Unstoppable SaddleBrooke Hikers Seana and Beth

Any place is a good place to stop and relax. (Photo by Linda Eglin)

Any place is a good place to stop and relax. (Photo by Linda Eglin)

Elisabeth Wheeler

Seana Kobak and Beth Jones are unstoppable in their quest to complete the 800+ mile Arizona National Scenic Trail. Linda Eglin and I were privileged to join them in backpacking the Alamo Canyon and Gila River Canyon passages, which begin at Picket Post Mountain Trail and end thirty-eight miles to the southeast in Kearny.

I was eager to hike the Alamo Canyon passage. The trail had been rerouted since I hiked it in 2006. I am older and slower than the capable trio of Seana, Beth, and Linda, therefore we were concerned that I might not be able to handle the distance and 8,500 feet of elevation gain in a timely manner. My “trail angel” husband drove me to the Picket Post to give me a head start on the trail.

When the trio arrived, much to their consternation, they discovered that the park had been closed. Luckily, though, the Tonto National Forest ranger allowed them to hike the two miles to the trailhead and continue the backpack, because they couldn’t “abandon an 80-year-old hiker already on the trail.” This put them over three hours behind me. I grew worried when, after five hours, they hadn’t caught up to me. I nervously backtracked a mile. We met up, with relief! Then, together we climbed up, up, up to the newly installed rainwater collector tank which is midway to the Gila River water source. Our last day was cloudy and cool as we followed the Gila River Canyon to Kearny. We enjoyed a final rest before completing this wondrous excursion!

A highlight of the following day was seeing Dale’s Butte, named for the founder of the Arizona Trail. Wildflowers were everywhere as were desert critters—three rattlesnakes, three Gila monsters, and a spiny lizard.

The Gila River was muddy, challenging Seana’s water filter. We enjoyed a long rest break and ate an early dinner to minimize the water we would need to carry to our campsite. After a long day on the trail, we enjoyed a colorful sunset.