Getting to the AZT: Week 1 on the Arizona Trail
Getting to the Terminus
My phone alarm buzzed at 4 AM. It was finally time to start the journey I had been looking forward to for the last month. I had a flight to catch at 7 am from LAX to Phoenix, AZ. I rubbed my sleepy little eyes and popped out of my warm bed. I thought to myself, this might be the last time I sleep in a bed for a long time. I savored the normalcy of life that I knew I would be leaving behind. For I was going to embark on a new journey for the next month. But truth be told, I was looking forward to breaking free from the creature comforts of everyday life. Daily showers? HA! Clean clothes? HA! A porcelain toilet? Yeah, OK.
I got to the airport and went through TSA. The flight was nothing to write about. Nor was the charter plane I took from Phoenix, AZ to Page, AZ. I contacted a trail angel a few weeks prior who would give me a ride from Page, AZ to 11 miles from the terminus (the Utah/Arizona border and the start of the Arizona Trail). But as luck would have it, there were two other AZT hikers on the plane ride and one of them had a different trail angel pick them up to take them right to the terminus. I politely asked if I could join in and the trail angel said yes! She even stopped by her place to give me a fuel canister!! (You can’t fly with fuel, obvs). Thanks Denise, if you ever stumble upon this!
The excitement started getting real. I was standing at the terminus, hundreds of miles from home, left with nothing but what I carried on my back. I let out a big sigh of relief as the pre-trail nervousness and tension in my body finally dissipated. All I had to do now was walk south to Mexico.
First Impressions of Arizona
The first time I went to Arizona, I was driving through with a car packed with everything that I owned. I was driving through the state of Arizona on my way to California where I would start a new chapter of my life. During my cross-country road trip, I didn’t have time to stop and appreciate the landscapes of Arizona – but knew I would someday be back to explore.
Fast forward to today.
The first morning waking up in Arizona, I was giddy with excitement. I woke up and packed up camp in the dark because I just couldn’t wait to hike and see what the AZT was about. I walked through the pre-dawn colors of cotton candy skies and fields of woody desert shrubs. I got to my first water source and to my surprise, there were lots of tadpoles swimming in it! Little did I know, this source was actually one of the better ones I’d encounter on the AZT. Some of the water sources I saw later on were pretty gnarly.
Luckily, I had mentally prepared myself for water sources that could be filled with live and dead bugs, algae, and possibly taste like cow poop! Later that same day, I also came upon a water cache left by trail angels! Each time I came upon gallons of filtered water left by a trail angel, I prayed to the heavens and endlessly thanked whoever was so kind enough to leave water for hikers. I’m no water snob, but damn do I hate the act of filtering my water.
Speaking about water: water in the desert can be a bit tricky. A few times during my first week, I carried way too much water. Other times, I carried too little. This trail is teaching me a lot of self-sufficiency. With not many other hikers around to discuss the trail with, I had to fine tune my understanding of the terrain, exposure, and how much water to take from each source.
Aside from the water situation, the scenes were quite diverse. I would walk through pine forests, fields of chaparral habitats, and groves of aspens. I loved how “flat” the terrain of the desert was. But to be completely honest, the hiking was hard for me. I would end most days at camp completely exhausted. My body was getting used to walking 10+ hours a day with a big pack on my back. I hope those trail legs kick in sooner rather than later!
Grand Canyon National Park
The first week of trail gifted me with some of America’s most premium hiking in the SouthWest. I got my first views of the East Rim just three days into my hike. I spent my fourth night on trail at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It stormed that night with lightening, thunder, and rain. I’m an avid cowboy camper, but I was so happy that I carried a tent with me. I descended into the canyon and stayed at a campground at the very bottom. The next morning, I started the hike in the dark and got to see the sunrise inside the canyon. I quietly sat by myself and soaked in all the grand views. I ended the week off at Tusayan, AZ where I finally got some town food (Pizza Hut!!) and did my first real resupply for the next section.
The first week has taught me a lot so far about being more self-reliant. On my first long distance trek, decision making was usually shared with other hikers. How much water are we gonna carry from this source? How many miles should we hike today? Where should we break for lunch? But on the AZT, there weren’t many other hikers around. I only saw the same three hikers on and off a few times a day for the first week. Most of the day was spent solo. I also got comfortable with camping alone by myself – something rare for me on the PCT. As a result, I’ve become a lot more confident in myself and my ability to be resilient through trying times.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking an interest in my journey of the AZT. My goal is to try and post at least a few times from the trail to let my loved ones know what I’m up to out there 🙂 I will also likely be posting regularly on my Instagram story so if you want more up to date content, you can find that: here.
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