Patagonia, what a beautiful little town.
Situated at over 4,000 feet elevation between the Santa Rita Mountains and the Patagonia Mountains in the riparian corridor of Sonoita Creek, Patagonia is spectacularly rich in both natural and human assets.
After having faced the challenge of the hike, yet another, bigger challenge was waiting for us when arriving in Patagonia; finding a place to stay. With prices ranging from 85 to 130 dollars a night, lodging was way out of our budget for us. We had been thinking about hiking back to the trail at night to set up our tent but Aurélie couldn’t get that haunting imagine of a bathtub out of her head. She could see the clear, clean waters waiting for her in it, smell the caramel-ish scent of our soap already and even see herself getting annoyed with Kenzi as he would at least want to lay for 3 hours in that tub.
While being on the trail we had met a group of hikers. “Go to the Gathering Grounds, the town’s only coffee shop, and someone might offer you to stay at their place when they see your bags.” We did have great coffee, even a carrot cake better than any carrot cake in the world – we’re not sure if it is that amazing taste was due to the carrot cake itself or because we had been eating the same Clif bars for a week – but not one offer to stay at someone’s place. Truth be told, we could definitely understand why. You should have seen us, standing there; with our formerly white t-shirts being as brown as our tan mixed with dirt.
With the image of the bathtub fading, we started walking. Hoping the second and last advice we had received would work out. “Look for the ‘Bed no Bread’ places”.
The warming streets of Patagonia made us feel more at home than any other place we had been until now. The huge streets full of fast foods, cars and big chain restaurants had been replaced by small streets with artsy and funky gift shops. In a street right behind the coffee shop we found a lovely little house with the sign we were looking for “La Palomita de Patagonia – Bed no Bread”.
That’s where we met Mary; a sweet and always smiling 84 year old lady. But grandmother is a more appropriate word than lady. You could see the kindness in her eyes, that look only grandparents have. We discussed a price but she first wanted us to see the backhouse we’d be staying in. That’s how we were like 2 mice ready to enter the trap. And she knew all too well that we wouldn’t be able to resist staying there after having seen the room. But it wasn’t the room that got us. It was the bathtub. That piece of cheese that would get us BAM in the trap.
We didn’t even think about it twice; Mary’s backhouse was to become our home for the next day. Other than finding ourselves in the warmest and coziest place, we had also met a warm and kind hearted Mary. She wouldn’t stop offering us food and other things to take with us on our trip. The next day she told us she would let us stay at her place for another night, free of charge. We shared some stories with her when she wasn’t too busy and that is how “I dreamed, God laughed” – Mary’s memoir which had just been published – ended up in our bags.
After our 2 rest days in Patagonia
Mary dropped us at the start of the trail, three miles outside of Patagonia. We had planned to walk the remaining 50 miles in 8 days. We knew it was too much, so we decided to go on a slower pace, walking 3 or 4 miles a day. But as much as we had enjoyed it we wanted to keep moving after 2 days. Start hiking again. We knew there was no point in lingering just for the sake of it.
You might think your body needs a lot of time to adjust but it doesn’t. We didn’t realize we would get accustomed to the hiking and the effort it required in just a week. Hiking got a lot easier. It felt natural. Just like swiping your credit card to buy an iced coffee. We didn’t even think about it anymore. We were like robots, programmed to walk without stopping. Our breaks were shorter, our hiking times longer, the daily goal more easily reached.
But this part of the trail was hard in a different way. First of all, don’t ask us what the hell went through our minds when deciding this but, we decided to get rid of our 2 extra gallons of water and replace them for a single, tiny, solitary 1L bottle. Yup. From 8L to 1.
The problem here was that water was scarce. A lot of the water sources were dry, which forced us to walk, rest and sleep from water point to water point, and go up to almost 15 miles some days.
And then there was the cold. The temperatures would go as high as 80 degrees during the day and drop to freezing temperatures at night. We didn’t expect that and weren’t prepared for it either. Why did we come to Arizona again? Sunshine! Heat! Well nope, not at night. We would go to bed, looking like two bodybuilders on a super high protein diet, barely able to move our arms with our two t-shirts, three sweaters and four pairs of socks. Mornings, between 5 and 7, were the worst; trying to cook oatmeal and unpitch the tent with frozen fingers and face wasn’t a piece of cake. But we knew worse was ahead of us: The Huachuca Mountains. An over 9,000 feet grey and imposing shadow that overlooked the horizon with a very cold eye.
At one point we hesitated to abandon just before getting to the start of the climb. It wasn’t the 4 miles of steep uphill climb that we feared the most, it was the freezing night in the mountains that was to come. It was the snow on top.
We went for it anyway. We didn’t walk 115 miles to give up 25 miles from the finish. We knew it would be tough, but we also knew that when ending with that challenge, we would be rewarded with the best view of our trip. And rewarded we were when exhausted after having walked our very first 16 miles – 16 miles of steep, zigzaggy trail going from shady and cool places to unbearable heat to packs of snow that made it impossible to see the trail anymore – we found a sleeping spot. A tiny spot, barely big enough to place our tent, just on the ridge of the Huachucas, giving us a view like we had never seen before. We could get our sight lost in Mexico when looking on the right side, and Arizona on the left side. We saw miles of mountain chains and peaks.
We were happy we hadn’t given up especially when February offered us its most beautiful sky of stars and an unexpectedly warm night.