Section 4: Nogales to Douglas


Day 43

11.5 miles






We just had to make it to the lake today, for water and (hopefully) New Year’s Eve treats. It was a bit unclear how far it was but we weren’t overly concerned.The drainage we camped next to traveled south to north from Mexico. This almost guaranteed that it was a path used by someone passing through the valley. In the morning we waded out of the brush and down the drain to return to the road. Sure enough an abandoned jacket lay in tatters, caught in a strainer of rocks and grasses. It’s been far more rare for us to find discarded articles and signs of passage in AZ.




We crossed a bridge over the Santa Cruz River which bisects the San Rafael Valley. The bridge barely seemed necessary, the river was mostly a series of puddles connected by an almost indiscernible current. A beautiful, white heron gracefully departed upon our arrival and the tall grasses covering the moist riverbanks were full of bird activity. We startled a pair of hawks and were almost certain we saw a golden eagle.

Isn’t this beautiful!?


We were equally energetic and couldn't resist loud, animated conversation. To occupy our morning we had challenged each other to try and remember every New Year’s Eve starting at last year’s and going backwards. Then we had to pick a favorite. A perfect game for recounting stories with a little drama and then zoning out to recall the next memory.




After leaving the country road we’d been following we made it to a ridge with 360 degree views. Our favorite kind of hiking. Lots to see in all directions, including the wall (here just a short, friendly looking fence) and plenty of ranches, windmills, and solar panels. As we walked we shared our New Year’s Eve stories. We could only make it to around freshman year of college before tapping out. Still that’s a good seven or eight years of memories!




On one of our breaks we lounged in the middle of the road, feeling good about the lack of cars that we’d seen that day, and with our stuff sprawled out around us. The sound of a motor moving down the road startled us into movement. The car, observing our frenzy, stopped then cautiously moved forward and pulled up even.


The driver leaned out and asked “necessitas agua?” Tenny summoned most of her Spanish to reply “...como?”


He switched to English and inquired, “what the hell are you doing? Are you illegals? I assume anyone with a backpack is an illegal.” We couldn’t determine his position on this, but at least he offered water, a kind gesture. The driver didn’t have much more than say and his passenger never even opened his mouth so we were happy when they moved on.




And then the lake! And the Arizona trail! The Arizona trail (AZT) runs about 800 miles from the border up to Utah, crossing the Grand Canyon and a whole bunch of badass mountains. It is on both of our bucket lists. It was tempting to just turn left and start following it but we resisted the urge and kept on mission. We’ll cross it again a couple more times in the next several days. At the trailhead was a giant RV with a porch with two large sofa chairs attached to the back.

Is that a man and woman lounging in chairs and they’re cheerfully waving us over?




They had food and drinks they were happy to share and even better, conversation! Dan, Nicky and their 4 year old son Ben came down from Tucson almost every month to explore and enjoy the beautiful area. We all agreed that this place was awesome and that if it were anywhere else in the country would be swarming with people. But it was close enough to the border that people felt just afraid enough to stay away. Crazy! And sad. So much fear and misinformation and distrust in the world. This place is cool and so are Nicky, Dan and Ben! Thanks for the Sprite!


We said our goodbyes and stumbled a little further to find our own spot to set up camp. The lake is just far enough away (and downhill) that we’re feeling uninspired to try and get there. It’s New Year’s Eve! We’d love to stay and blog some more but we’ve got to get our party on!