Arizona Trail – Passage 8 – Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead to Saguaro East National Park

Part 1 – Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead to Pistol Hill Road

  • Distance – 9.32 miles / 14.99 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain – 764 feet / 232.87 meters
  • Elevation Loss – 49 feet / 152 meters
  • Average Temperature – 92.8° F / 33.778° C

Part 2 (2 days later) Pistol Hill Road to Saguaro East National Park

  • Distance – 7.99 miles / 12.859 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain – 253 feet / 77.114 meters
  • Elevation Loss – 374 feet / 114 meters
  • Average Temperature – 88.9° F / 31.611° C
  • Total Mileage – 51.1 miles / 82.225 kilometers


The question for this hike is ‘What did one blonde say to the other blonde?’

Last week we decided there would be No More Out and Backs! Well that is providing we can manage to park two vehicles at opposite ends of the trail within what we consider to be a reasonable hiking distance. We decided to skip Passage 9 for a while as we are sure it will either be an Out and Back or an overnight camping experience. We are not sure if we are ready for overnighting on the trail yet.

We know overnighting will come, but first we must acquire all the necessary equipment (i.e. a tent). Maybe one of our friends will be kind enough to lend us one so we can test out the sleeping outdoors thing. Remember, I am a New York City girl and Lova is from Pennsylvania, not too far from New York, neither of us have ever camped out.

Sorry I digress, back to the hike.

We both drove to our end point, Pistol Hill Road trailhead, and parked Lova’s truck. She placed her gear in my car and then decided to put her handbag in the trunk of the car for safety. We drove off to the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead.

We missed the exit we should have taken on the Freeway and drove about 20 miles out of our way. When we were able to turn around we saw a sign for Marsh Station Road. We took Marsh Station Road to the trailhead but it was a long drive.

We arrived at the trailhead and geared up for what we thought was a 6 mile hike to Pistol Hill Road. It was hot out and the trail was full of scree. It didn’t have much climbing, in fact the trail guidebook rates this passage as Easy.DSCN0660_406

At about 5.5 miles in, the one blonde says ‘Hey Other Blonde, you are not going to believe what I’m going to tell you’. Immediately thoughts go to just having stepped over a huge rattlesnake. But no, the one blonde tells the other blonde she left the keys to her truck in her handbag which is in the trunk of the other blonde’s car.

The other blonde replies ‘No problem, we’ll just call someone to pick us up at Pistol Hill Road and bring us to the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead.’   We could turn back but that would defeat the purpose of leap-frogging cars and neither one wanted to do that. We continue forward thinking we only have a mile to hike.

Lova’s phone pings, she just picked up service. She decided to telephone her husband, thankfully she told him how to get to Pistol Hill Road, because we lost cell phone coverage immediately after her call and did not get it back until we reached Pistol Hill Road.

We hiked and we hiked some more. Did I say that it was hot? It was HOT!! The sun was beating down on us. Every now and then the sun would pass behind a cloud and it was heavenly. But for most of the day it was beating down HOT!DSCN0694_440

We kept hiking. The mileage kept adding up on my Garmin. We saw roads and then we passed right by them, we saw another road, passed that one too. Finally we hear a car driving on a road. We looked up and we saw a person ahead looking out onto the trial.

It was Lova’s husband! Boy were we happy to see him. She retrieved her keys, we jumped into her truck and headed back to the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead. This time we took the right exit off the Freeway; got my car and made a bee line to Iciban Japanese Restaurant, which is turning out to be our usual place of indulgence post hike.DSCN0703_449

All in all it was another great hike on the AZT!! On Wednesday we will be hiking the second section of Passage 8.

Wednesday morning bright and early Lova arrived at my house to follow me to the Hope Camp Trailhead on Camino Loma Alta. I parked my car ½ mile from the trailhead as there was a sign that said ‘No turn around point ahead’; I grabbed my backpack and trekking poles and my car keys and jumped into Lova’s truck. Off we drove to the Pistol Hill Trailhead on the AZT.

She parked her truck, placed her keys in her pocket, we geared up and off we went. Again we were like two kids at Christmas – so happy to be back on the trail and this time to be completing Passage 8! Another Passage we can check as having completed on the Passage Listing.DSCN0710_455

The trail was beautiful and relatively flat. The vegetation was different from the other sections in that it was more brush and definitely greener than the other desert passages.

We both carry bug spray in our packs, usually we don’t need to use it, but today those little gnats were horrible, they were all over us. We would spray the repellent, be momentarily relieved and within 10 minutes the little buggers were all over us again.

Today, we heard much birdsong. We saw a little rabbit sitting on the trail, I was able to get a picture, probably was a baby because he wasn’t skittish at all.DSCN0717_462

Later in the hike, we ran into a young woman with her dog. We began chatting about the AZT, she is also going to a presentation Summit Hut is having tomorrow evening about the AZT. Lova, Sue and I will be attending that event.

We came to Hope Camp, or at least that is what we think it was. The windmill had a sign on the top saying ‘F. Ronstadt Hardware Company’. Linda Ronstadt was born and raised here in Tucson, her family was one of Tucson’s prominent families.

All of a sudden I saw a very long orange snake speeding across the trail just ahead of me, I called out ‘SNAKE’. I am usually the head person when we hike if the trail is just a single track. Lova saw the snake after it sped into the tree limbs alongside the trail. She later said she didn’t see it until she saw the tree limbs move and there it was hanging on a limb. I was brave enough to use the zoom on my camera to get a photo.DSCN0747_492

We crossed several creek beds and / or arroyos (washes as Tucsonan’s call them), climbed up a few slight inclines and finally found ourselves at the end of our hike for the day.DSCN0763_508

Today was another wonderful day on the Arizona National Scenic Trail.



8 responses to “Arizona Trail – Passage 8 – Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead to Saguaro East National Park

  1. Lova Njuguna

    Love it!!!! Well done!



  2. Sounds like you two gals are having the time of lives doing the AZT Arlene!
    Good on you both.
    I hope you do manage to beg/steal/borrow some camping gear to do an overnighter!
    There is a great sense of satisfaction in carrying everything you need in your pack and walking to a camp site, sleeping out and walking back to the car the following day!


    • Greg,
      We are so up for camping out! That is something we will have to do in order to complete the entire AZT, just not possible to complete some of the Passages without camping. Thankfully today everything can be obtained in super lightweight materials. Unfortunately water isn’t less weighty. Water is one thing that is quite hard to find in the desert! But once we are out of southern Arizona, I’m sure water will be easier to come by, of course we’ll need a filtration system.


  3. My guess is that you will love camping and wonder why you never did it more. Not that you need to love it all the time, of course! Occasional is fine.


    • Clare,
      I believe you are correct about that. Both Lova and I are looking forward to our first experience with camping out, I think the mindset has accepted and embraced camping already, the gear just needs to catch up.


  4. You can borrow my hiking tent and gear. 😀


    • Thanks for the offer Donna. Unfortunately I think the shipping would probably cost more than an outright purchase 🙂 ~ Arlène


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