I’m hurting. 29 miles in one day is what we walked today. Ouch. So that wasn’t the original plan. The original plan was to do this section in 2 days. However, we ended up dropping two food caches on the AZ/UT state line because Jacob Lake Inn does not offer the services of holding resupply boxes for hikers. Knowing that this section can be waterless and we did not want to carry 9 days worth of food, we decided to do these 29 miles from the AZ/UT state line to Jacob Lake in one day. So instead of 9 days of food on our backs, we set off with 7 days of food for our Jacob Lake to South Rim stretch and 3 L of water each. That being said, my bag felt like it weighed about 45 pounds. Not that bad unless when you are hiking over 20 miles, which after that many miles, both the feet and shoulders start to feel the strain. I think Cuban B’s pack was the heaviest, perhaps 65 lbs at least was my guesstimate. Our saving grace was that today we hiked on the very well maintained Arizona Trail, which the Hayduke Route piggybacks on for about 60 miles. A well maintained trail equals easier terrain and quicker miles.
The other issue with today was that we originally thought this section would only be 24 miles on trail plus 2 on the highways if we didn’t score a hitch. That was according to the Hayduke Maps that I was referencing. However, when i referenced my AZT app on my iPhone, it added 3 more miles. Oh well!! 29 miles it would be.
The AZT climbed quite steeply for 5 miles leaving stateline, climbing to the Kaibab Plateau, and, as always, once on the precipice, the views were amazing. I love it when the trail elevates me to these high points, as it allows me a panoramic views of where we’ve hiked. I was able to see Bryce Canyon up north, Navajo Mountain to the east, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Makes me feel so small, this vast Colorado Plateau. Humbles me for sure. Once on the mesa, the trail does have minor ups and down thar after 29 miles the cumulative elevation gain totals to almost 4500 feet. The flora is juniper and pinyon but once above 7000 feet, the ubiquitous ponderosa pine dominates. We were surprised to find about 3 to 4 water caches near where the trail crosses a dirt road, left behind I’m sure by trail angels sympathetic to us thru hikers. Thank you trail angels. I’m not gonna lie, despite having done longer mileage days on the PCT, this 29 mile days was definitely wearing down on me. I start to feel the pain, especially on my new heel blisters around mile 23. I actually had to stop to drain the blisters at lunch time, mile 14. But that didn’t really help.
At lunch time, Pete and I were concerned that we wouldn’t make it to Jacob Lake Inn in time for dinner, as the grille closed at 7:30pm. At that point I decided to hike as fast possible, me being the faster one, in order to make it there in time so that I can order him something before they close. We were not worried about Cuban B because, with his cruising trail speed of 4.5 mph, we were sure he’d be there by 5pm latest. That was the case by the way. So off i went at my meager, blister pained, 3.3mph cruising speed. I think I made it to Hwy 89 by 6:30 pm and right away stuck my thumb out for a hitch. Nobody ever stopped for me as I was walking towards Jacob Lake. As I was walking towards Jacob Lake, I was really worried about Pete, as he had never walked 29 miles in one day. I was praying he wouldn’t get out onto the highway in the dark and that he’d at least score a hitch. Son of bitch did score a hitch from a Navajo man in a truck and they stopped for me half mile from the inn. Thank you! Of-course, Cuban be was already there waiting for us. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to check in to the room because it was under our name. Needless to say, we barely made it in time for dinner, and of course we ate a big dinner.