I haven’t been blogging along the way as I hoped I would — time on the trail is focused on hiking and camping, cell reception is mostly non-existent, and I’m always conserving battery power so I can use my phone for navigation and trail data. When I take a day or two off in a town, the time goes quickly with resupplying, dealing with gear issues, eating, phone calls with family and friends, socializing, seeing the town, and always eating!
So here are some thoughts and experiences from the first 465 miles on the AZT.
I’ve been hiking mostly solo, which was my intention, and I’ve been enjoying it. I can hike my own pace, stop and enjoy vistas and flowers as I desire, and experience the challenges of figuring everything out on my own. I don’t feel lonely, and even though I miss family, I feel connected to them even though we’re not physically together.
There are lots of decisions to make every day, such as: do I stop at 5:00 to camp, or continue hiking a few more miles to a better campsite or just to get more miles in? When I stop to filter water, there’s always a decision about how much to carry – enough to get me to the next water source, but not too much because water is heavy! I’ve become comfortable with rationing my water consumption a bit, rather than carrying ample water, and I haven’t had any problems of running out of water.
The Arizona Trail is well-marked in most areas, and to help with navigation I use an AZT app on my iPhone plus paper maps. Each of my resupply boxes includes paper maps for the next stretch. The app uses GPS and shows the trail route along with junctions, roads, water sources, towns, etc. Even with these tools, sometimes the trail has been re-routed, or isn’t marked well, or the app is a little off in showing me where I am in relation to the trail. In some areas the trail is overgrown with vegetation, making it difficult to know if I’m on the trail, and really challenging to get through all the branches and spiny plants crowding the trail. I always figure it out and find my way! These things slow me down of course, and it usually takes longer than I planned to reach my destination for the day. Sometimes finding and filtering water takes longer than I expected. There are many unknowns each day and that’s part of what makes this trek an exciting and fun adventure!
I’ve enjoyed meeting people along the way, both on the trail and in towns. I’ve met about 15 other thru-hikers, and know of many more who are thru-hiking the trail this spring. I often meet hikers who are doing a multi-day section on the AZT, or out for a day hike. It’s always fun to connect with others who are out on the trail. Many times I’ve hiked for two or three days without seeing other humans, and while I enjoy the peace and solitude, it feels exciting when other hikers, mountain bikers or equestrians come along.
I’ve met many guys who are hiking the trail solo, but only two other solo women: one hiker and one who is thru-biking the AZT solo.
The Arizona Trail is a more challenging hike than I had expected. To balance that, the scenery is also far more spectacular than I anticipated! Plants, flowers, rocks, expansive vistas, lush riparian areas with flowing creeks, ocotillo forests and saguaro forests — it’s truly amazing to walk across Arizona.
I expected my pace to start out at an average of 10 miles a day, and to increase as I got stronger. Well, I may be stronger, but I’m still at 10 miles per day average! Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated about that, but I feel that hiking day after day is a big accomplishment. To get up every morning and get out on the trail again, that’s a lot! I’m enjoying the journey, I feel good, I’m free of injury, and I’m sleeping great every night. Many hikers who are doing longer miles have blisters on their feet and other foot problems, so I think my approach is working out pretty well!
That’s it for now, back on the trail tomorrow at mile 464, to climb up the Mogollon Rim and walk through the pines of the Colorado Plateau. Easier hiking ahead after some rough terrain over recent miles – I’m looking forward to that!
(There may or may not be some photos below of vegetation encroaching the trail in the Four Peaks Wilderness – I had challenges getting photos into the right place!)