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(April 3rd, 2008 - Catalina Mountains, Southern Arizona)
Dan's Saddle at sunrise
Oracle Ridge is long, and we spent the better part of the day walking the ridge from Dan’s Saddle out to the edge of the desert north of Oracle. The walking was good, with plenty to look at and enjoy. We even got a few tantalizing glimpses of Antelope Peak poking out of the vast desert plains to the north. Antelope was our hiking goal for the next day, and the apparent distance was really impressive.
That Oracle Ridge is long only makes sense. The Catalinas themselves are quite large. It took us three days, and nearly 60 miles, to completely traverse the Catalina Mountains - from Italian Trap, to the Tiger Mine trailhead outside of Oracle. This is a grand tour!
Around midday, we finally ended the ridge walk and came to the old Mount Lemmon Control Road and American Flag, an adobe structure erected back in 1877. We searched in vain for water there. Trail information indicates that there is a faucet that occasionally produces water, but we found nothing. Fortunately, we still had adequate water from our pie shop supply, so we pushed on to an old windmill at Kannally Wash out in the desert.
We found the windmill no longer functioning, but someone had filled a few galvanized troughs with water and it was swarming with thirsty bees. We still had enough water to reach Highway 73, where we met Jim for a re-supply, so we passed up this water opportunity.
At Kannally Wash, I decided it was time to take action on my heel blisters that first appeared over a week ago, the day we walked to Twin Tanks. Though I felt I had adequately tested my shoes and foot beds with several long and hard hikes, I had not. It took 5 days of walking for my blisters to appear. They were caused by inappropriate shoe sole and foot bed design for such a sustained and long hike. Summit Hut’s best boot fitter, Kathy, had properly diagnosed my problem when I talked to her a few days ago in Sabino Basin.
In any event, I now had a deep-seated blister in the heel pad of each foot, and I decided that afternoon that it was time to take action and lance the larger of the two blisters. I would now have to commit myself to carefully cleaning and bandaging the blister each day to make sure that an infection would not take hold. It only took a few minutes to empty the blister and bandage it up. The relief was instant and satisfying.
In a few more hours, we hit Highway 77. A mile or two later, we found Jim at the Tiger Mine trailhead, an hour or so before sunset. After filling our water bottles, enjoying some snacks, and talking with Jim, we walked another mile north into the desert for our camp, ending a 21-mile day.