahead and use a computer. No signing in necessary. Which left me wondering why they left the front door unlocked if they weren't even open, but I didn't ask. I was just happy to get online and make sure my websites were running okay. After the whole server migration nightmare just before starting the hike, I wanted to make sure everything was running okay. Amanda told me everything seemed to be running fine when she was on them, but I wanted to see what errors the server had recorded.

Really, guys, this is too much. All you need is a simple
sign to let me know when I've arrived into Patagonia.
The extravagance here is just too much!
The server was running great, though, and no unexpected errors had reared their ugly heads. I spent the better part of an hour checking email and catching up on the message boards.

Then I left to get some lunch. I decided to eat at the Velvet Elvis where I ordered a slice of pizza, a salad and a Coke. The food was good, but mostly I liked the name of the place. Who wouldn't want to say that they've eaten at the Velvet Elvis? =)

I wrote some postcards which I picked up at a store between the library and the Velvet Elvis and asked if they'd fill up all of my water bottles for the trail--which amounted to about nine liters. Technically, I should be able to find water on the trail long before I needed that much water, but after seeing how awful much of the surface water was, I wanted to carry as much tap water and string it out for as long as I could. The less surface water I drank (treated or not!), the better.

Next door was the Patagonia Market, a small general store that my notes warned was good for short-term resupply only. As a result, I didn't send as many snacks ahead to myself to the post office as I otherwise would have. I figured a general store would have plenty of snacks and junk food for hikers. It's only breakfast and dinners where places like this might leave me where a severe lack of options.

So I raided the store buying all sorts of junk food--including an ice cream sandwich, a banana and a Coke which I'd consume on the curb outside since none of those pack well.

While checking out, the trail mix I picked up wouldn't scan, and the clerk asked me how much they had cost so she could type in the prices manually. (They were on the shelf immediately behind me.) I told her the price, then she asked if I was purchasing my stash with food stamps.

I laughed at this. I thought the question was funny. "I look that bad, do I?" To be fair, my last shower was four days ago and I had since covered over 50 miles of some very strenuous terrain. I couldn't have smelled good.

Border patrol! They're out to get you!
"No! I didn't mean that!" she said, clearly horrified. "I'm so sorry I asked! But I can't type in prices manually if people pay with food stamps, and it would have been a hassle to undo that...." She seemed like she was blushing now. "I'm so embarrassed I even asked!"

I laughed even more at her discomfort since I hadn't been the least bit offended at the question. "It's okay, really! I'm not offended!"

Then she went on, "There are people who drive in with brand new cars, then pay for food with food stamps. It's disgusting! So I didn't mean to suggest that I thought you were on food stamps because of how you looked!"

I got a good laugh out of the whole routine, but she was clearly embarrassed about the whole situation despite my reassurances.

After paying for everything, I went outside where I ate the ice cream sandwich, banana and drank the Coke on the curb looking like a homeless man on food stamps. Because, for the most part, I basically was homeless at the time. But not on food stamps!

I'd been in town for several hours now, but it was time to move on. I picked up my pack which was bulging heavier than ever--stuffed with six days of food and nine liters of water. Good grief, it was miserably heavy!

I hobbled over to the post office one last time to send the postcards--I figured that should take at least an ounce off my backpack--then walked out of town on Highway 82. The trail soon turned onto 1st Avenue, which turned into a dirt forest service road heading north.

The walking was fast and easy. The forest service road was wide with gentle slopes, slowly gaining in elevation. About five miles out of town, I saw a pre-existing road-side campsite shaded with trees and decided to stop there for the night. All-in-all, a pretty good day. And my first full day on the trail without running into any problems at all! Maybe I'm getting the hang of this Arizona Trail after all!

I saw this barrel and ammo can on the side of the road while walking
into town. Assuming you've never seen one of these before (I haven't!),
any guesses what it is? Oh, you'll never guess.... I never would have guessed!

I pulled out one of the envelopes to read, and it's clearly meant for hunters.
Step #1 pretty much told me that.
Step #2 didn't really surprise me.
Step #3 caused my eyes to pop out a little. Do what?!!!
And Step #4 had me backing away from the wing barrel!

Baby calf want to come out to play? Do you? =)

Patagonia Post Office. The Arizona Trail comes in on the road to the right, turns
onto the road in front of the post office, then turns another 90 degrees onto
the road on the left of the post office. So, quite literally, the trail loops
around three sides of this post office! May as well drop in for a visit!
I stumbled onto the Butterfly Garden while looking for the library.

Patagonia really is a cute town, and here's a mural I found while still
looking for the library.

The old Patagonia trail station is now (apparently) a courthouse!

The Patagonia Market. They do accept food stamps here! ;o)

Artwork in front of the Velvet Elvis.

Patagonia has Sonoita Creek running nearby.

Okay, maybe 'running' isn't the right word to describe this creek....

Walking out of Patagonia along Highway 87.

I'm a little surprised that the fire danger is only "high" considering that
the Brown Fire was burning out of control not far away!

Oh, darn... And I had so set my hopes on a visit!

I'll think about it....

Glad that's cleared up. For a second, I thought maybe
I was actually on the map! ;o)

More border patrol activities....



I'm kind of surprised that this tree is even still alive!

I just love these ocotillos!

This looks like a nice place to camp. Let's stop for the day!

Sweat stains on my shirt!

Writing a daily summary of my adventures in my journal is a nightly tradition.
Even before I cook dinner. =)


Anonymous said...

You were on the map - lower right corner.

Anonymous said...

I'm lovin' this hike!

Ryan said...

I know I was on that map.... it was a joke which I meant to convey with the winking face at the end.

But the map is for property and is showing plots and boundaries that aren't really visible and for navigation purposes, it's absolutely useless. Imagine a maps of the United States and a "you are here" marker on the state you're located in. It's not very useful....

westmetromommy said...

I love your trail posts, but I think your town posts are just as exciting! And, really, it would have been hilarious (albeit a shameful waste of taxpayer money) if the firefighters did have to go out looking for you!

Anonymous said...

no metal bands in Patagonia :(