On the morning of April 2nd, Dave Baker drove us back to the exact spot we exited the trail two days earlier. Dave Boyd joined us as we cruised through the Rincon Mountains, camping at the beautiful Grass Shack site, which was equipped with a babbling brook. The next day, we split off from Dave at Italian Spring and began a grueling descent along the North side of the Rincons. This section took a toll on all of us and we camped about three miles short of our goal in Tanque Verde Canyon, which was flowing nicely. We got up super early the next morning with high hopes to make up a few miles.
April 4th was one of toughest days I've ever had hiking. It was hot and we knew it would be. Despite drinking six liters of water and supplementing it with electrolyte capsules, I struggled mightily all day. I had no energy in my body and no appetite. Dinny and Gary did much better than I did, even though they're from England and I'm a native desert rat! To add insult to injury, this passage ended with a punishing 1,000 ft. climb at the very end and then finally plunged into Molino Basin Campground in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Prior arrangements had been made, and my good friend Royce Marion was there for us when we staggered in after twelve hours of tough hiking. She brought us treats: avocados, cold beer, fruit juices, salty potato chips and what have you. This Trail Angel also went above and beyond the call of duty...she provided each of us a clean damp face cloth with a dab of peppermint soap in it! What an unexpected, refreshing magnificent treat! This kind and thoughtful act truly aided our recovery and we had a fabulous evening camping out in Molino Basin. As you will see, Royce helps us immensely again higher on the mountain...
The always refreshing Hutch's Pool
The next day, we knew it was going to be really hot again AND we were aware of the monster day awaiting us the day after; therefore, we decided to pull up short and "rest" at Hutch's Pool. Hutch's Pool is a spectacular swimming hole and I have been cliff jumping here since I was in the seventh grade. We arrived in mid-afternoon while it was still warm and took a very refreshing dip, which re-energized us. Boy, were we going to need energy...
The next morning, boots were on the ground at 5:30 sharp. We needed to gain 4,139 ft. in 10.3 miles. It was hot as well. This climb truly challenged me, both physically and mentally - I felt like Rocky Balboa taking one huge hit after another and refusing to go down. Gary and Dinny felt beat up, too. In fact, Gary had a "heat episode" and barely made it to camp at Marshall Gulch that afternoon. We got Gary hydrated with a salt capsule supplement and he was in bed at 6:30PM. At this time, I received a text from Royce asking if we needed anything the next morning in Summerhaven. I asked Gary and Dinny and a very faint voice from Gary's tent uttered, "Orange mango juice..." You see, two days earlier at Molino Basin, Gary had orange mango juice from Royce and absolutely loved it.
Deer carcass on Oracle Ridge
The next morning, April 7th, we popped over the ridge into Summerhaven at 9AM and Royce was there for us with a warm meal: breakfast burritos stuffed with egg, potato and cheese...plus a nice selection of salsas! We did not ask for this scrumptious surprise! We devoured this delicious fare, washed it down with a big bottle of orange mango juice (Gary had three glasses) and then headed North down the backside of the Catalinas via the Oracle Ridge Trail. I have phenomenal friends!
Early morning on Oracle Ridge
Even though it was a 3,365 ft. descent into the Oracle, AZ area, it was arduous - the steep grade covered with loose cantaloupe-sized stones made for weary legs and wobbly ankles. A storm was moving in as well, so we pulled up little short and made camp on the ridge in a protective stand of trees. Besides, the next day we had a short hike into Oracle for a rest day. It rained during the night and I was tucked into my warm Mountain Hardwear sleeping bag in my dry Nemo tent, happy and content.
Dinny and Gary at the Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, AZ
Dinny and Gary had a reservation at the Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, AZ and invited me to stay with them. Marney and her husband Jim own and operate the Chalet and have for almost thirty years. We were about to be amazed... We called Marney from the High Jinks Ranch to give her a heads up we were about an hour away. She picked us up at the Anerican Flag Trailhead, gave us cold bottles of water and was extremely pleasant. As we drove to the Chalet, she offered to stop anywhere we needed. Once at the Chalet, she showed us the free laundry facilities and provided us loaner clothes while we did our laundry. She also had put a variety six-pack of Mexican beers in our refrigerator (on the house). As we did our laundry and got all our gear re-organized, she checked in with us periodically to see if we needed anything, or, a lift to the store. The rooms at the Chalet are clean, cozy and quirky and we had a fun and restful night. In the morning, Marney brought fresh hot coffee to our room and asked when we wanted to leave for the trailhead! She drove us back to the American Flag Trailhead and even stopped at the Dollar Store on the way so we could pick up some last minute items. Marney is truly thru-hiker friendly and provides exemplary customer service with a positive and upbeat attitude at a very, very fair price. I highly recommend Marney's Chalet Village Motel for thru-hikers and anyone else visiting and exploring the Oracle area. Marney truly is a Trail Angel.
Inside the Chalet...