The Arizona Trail: Final Thoughts

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

So there you have it – my recount of how I came, saw and managed to survive the Arizona Trail. It was an experience made incredible both by its nature and how wildly different it was from anything I’ve done before, and I still feel like I’m stuck in a limbo where I’m neither able to process the past few months nor move forwards. So instead of reading a nice coherent summary of my thoughts, you get to read some irritating rambling. HURRAH! BANZAI! BANZAI!

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The AZT:

From Mexico to Pine, the trail was incredible. I didn’t love it all, but when I hated it, I hated it with a passion, and there’s something to be said for being able to arouse such intensity of emotion (am I really complimenting it here?). Most of my favourite passages were there: the Rincons, the Santa Catalinas, Gila River Canyons. There were also beautiful shorter sections like the Red Hills and Black Hills and Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin and various areas that I don’t know/remember the names of. I had a love/hate relationship with thru-hiking in which I was constantly frustrated about having to rush through pretty areas and spend time in ugly areas, but I also thought about how I would never have hiked one particular section or another and seen its loveliness if not for the AZT.

From Pine to Utah, the trail was the opposite. Except for the Grand Canyon and the last day before Utah, I found nothing in the scenery that either amazed me or pissed me off (which pissed me off). The trail was mostly flat and often on road, offering neither changes in perspective nor the feeling of solitude given by single-track. I would skip the section between Pine and the Grand Canyon were I hiking the AZT again.

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Advice to future AZT hikers:

1. Wear hiking boots!

2. Arizona is grotesquely windy. Either use a stove unaffected by the wind or get a good windscreen. My windscreen was a baking pan that I sort of bent to attempt to keep out the wind. I was told that I would be lucky if it fell out of my pack. Sadly, it never did.

3. You don’t necessarily have to drink out of grotty water sources if you’re willing to carry a lot of water and/or cache water, but if you’re planning to drink out of tanks – if that’s even a possibility – I advise getting a filter. I can’t really imagine someone going up to dead owl water… slowly scooping up a few litres… tossing in some iodine tablets… and taking a big swig, ‘AHHHHHHH’. Or crouching down by a grotty tank surrounded by cow droppings… dipping in their Platy… adding a few drops of Aquamira… ‘MMMMMMMM, GOOD WATER’. I have no doubt that there are people who do this, nor that I would gag to see them in action.

4. If you’re from a cold/er climate, consider using an umbrella. It really helped me deal with the heat.

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One last thing: I received the trail name ‘Pockets’ from Pops, logic being that I was storing many/strange things in my pockets, plus the chocolate pocket incident which I have decided to simply call ‘Dark Sunday’. It’s kind of generic, but I like it because it reminds me of a cute kitten, or a cute teddy bear, or a demented clown. ‘Guess what I’ve got in my pockets, kids? Liveee rattlesnakesssssssss! Hyuk yuk!’ Parents, sometimes the cheapest choice is not the best.

Till next time!

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