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.

Arizona reality

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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Comments 13

  • MoFo : Jan 26th

    Team MoFo will be following your progress. We wish you well on this adventure.

    • Siobhan Sheridan : Jan 26th

      Thanks MoFo. One for you, perhaps?

  • Sarah : Jan 26th

    I’m definitely considering the AZT at some point. Looking forward to following your adventure.

    • Siobhan Sheridan : Jan 26th

      Thanks. Love the desert, looking forward to it.

  • Kay Ledson : Jan 27th

    I love your optimism, after walking through the Arizonan and Californian deserts on road, I admire your courage, I only saw dead rattlers, one was perfectly preserved “laying coiled on the shoulder” I was walking, it seemed intact, not run over, I assumed he lost his”life” boiled on the road – temperature (April” ) was over 105 F ..

    I also have huge respect for you hiking trail, as I was attacked by killer plants that caused my legs to be covered in welts and scratches including parts of me unmercifully attacked while squatting doing what comes naturally (only after checking for rattlers and scorpions which are apparently plentiful that time of year) …

    I agree with you the scenery is stunning and those magnificent MESAs own the landscape along with those regal unique Cacti..

    I enjoyed a love hate relationship with this area, you are right about the Arizonans, they are wonderful and I will intro to 2 very special couples who are wonderful friends one in Cordes Lakes (Mayor) and one in Flagstaff… I am sorry we won’t get to meet before you leave from Australia, we arrive back around the 2nd April…
    I am in awe of you hiking this trail!
    Arizona was by far my most challenging walk – mentally and physically.

    • Siobhan Sheridan : Jan 28th

      Thanks Kay. See you in Australia later in the year to celebrate our feats (and our amazing feet).

  • thinkinghiker : Jan 27th

    I live in Phoenix and have hiked every trail within 50 miles of here plus many in other parts of the state. I’ve managed to hike a few sections of the AZT but my plan is definitely to do what you are doing within the next few years. I saw a lady give a talk at REI recently, Anne McGuffey, who had done the AZT. Good luck! I’ll definitely be following your progress.

    • Siobhan Sheridan : Jan 28th

      What a lovely part of the world you live in. Great hiking!

  • John Huber : Jan 31st

    Hi there. I just wanted to let you know my wife and I live just about 20 minutes driving distance from the southern trailhead. If there is any way we can help support you, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are avid hikers and know how important a little support on the trail can be.

    • Siobhan Sheridan : Jan 31st

      Thank you John, that is very kind. I look forward to meeting you and your wife in your lovely corner of the world.

  • Erskine Sandilands : Sep 9th

    Hey Siobhan,

    Not on facebook but want to get in touch – so sending my email here. Still owe you a coffee from Phantom Ranch. Did you make it to Utah okay? Back home in NZ for the summer. Might head back to Utah next year. Cheers – Erskine

    • Siobhan Sheridan : Sep 22nd

      Hiya. Great to hear from you and will send you through my email. Yes, I made it to Utah. Great trail!

  • Jim : Oct 18th

    Getting ready to actually chase a dream, and referred to someone, who’s experience I respect. I’ll be 69 and just as stubborn. I laughed out loud at the quips. ~≈C


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