Traffic was flowing nicely, and we shared the black highway under a sky that would be black itself if not for the full moon. It was Black Friday and while others were going to work or going to shop, we were up before 5 so that we could be on trail by sunrise at 7am. From Surprise we drove the 101 to the 10 to the 60 until we arrived at Picket Post Trailhead, a few miles west of the mining town of Superior. I decided to park next to a silver Malibu because it had an Arizona Trail sticker on the rear windshield.
It would be 3 days before we’d see the van again. We planned a backpacking trip that would take us through the Reavis Canyon and Superstition Wilderness sections of the Arizona Trail. We would have to cover 47 miles to get to the Subaru, which we had shuttled to Lake Roosevelt on the way to Thanksgiving dinner at Heather’s parents’ house. We hit the trail on time, needing to hike 17 miles to get to Reavis Saddle.
The trail left the parking lot heading north, and within minutes we passed under highway 60 and through a dry Queen Creek. Our voyage began by leading us through gentle desert foothills on the approach of Reavis Canyon.
We crossed paths with a solo female backpacker, 2 men in camouflage carrying rifles, and 2 male trail runners, but signs of civilization started to disappear. About 5 miles in we finally stopped hearing the trucks on the highway.
The skies were clear and the sun was climbing, and we welcomed the pretty green foliage and the mesquite canopy as we were taken through Whitford Canyon. We also got our first glimpse of fall colors as we passed a few Arizona sycamore trees.
About 7 miles in we crossed a dirt road and found our first trail magic. Someone had cached a public water jug on the side of the trail. Heather and I each started the trip with 4 liters, enough for the first day but not for the whole trip. We would have to rely on water sources along the way, so it was awesome to be able to top off our bottles. We took about 1 liter from the unopened gallon, and left it behind for the next hiker.
We stripped off our jackets and grabbed a snack. Then we continued on through the desert.
At 11:15 we found a corner of the trail that provided shade and some large rocks to sit on. Lunch time. We packed out sandwiches, and they were delicious.
After a 20-min break we were on the move again. A caravan of 4×4’s cruised by on the dirt road down the hill, and within minutes we crossed over their tracks and arrived at the Reavis Canyon Trailhead. As we signed the register, we heard a flapping noise coming from the sign. We think a bird got stuck in the opening at the top of the pole. We couldn’t see it or help it. Poor fella.
We passed through a corral made of large rocks, and then the trail dropped down into Reavis Canyon.
By this point, we were about two-thirds of the way to camp. However, the gradual climb of the first 11 miles were nothing compared to the relentless steep slopes of the next 4 miles.
Huffing and puffing, we made it to the saddle around 3:30. Needing to rest 3 times on the way up to catch my breath, and fighting back nausea, I was so glad to be over the hump.
The trail joined up with a dirt road, and we walked westward the final mile to camp. We stepped aside to allow four off-roaders pass, and Heather asked how I was feeling. I told her I was still fighting off the nausea, and just like that I got sick on the side of the road. A few minutes later I was back on my feet and feeling much better. Our camp wasn’t too far ahead.
A quarter past 4 we found the roadside camp site and chose the most level of the 3 spots. We set up our tent and crawled inside even though there was still daylight. The sun was quickly setting, and it was getting chilly. The last 4×4 passed by. We put on our base layers and prepared ourselves for a cold night’s rest. We ate beef jerky and sweet potato chips for dinner and watched a movie on Netflix before going to sleep. The full moon kept our tent dimly lit, and outside it was completely silent all night.
Day 1: 16.9 miles