Who Am I and Why Am I Hiking the AZT This Fall?

Howdy! I’m Elaine, formerly known as “Spikes” on trail.

I thru-hiked the PCT last year and aspire to complete the triple crown of thru-hiking (CDT, AT) within the next few years. I am attempting to complete a southbound thru-hike of the Arizona Trail (AZT) this fall – an 800-mile jaunt across the state of Arizona.

September 5, 2022 – Terminus day!!! Made it to CANADA, BABY!!!

A quick little introduction:

I grew up in Los Angeles, California pretty much in a sheltered environment. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in the 80’s (before I was born) in hopes of giving their children a better life than they had. I spent my formative years indoors, deep into my studies in silent acquiescence. It wasn’t until I graduated from college did I have free rein to explore the world outside of the Los Angeles bubble.

Walking the unconventional path

At the age of 21, I started meditating heavily – solo traveling across the pacific coast up and down California, Oregon, and Washington from meditation center to meditation center to deepen my practice. I met three guys doing the same thing as me in what felt like a serendipitous coincidence. I followed them back to the east coast (where they were originally from) and then proceeded to live in a meditation center for several years. Some might find that pretty crazy and unconventional, but people who know me in real life … can’t say they were very surprised.

Meditating at the local monastery in New Hampshire

It was in New England where my love for the outdoors blossomed. The White Mountains of New Hampshire became my playground and I fell in love with backpacking.

I was 22 when I stepped foot on my first ever hiking trail and it wasn’t until 26 that I had ever camped outside in a tent.

Regardless of being a late bloomer to the outdoors, I quickly adopted the lifestyle and culture.

So, why thru hike? Why the AZT?

First and foremost, I love walking. If I could hike for the rest of my life, I most certainly would. After my thru hike of the PCT, I thought I wanted to settle down because that’s what people my age do, right? Well, honestly, I’ve never been one to strive to please societal standards. I’ve always followed the path less traveled and my love for long distance backpacking is no exception. At heart, I’m a free-spirit, baby!!

I chose the Arizona trail because it’s been on my (constantly growing) list. In short, it lined up with my PTO and how many miles I think I could hike within the given time frame. I love cowboy camping in the desert so am really looking forward to what this trail has to offer.

My Walking Plan:

Direction: Southbound, ideal direction for the fall hiking season.

Average mileage: Starting out with 15-20 and steadily increasing to 25-30 miles per day.

Navigation: I’ll primarily be using the FarOut App to locate water sources and plan my mileage each day.

Itinerary: I have exactly one month to complete this thru hike (or as much as I can) because I have a cousin’s wedding to attend at the end of October and then I have to go back to work. If I don’t get to the Mexican border by the time I have to fly out, I will come back in November on my days off to finish the remaining section.

Final thoughts:

With such a time crunch, I know it is highly probable that I won’t complete the thru hike in one go and will have to fly back to complete what I miss.

Regardless, I’m stoked for all the lessons I’ve yet to learn from this trail. I’ve missed the simplicity and openness a thru-hike affords. Something “regular life” doesn’t always allow.

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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Comments 6

  • Steven Foste : Sep 20th

    Exciting lifestyle! Please dont rush so much that you injure yourself and stop and smell the roses as they say and takr the time to be mindful of your self nature and spirt
    Good luck girl.

    • Elaine Che : Sep 21st

      Thank you so much Steven! Such good reminders to be present and enjoy the ride 🙂

  • Steven wallace : Sep 20th

    This was a great article. I don’t have Instagram but will try and keep up with the journey. I will say a prayer for her safe travels.

    • Elaine Che : Sep 21st

      Thank you so much Steven for your prayers and for reading! I’ll be sure to stay as safe as possible out there.

  • Robert Taylor : Sep 22nd

    Elaine, Best wishes to you on your journey. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Elaine Che : Sep 24th

      The excitement is high as I approach my start date! Thank you Robert!


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