It is drizzling here at Juniper Basin at 06:30. It is about 60 degrees and we are packing up for our second day and the trek to Manning campground. So far it has been a great trip. Things started out pretty much perfectly. Sure, Don's flight got rescheduled but it all worked out. We just hung out at the Sleep Inn most of the afternoon chatting and taking dips in the very warm swimming pool. We ate at Dennys followed by a reasonably early bedtime so we could be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Carol when she would arrive at 08:00.
The drive, under blue bright skies, took less time than we thought it would. So like all good backpackers with a geek streak we stopped in at Summit Hut to check out gear. Although we did not really buy anything we confirmed our limited water sources info before heading out for lunch at Hoagie Hut (House, Shack, not sure of the exact name). We arrived at Saguaro National Park Visitor Center a bit before noon and spent time exploring the exhibits and getting any last minute/up-to-date water source info (we got better info) before heading to the Tanque Verde trailhead. We put feet to trail just after 13:00, the temperature was pushing 90 and their were just a few scattered high cumulus in the sky.
The hiking was different from 14 months ago. It was much hotter and we encountered many more people. Most were day hikers (blue jeans and cotton shirts are popular) but we did cross paths with a backpacking couple coming out after a weekend trip. I have written about the desert before and donŐt think I can add much to those impressions. This time the flowers were not showing their color splendor, but water has been very scarce this year. For Don though this was all new. We tried to find a Teddy Bear Choola to show him, but had no luck. So we hiked steadily on. Carol and Don generally ahead as I plodded on behind them. Sometimes I would lead, but only because they had taken a break and I had moved on by.
The trail was only somewhat as I recalled it. The single biggest difference was in the amount of twisting it did and through how many rocky sections it traveled. I just did not recall it being so convoluted. To top it off I think I got confused in the same place as last time: where the trail dives into a rock bowl, skirting the left side before regaining the ridge again - less than 3 miles from camp. But I got there in time. Don came out to greet me perhaps 0.75 miles from camp. I arrived with Don a little past 18:00. They had been their for a bit by then.
Camp chores are such a chore. Carol showed me where the water was and as I gathered my store we watched the near-full moon rise and the sun set. We lucked out when we saw the sky turn orange, fire engine red and blood red as the sun finally vanished below the horizon: great sunset that Don missed since the trees blocked his view. We ate dinner in darkness and were packing it in around 20:00.