March 24th
Devil’s Campground(10.9)-Courthouse Wash(28.9mi)

We got a leisurely start at 7:15am this morning. Being in a campsite with warmed bathrooms and running water defintely encourages a more relaxed morning. This leg is a great way to start off a long trail because it feels more like a weekend backpacking trip and we have time to work out the kinks. The weather has been unseasonably perfect with temps in the 60s (40s at night). We were prepared for greater extremes, especially colder nights, so we’ll take this while we can!

The day started with a short hike out of the campground area on some unnamed trails that eventually got us to a road where we walked a bit befoe heading cross country along an underground gas pipeline. There wasn’t a trail, but there were posts, so it was easy to follow. Slow going in deep sand, but it was entertaining to watch this hot air balloon as it rose and dipped, eventually landing and then taking off again. I also started my first audiobook of the trip. I tried the podcast Serial on the drive down and can’t do it with the disturbing images and topic of murder. Not my thing. I chose the book Tracks by Robyn Davidson, about a woman that hiked across Austrailia in 1977 with camels. Quite fitting for what I’m doing I think.

After the cross country of the pipeline, we followed a barbed wire fence, which is also the boundary of Arches. It was more deep fine sand while dodging shrubs and little cacti. This sand is going to be a an accepted inconvenience the whole trail and was 75% of our day today. It is really fine and gathers in your shoe just under your toes so they can’t bend or flatten naturally. It causes cramping on my toes. Katherine finds it to be a bit of a massage. We’ve been empting our shoes regularly about once an hour or two. I think it was seven times today. The good news is that the sand is not abrasive and my feet are doing remarkably ok with tiny blisters on one heel and under a big toe. 

After the fenceline, it was some wonderful slick rock for a bit down to a wash. Water this seciton has not been a problem, but it soon will get much trickier and sometimes we will come across potholes with water in them that will save the day. Here is also our first pothole sighting of the trip…hoping for many more!

Today was to be the ~10mi slog through Courhouse Wash with sand, water, brush, and even quicksand. There is a Slick Rock Alternate that avoids the first part of Courhouse Wash that was created by Nic Barth who did a TON of great alternates on his Hayduke hike. It was great! We finally got away from the sand for a bit and up on some flat slick rock. The warning about this alternate was the sketchy down climb…and they weren’t kidding…Here is where we exited the wash and the slick rock with the LaSalles in the distance. 

We got to the end of the alternate to see the Great Wall that we needed to find a way down…INCREDIBLE and a bit intimidating. Knowing others had found ways down this is the only thing that made me think it was possible. 

There were cliff bands at angles that I never thought I’d be comfortable walking along that we traversed until we found somewhat comfortable spots to slide down or jump. The sandstone was thankfully grippy. Here is Katherine going down one of the bands. We’d drop our packs and then climb down. On this one, here full water bottle slid out and rolled into the abyss…lesson learned there and good thing she had plenty of water. Later, her iPhone popped out and that frightened me more than the water! 
Here are more photos of the cool climb down…

The last 6mi of the day was through Courthouse Wash. Brushy and unattractive at times, but towards the end, it became a visual treat that reminded me of the Gila along the CDT at the end of the day with early spring green and low sun shadows accenting the canyon walls. 

We could have pushed into town, but chose to stop just before at this very inviting spot in Courthouse wash about a mile from the trailhead and road into town. What a great way to kick off this trail!

Just a warning that it will be 12 days until we stop overnight at a town our first zero day. There is a possibility that there may not be service enough to post a full post anywhere in those 12 days! I’ll throw an update on Instagram or Facebook if I can. I see all your comments and they are wonderful! Just haven’t had time to reply and won’t to most unless there is a direct question. Just great to have all of you along with me!

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