Arizona Trail – Day 6 (35 miles)
Today I hiked similar mileage to yesterday, but they were polar opposites in terms of difficulty. Today I climbed up and over Mica Mountain’s 9,000ft (2,700m) peak and a couple of other smaller climbs.
I woke up after a great night’s sleep at the base of Mica Mountain. This mountain is the key geological feature of the Saguaro National Park.
I had almost 5,000ft (1,500m) of climbing to reach the top. There were three things great about this climb. The first was the fact that there were 3 water sources on the way up. The second was the lovely view of the sun rising over the valley behind me.
But the third is what is really what I came to see. The quantity of different ecosystems that these sky islands have is truly fantastic. I started at the valley floor where only tiny, scarcely populated shrubs can live. Then, just above the valley, there is an explosion of giant saguaro cactus dominant the landscape. Then it is layers of larger shrubs, small, beaten down fur trees. Then at the very top normal furs are thick enough to create a canopy.
At the top, I took a slightly different route that let me summit rather than walk around it. But then it was time for the steep, rocky descent back into the hot and arid landscape.
At the bottom, I met Thru Hikers 5 and 6 lounging in the shade by a small creek. They are a couple from Arkansas and I actually met one of them, 3G, on the PCT last year. I only was with them for a few hours but they were unforgettable.
I walked with them for a couple of hours as we talked. Eventually, I said goodbye as I had minimal food and had to push to make my next resupply without running out.
I finished off the valley that I had started with them and then spent the rest of the day making my way over a couple of ridges.
At 5 pm I was feeling rather tired. I could not remember the last time I ate and I thought the most likely reason for fatigue was energy related. I walked a couple more hours until just after dark before I set up camp.