Arizona: Dry as a Dead Dingo’s Donga
If it doesn’t rain soon in Arizona I’m going to cry. I tell myself that any day now it will bucket down but the empty raindrop on my phone screen tells another story I don’t want to hear. Arizona is, as we say in Australia, dry as a dead dingo’s donga.
Arizona National Scenic Trail
I have my heart set on hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail this year. My gear is ready, I’ve downloaded maps and my feet are worn to stumps with training. I just wish it would rain because water is everything. It drives daily mileage, where I camp, how heavy my pack is. Water makes for gloopy boot-swallowing mud and adds extra miles to an already long hike when its source is too far off trail. Rain can brighten my mood or sour it. Water is king.
How about them cactuses, eh?
Arizona is thirsty but the time-sculpted mountains and pine forests, the endless horizon, are too alluring to resist. The state is both flat and mountainous, arid and lush, and is home to the big daddy of ditches, the Grand Canyon, which I am more than excited about hiking through.
I like Arizonans and hope to meet plenty. They are laid back and would be just like Australians if Australians put big letters on the side of their mountains and said things like but it’s a dry heat and we’re from Anchorage / Boise / Charlottesville.
I’ve hiked in Sedona, eaten chilli rellenos in Tucson and seen the world-famous (I use that term loosely) fountain of Fountain Hills. I get a kick out of the Looney Tunes style saguaros although I was disappointed to find out roadrunners are not, in fact, the size of ostriches.
The plan, however loose
Rain or not, I’m heading north from the Mexican border around the end of March to hike through a landscape of familiar names. Santa Rita Mountains, the Tortillas, Superstition Wilderness, Mormon Lake, Flagstaff.
I have driven to these by car but feel I never know a place until I have had the intimacy of walking it. In non-trail-world our feet spend too little time connected to the actual ground and I can’t wait for 800 miles of dirt beneath my soles.
In Arizona I’m going to sleep under the stars, shake scorpions from my shoes, and hopefully not-too-often make that noise that escapes me when I meet a snake. Rattlers are guaranteed on the Arizona Trail and if I’m going to see a snake I prefer it’s one that gives me notice. As my ever-smiling friend Sam-I-Am observed in one of his excellent AT presentations, all snakes should be fitted with rattles.
Star-filled skies and see-forever views are nice to think about but I am also a realist. I know it will be brain-meltingly hot and I will be that special kind of dirty you only get to be by desert hiking. I will be bitten by ants and have the bejesus scared out of me at night by noises I don’t recognize. And, more than once, I will get Not Another F**king Mountain syndrome, my own version of the what the hell am I doing here? moment.
None of this will be improved by having to carrying my own bodyweight in liquid.
Rain, damn it, rain!
The spectre of water looms over my plans. I’m doing that visualisation thing: imagining Arizonans with umbrellas, sloshing happily in puddles like children in a picture book. I’m checking forecasts, pleading to Zeus and following the trailblazers ahead of me on my Facebook feed for some good news.
If it doesn’t rain soon in Arizona I will cry. Then I’ll stop my blubbering and deal with it.
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