Arizona Trail – Day 12 (29 miles)
I got up excited. I’ve now hiked for over a month through 4 National Parks, one National Monument and countless National Forests on the beautiful Colorado Plateau. Today I will descend to a new adventure of the Sonora Desert.
The first few miles of the day were down 300ft (100m) to a dry wash and then a steep climb back up the other side. After the third wash, I met a young couple packing up camp. I stopped and spoke to them for quite a while. A cute 2-month-old puppy sure did keep my attention. They were section hiking the AzT this year and will be Thru-Hiking the PCT next year. It was excellent to see and speak to of people coming into this fantastic community. Hopefully, they get hooked!
I continued on through the Ponderosas until I hit the Mogollon Rim. A 200 mile (320km) escarpment where the Colorado Plateau ends and the landscape drops 1000-2000ft (300-600m). It was an amazing descent down the East Verde River. The dry forest from only moments before gave way to Oaks with leaves changing colour, ferns, shrubs, so many squirrels, and – my favourite – flowing spring water. It was an oasis; so green, with the golden and red leaves thrown in.
I then turned right and traversed along the bottom of the first and major cliff band for the rest of the afternoon. Up onto a ridge where there would be dry desert plants to plunge down into the next gully with a running spring and plants in full fall colour.
I also got to see the mountains that I will be heading to way off in the distance.
It was the best day on the AzT to date, with big views and so many different, constantly changing flora zones.
The only problem I found was when it started to get dark. I could not find a camp spot. I was on a relatively steep traverse and where it was flat the ground was extremely rocky. I ended up walking for about an hour after dark before I eventually found a cosy little spot.