My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 2

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My Arizona Trail Adventure – Part 2

Type 2 fun….. possibly type 2.5

…… This would have been bad enough in the day time, searching for cairns in amongst the other rocks, sometimes upstream, sometimes ahead of you, sometimes obliterated by fallen trees, but it was downright scary at nighttime.  As you can imagine, these miles were SLOW.  With only a narrow stream of light from my headlamp, I was scanning up and down, left and right, looking for these piles of rocks on top of rocks!  I cursed myself for not bringing my super duper Petzl headlamp and only bringing my lightweight headlamp with me (Lesson no.6 – always carry the super duper headlamp). 

At one point, I couldn’t find the cairns on the other side.  I crossed over anyway thinking they must be hidden, but couldn’t find the trail still.  I looked back and suddenly couldn’t find where I came from.  I panicked momentarily, thinking I was lost and I was never going to find my way and it was getting cold and I didn’t even have an emergency blanket, let alone a pair of trousers.  I thought I was going to die.  With no cell service, Emily wouldn’t have a clue where to look for me either.   Then, I took a deep breath and got a hold of myself. Thank god I had my wind proof jacket from the morning!  It was one of the scariest moments of my life (Lesson no.7 – always carry a bivy and lightweight tights and long sleeve, so I can always survive a night alone if needed).  I checked my Guthook app to see where my arrow was relating to the trail and found my path again.  If something had happened to my phone or if I hadn’t have had the app, I would surely have died that night! Seriously, 34 of these bloody crossings, getting my feet wet every time.  I was laughing out loud at my predicament, counting each one, not believing quite how I had got myself into this situation (Lesson no.8 – research as much intel as possible on current trail conditions.  I would never have attempted this section at night had I known what would have been involved!).

Finally, after much cursing I was climbing away from the streambed, I had reached Montana Mountain.  I now had a 2,500foot climb ahead of me and I was conscious of the time.  I wasn’t going to make 9pm, it was now looking likely 10pm.  I started singing out loud.  I was alive I had made it this far, 10 miles to go.  10 green bottles standing on a wall….. (you know how it goes).  I crested the mountain and at last some runnable single track, but as I don’t have the confidence of nighttime running, I was keeping it light.  The last thing I needed now was to trip and injure myself.  Still no cell service (Lesson no.9 repeated a gazillion times – get a satellite phone or 2 way comms device that doesn’t require cell service so I can communicate with my support team), I was hoping Emily wasn’t too worried.

I ran past a couple of tents and suddenly recalled instances of people being attacked on trails, human or animal related.  I just kept breathing and put one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving forward, I’m getting closer.  I got to the FRS road, which I knew was 1.5 miles from camp…hurrah!  Out of the dark, a male voice bellows “You!”, I ignore him, my heart quickens and I run faster, he shouts again “Hey, you!”, I yell back “what?!”, he says “are you ok?”, I yell back “yes” and run faster.  I mean, who says that in that manner? He scared me half to death!!!  Suddenly I see car headlamps ahead of me and a little voice squeaks out “Helen?  Is that you?” I reply “Emily?

Emily had been scared witless …not a runner herself and not even any experience of ultra races, she hadn’t quite appreciated what she had let herself in for, when agreeing to support me on this recon mission.  That she would be my responsible person and have to make decisions about how long to wait and when to call for help.  Because I had not known where she would be camping exactly in relation to the trail, I had asked her to meet me each time if it wasn’t obvious to make sure I didn’t run right past her.  Around 9pm she had donned her headlamp and went running up the road trying to find me (of course I was still on the mountain at that time), she wasn’t even sure if she was on the trail, it was pitch black and she was scared of getting lost herself.  So she went back to the car not quite sure what to do.  An older gentleman named Gene was camping and had helped her put up the tent earlier.  She went to wake him up and asked him for help.  She had already had a traumatic experience, driving her Forerunner to the TH as the road was so rocky and steep.  The road further up to where they met me was even worse and just not even a possibility for her to drive that let alone in the dark.  Gene offered to drive her up the trail in his 4×4 and in his words, he was happy to help – what was he going to be doing anyway? Just sleeping and that was boring!  So they scooped me up and we drove down the last 0.5 mile to the TH together.

As we were sitting in the front of Emily’s car while I was eating dinner, my headlamp died…what a day! (Lesson no.10 – always carry a spare lamp and/or batteries).

55.25 miles | 15:32 hours | 10,767ft Gain | 7,376ft Loss

Fuel: GU Energy 5 x Roctane Powder, 8 x Gels, 2 x waffles plus 2 energy bars

Hydration: 4 1/2 litres

Friday 15thMarch 2019

I set the alarm for 5:30am but it was so windy and cold outside, I had difficulty waking up and getting myself geared up.  It was so late the night before and cold and dark, I had decided to wait until morning to get my pack ready (Lesson no.11 – if I have the funds available, invest in a sprinter van). I couldn’t feel my fingers, so was loathed to try to get the stove setup to make oatmeal so I opted instead for a bagel (Lesson no.12 – if I have the support, it would be ideal for someone to get up early to make me breakfast so I don’t waste precious daylight hours).  All of this meant I was off to a later start than planned of 7am.  The first available access point was at 28.7miles at the bottom of the Superstitions.  I was hoping to be there around 1pm and then Emily could join me in the first part of the hike up the Superstitions.  We said goodbye and I headed off.

Immediately I was greeted with water and this time, at points I even had to wade upstream to find the intersecting trail on the other side.  Where I wasn’t wading through water I was slipping on mud and stepping over rocks and circumnavigating fallen trees and branches. Nothing runnable, just slow miles. Then came the climb to Reavis Saddle, again slow hiking.  There were some runnable sections at the top trying not to get blown away.  It had taken me 5 ½ hours to do 15 miles.  In a rare moment of luck I had cell service…hurrah!! I managed to text Emily, letting her know I was more likely going to reach her around 330/4pm and she should go on a hike without me.  Long FRS road down from the saddle and runnable, I was on target for my new time frame.  Then I missed a turn and did 0.5 of climbing bonus miles, luckily I realized my mistake and backtracked.  Then Cottonwood Canyon…more slow miles but at least there was no water in the creek here, just lots of rock hopping.

I found my way to the highway and I could see Emily’s car.  I made it to her for 515pm (10 hours on 2.5 litres of water), and immediately replenished.  In theory at this point, I had the biggest climb of the day with 19 more miles left to tackle.

I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday evening, so we agreed that with the next accessible TH being Mills which was 6 miles away with 1,500ft of climbing, we would camp there and I would move the remaining 13 miles to our last day, tomorrow which originally I had planned to be a 19 mile short day.  I said maximum it should take me would be 3 hours and looked forward to meeting Emily at 830pm.  I set off on a good clip and there were more runnable sections than I was expecting, which was a bonus.  I was wearing my Petzl this time so had great lighting, plus I had cell service! Of course, with everything planned, everything went perfectly and I reached the trail head with Emily there waiting for me, ahead of time for once at 8pm!  It was a pleasant warm evening, so we took our time eating dinner and setting up camp and I got my pack ready for the next day.

37.1miles | 12:53 hours | 7,803ft Gain | 8,950ft Loss

Fuel: GU Energy 4 x Roctane Powder, 6 x Gels, ½ chews, 1 x waffle plus 1 energy bar and bagel

Hydration: 4 litres

Saturday 16thMarch 2019

Lying in bed, my legs were feeling a bit achy.  I did some active isolated stretching and got myself ready. I walked around for a bit and my legs, surprisingly, actually felt quite good once I was up and about.  I made myself a hot oatmeal breakfast; I knew I was kicking off the day with hiking the climb to the top so I wasn’t frightened to eat a big meal.  It was a pleasant morning, not too cold at all.  Final day woohoo! There were no access points between now and the end, so I said my goodbyes and thought I would see Emily around 230pm (it was 630am when I left).  I had 32 miles to go.

Four Peaks

I started the climb and was able to go at a good pace.  I could feel my right heel was a bit sore with every step but it was manageable.  I was feeling strong otherwise.  I got to the top, passed by a couple hikers and started traversing around to the Four Peaks.  There were a couple of snow patches in areas that hadn’t melted but nothing I hadn’t seen before. I pressed on. The snow on the ground was hard like ice but there were some footsteps that had been encrusted into the snow from a previous hiker, so I used those as footholds to keep me steady.  The trail up here was very narrow with sheer drops off the cliff edges 6,000 feet to the ground below.  I was moving very gingerly leaning in to the mountain, testing each footstep for security before placing the next, my body tense with every step.  With my fear of heights, I was taking great care not to look down and instead concentrating on moving forward one step at a time, hoping that the snow would end soon and the sun would envelop me into its safe and warm embrace. To be continued……..

Footnote: Article relating to Type Fun can be found at