To Utah! AZT complete!

May 20-

It was a chilly night and morning making me want to stay in my sleeping bag all day. Before 6, we were packing up and making our way out of the campground. We had breakfast and charged our things at the laundry/ shower area. It was chilly in the shade, but the bathrooms were warm. We began the .7 walk out of the campground back to the trailhead where we finished our climb up from the Canyon floor yesterday.
My right calf was so tight and tender that the downhill was so painful. I took a few Advil and pushed on. We entered a part of the trail in Grand Canyon National Park that no ones hikes. There were lots of fallen trees and obstacles to jump. As I was cursing, I saw him sitting on the road that runs parallel to the trail. We had a snack break together deciding to walk the road which still had many down trees, but less than the trail.

As we were putting on our packs, a thru hiker was walking down the road. Elinore hiked with us the rest of the day and shared wonderful stories of her life and adventures. She is a fellow badass woman hiker with over 15,000 miles of hiking after this trip and she even paddled the Mississippi River last year and winter hiked the AT. It was so nice to meet her and share stories. I look forward to staying in touch. She has a plane ticket home so we walked more then we planned to stay with her.

We held our first horned toad today. She also taught us some information about the various trees. It was nice having a new hiker to get to know. We all climbed a fire tower looking back at the North Rim. We hiked part of the East Rim which looked back on the canyons. This is a beautiful section of trail as you go from dense forest to a viewpoint. Most of the day we were on old roads so we could all walk alongside each other and chat. We found a wildlife tank with many friendly deer. We walked a few more miles totaling 24.1 trail miles for the day. Elinore and I talked until 10pm from our tents to each other as Paperweight snored.

May 21

Elinore was heading out as we were just beginning to pack up. We were both sore from the long day yesterday and the past few days. We finally got moving a bit before 8. We had a few little ups and down throughout the day, but nothing more then 400 foot climb. We entered a huge burn section for many miles. We got more water from a wildlife tank which was essential. There are lots of deer in Northern Arizona. We both zoned out to Podcasts for most of the day. 

We ran into two Hayduke thru hikers going the opposite direction named Veggie and Karma. I would of loved to talk to them longer, but we each had to keep moving. We took a lunch break at a muddy cow pond that was difficult to scoop from. I had lots of little bugs floating in my bottle. Luckily, the Sawyer filtered them all out and I also used a piece of tent repair netting to remove more debris. 

We were both were exhausted today, but still managed to hike 21 miles. We entered cow land and searched for a campsite finding one alongside the old road. We cooked a warm meal then relaxed in our tents for a while trying to keep our eyes open. We fell asleep 31.6 miles from the Utah border!

May 22

We were 4.7 miles from Jacob Inn which was our breakfast destination. We were on trail much earlier then yesterday since we were motivated by breakfast. It was still chilly since we were above 8,000 feet. We walked along a dirt road and few times along a trail. It was a beautiful area of large ponderosa trees. We made it to the trailhead and up to Highway 89. We began walking and I started to pout when I realized it was uphill and 2.5 miles not 2 away. Lots of cars passed us, but after .7 miles two women and their dog in a camper van stopped for us. Thank you Miren and Aimee for the ride.They were on their way to the North Rim and even knew what a “Triple Crowner” is.

So a bit before 9 we were seating and ready to order breakfast. Tough morning! I’m currently lounging in a leather chair typing this as many tourists wander around. I guess I’m a tourist too! We got a ride back to the trail from an AT thru hiker and his lady who was happy to give back. We may have convinced them to hike the AZT. After the highway crossing, there was a section of standing dead trees. We split up with a plan to meet at one of the dirt road crossing.

We reached out to the AZTA (Arizona Trail Association) before we started our thru hike and offered to help anyway we could. They sent us a list of GPS coordinates that may be a valuable water source. Today we were on a mission to check out four of them. Our adventure took off down a dirt road that hasn’t been traveled in a while to a huge tank with dripping cold water. We investigated a strange umbrella shaped catching system that had water, but not the best quality. The third was through a fence with two large tanks holding clear water. But my favorite was the last water source. We were both pretty exhausted so I went by myself. I bushwhacked a bit in the sagebrush until I found a well worn old cow trail. I came to a deep clear cement tank full of water. This source will help split up a long water carry for hikers. If you have enjoyed reading my blog and would like to donate to a cause close to me consider a tax deductible donation at http://www.aztrail.org/donate.html. I am grateful for this organization and all of the others that maintain, build, and support hikers. 

Our day was full of delicious food, walking, and searching for water sources. We are back in the desert surrounded by cactus and sagebrush for our last night on the Arizona Trail. We ate quickly and lounged in our tent which will be packed up for a few weeks as we transition to van life. This has been quite the trail and a tough adventure for sure. I have had ups and downs emotionally and physically, but as always have stuck with it. Our relationship has grown stronger and we have shared memories that will last a lifetime. 

May 23

We woke up bright and early ready to complete our thru hike of the Arizona Trail. We had 11 trail miles to the Utah Border. This is the first time I have only hiked thru one state. This is the first time I’ve considered quitting multiple times within the first few weeks. I am not meant for the heat and high 80s and 90s really slow me down. If it wasn’t for my loving partner I would of thought of bailing to the mountains.

The Arizona Trail is diverse, beautiful, and full of wildlife. It is also a challenging trail both mentally and physically. The lack of flowing water sources means lots of cow troughs especially early on. The trail is also fairly new so many people in town are unaware of the trail, but the AZTA has worked very hard to inform the trail communities. I was hoping to meet lots of new hikers, but we started later then most other thru hikers. It would of been a lonely trail without Paperweight. I enjoyed our stays in town especially cold showers and AC.

I fell in love with Saguaro National Park and the Grand Canyon!! It is a pleasure to walk through the two national parks. I would like to explore them both some more in the future. I do love the desert beauty especially in the morning and evenings as the birds are singing. The blooming flowers and variety of grasses brought great color to the desert reminding me how alive the desert really is.
I do not love the heat! I realized after more reflection that my heart will always be in the mountains. I struggled mentally and physically this year with thoughts that rarely cross my mind. I also had more foot pain and aches then my other much longer hikes. I debated many hours if thru hiking is still a passion of mine or if I have completed all the trails. I realized I no longer need to prove to myself that I am capable of a long hike as that fact is certain. It comes down to hiking trails that speak to my soul. I value the AZT for the valuable lessons it taught me, but I am not considering a desert hike again for many years. (My boyfriend wants to hike the Hayduke Trail next year… he might be on his own). 

The last few miles were beautiful as I was in awe of the rock formations ahead of me. Hello, Utah! The trail drops downhill for miles getting closer and closer to Utah. My smile was large and we discussed our favorite towns, parts, and what was unexpected as we always do at an end of a hike. It was a pleasant drop to the heat and desert floor. We moved over 3 miles an hour and suddenly we reached a picnic table with a few beers. We each picked one up and walked towards the end of the trail. We made it! 809 miles complete in a little under two months. Nothing compares to that feeling of completing your first thru hike, but this one felt great. I survived my own self doubt, the heat, the snakes and scorpions, and managed not to have any serious injuries. I drank my Yuengling Lager beer knowing our trip was not quite over.
After leaving the Stateline Campground, we began a short mile walk towards the Wire Pass Trailhead. A car stopped asking what we were doing and apologized for having too much stuff in their vehicle. By the time we made it to the next parking lot, we only had a minute to check out the information at the lot before we were offered a ride. Two gentleman I’m assuming father and son offered us a ride in the back of their pickup truck along the bumpy road to the highway. I’d guess the father was in his late 80s. The view was spectacular as we bounced along staring up at the rock formations. Our driver passed a few slow cars and we slid along in the back. This was my first ride in the back of a truck on this trip and it couldn’t of been on a better section. He dropped us off and said he hoped it wasn’t too bumpy as he apologized that he wasn’t heading into Page.

We walked up to Highway 89 that would lead into Page where our van has been stored for the past two months. It only took a few cars before one stopped. A man and woman vacationing from Canada scooped us up and drove us into town. They live near the Arctic Circle where it was in the negatives when they left home. She is originally from Afghanistan and this is her first time exploring Utah. They were both wonderful and a perfect ride to finish our trip. They dropped us right off at the locked gate that would lead to our stored van. We made it! After a huge Chinese buffet, we will be living van life for the next few weeks before heading to Glacier National Park to begin a thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. 

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