In a remote stretch of desert along the Arizona Trail, I came upon a historic ranch founded by Buffalo Bill in the early 1900s. The Pueblo-style stone ranch house, built in 1928, was being rented out to hikers and I could not pass up the opportunity to stay there since I was intrigued by the history and nostalgia of this peculiar place. Because I only needed a small sleeping quarters, the caretaker took me up to what he called the “crow’s nest.” This was a small penthouse-like structure built atop the original flat roof of the ranch house. After getting settled into the room, I noticed the place had many old quirks including a hatch door leading down through the roof to the main level. Inside the crow’s nest there were blackout curtains over the windows to suppress the hot sun. I drew open all the curtains and had a commanding view of desert and the Coronado National Forest. The homstead was straight out a western film! The ranch had been established as a gold mine by Buffalo Bill Cody and his foster son Lewis Henry Baker. The caretaker insisted that no gold was ever found but nearby residents think otherwise and hold to legends about the area.
The arid section around Oracle, AZ required me to “camel up,” carrying five liters of water through this dry stretch. Much of the water was filtered from spring-fed cattle tanks. One such tank required me to climb a ladder and scoop out the water with a Nalgene bottle that had been duct-taped to a long stick! The hike has been hot and extremely rocky causing expected aches and pains. Despite the soreness, I’m meeting and exceeding my mileage objectives.
Arriving at the Gila River Trailhead, I called up Old Time Pizza—a hiker-friendly business that would send out someone to pick me up at the trailhead and take me back into the town of Kearny. This ride was needed because the town was seven miles off trail and the rendezvous spot was an unlikely location for a hitch. A retired man named Gary, who helps dozens of thru-hikers each year, picked me up in his truck. After swapping hiker stories with Gary, I ordered a pepperoni-sausage pizza at the pizzeria and checked into my room at General Kearny Inn. Kearny has certainly lived up to its reputation as “the friendliest town along the Arizona Trail.” The people here are very hospitable—a tiny town where everybody knows everybody.
Well after a much-needed shower and time of rejuvenation at the motel, I resupplied at Norm’s IGA. Now I’m ready to resume my hike and continue the journey north to Utah.
262.7 down, 525.3 remaining.