Mile 197, near American Flag Ranch

Woke up to frozen water bottles, made coffee and some pear crisp and bid a fare well to Mark and Tyler. Made a few easy miles through the snow to Summerhaven and waited for the cafe to open. The waitress cheerfully escorted me to a table in the back corner where I would not offend the fairly upscale clientele, a table that was conveniently located next to an outlet. She asked me about trail angeling, and whether AZT hikers would appreciate an inexpensive place to stay in Summerhaven (yes – pricey cabins are the only current option). I enjoyed chicken fried steak, eggs, hash browns and pancakes for second breakfast. I’ve gotten to the stage of the hike now where I think a lot about things like sandwiches or waffles.

Oracle Ridge, staircase to the low desert

The trail out of the Catalinas follows north-trending Oracle Ridge down some 3–4000 feet over a dozen miles to the San Pedro River valley. I was looking forward to an easy amble with fine views. I needed a day without a physical challenge.

It was not to be. If I had actually bothered to study the map I would have seen that the trail shot straight down for 1500 feet and then straight back up 1000 feet to reach a far pinnacle on the ridge. I was incredulous at first then furious to find myself once again beating through overgrowth on a steep rocky exhausting trail making a climb that led nowhere yet would make the subsequent downclimb even steeper. The trail in places was little more than a repurposed rockslide.

I did finally make it down to the valley and to some more-reasonably graded trail, but it took much longer than expected. But I do have a nice hill campsite overlooking the valley, and the weather is fine. I’ll rest up in Oracle tomorrow.