The Arizona Trail Day 1: Penchant for the Dramatic

Monday, March 18, 2013 – 6.3 km

There are probably hikers who enjoy packing up and carefully arranging their gear so that it consumes the least amount of space possible. I enjoy cramming everything into my backpack, getting frustrated when it doesn’t fit and sticking the leftovers into my pockets when the shuttle arrives fifteen minutes early.

Hello day one!

Two other thru-hikers were starting today, so I had company on the shuttle ride from Tucson to the Coronado National Memorial visitor centre, where a trail extends to meet the AZT near its southern terminus. Lupe is an experienced long-distance hiker, but Jim is a newbie, so I have a compatriot. Or I had a compatriot briefly – they passed me shortly after our 11:00 AM arrival at the visitor centre and I haven’t seen them since.

The memorial commemorates Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s Spanish expedition, which marked the first European sightings of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. The trail began near the visitor centre and climbed steadily until its junction with the AZT, where I slackpacked to the southern terminus on the Mexican border. The boundary marker where the AZT begins was on the other side of a fence. A fence with a hole in it…

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I returned to my backpack, crossed a road and began a steep climb up to Montezuma Pass. Being a quiet lone hiker paid off in the wildlife department: I saw two deer, two grouse and a lizard. Though tempted to stay in a pretty campsite at the pass, I hadn’t made much progress, so I continued walking until I became worried about getting stuck on the ridge in the dark and made camp at the first viable spot I saw. Today’s total distance = a whopping 6.5 kilometres.

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My campsite wasn’t far above the pass and had a gorgeous view, the price of which was rocks and wind. The gusts flapped the sides of my tent and I kept thinking that I was hearing footsteps outside, but after half an hour of hearing footsteps, you have to acknowledge that anyone lurking around isn’t planning to hurt you… unless they’re slowly and ominously building a bonfire around your tent. If I were to be killed by a random stranger, I’d like it to be someone with a penchant for the dramatic.

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