Hiking all day long is getting easier. Do I finally have my trail legs? I absolutely love the views of the Mazatzal Wilderness.
The only way is up
After a nice nero (that’s half a day off) at Roosevelt Lake, I get up very early to get back to the trail. Today is going to be a tough day and I’m not looking forward to it. I have to hike uphill all day with a very heavy bag. I have food for seven days and also four liters of water. I can barely get my backpack off the ground.
Missed the last journal? Check: Hiking in a storm and a difficult section | Mile 258-338 | Arizona Trail #6
The first part of the trail is hilly and follows Highway 188. After crossing the Roosevelt Lake Bridge, the big ascent begins. Even though I’ve been doing this for four weeks (I feel like the Arizona Trail is only going up), it’s still tough. By the way, this is the last day that I see saguaros. I didn’t know that at the time and luckily I took quite a few pictures of them.
They’ve made the trail really steep in some places, sometimes I really have to pull myself up with my trekking poles. I take a lunch break at a creek where I meet Dave and Robbert. We have been walking at the same pace for days and see each other regularly. Which is really nice.
After another big climb, it is finally less steep and the path follows a mountain slope. This is what I enjoy the most on the trail, the view of Roosevelt Lake is amazing. We also have a good view of the Four Peaks, a famous mountain range near Phoenix. I pitch my tent not far from one of the peaks. It was a hard but beautiful day on the Arizona Trail.
The next day I have the ambitious plan to hike more than 21 miles. The first part is a bit slow, along a cliff with a big abyss. It’s a bit scary, but also really beautiful!
Then the path goes into the woods and I start hiking faster. After a water source, I get on a dirt road, and then it goes really fast. I walk a few miles with another hiker named Yazie and meet Dave for lunch near a small creek. We’ve already covered 13 miles, yes!
It’s not that hot today and it’s mostly downhill, so hiking 21 miles is pretty easy. Although the last hour is really tough, haha! Together with Dave and Yazie I camp next to a river. This was the first big day on the AZT!
The next morning I wake up in a soaking wet sleeping bag. Camping next to rivers is not always a good idea, it causes a lot of dew. Luckily I’m hiking in Arizona and it’s sunny almost every day, so I’m sure that it’ll dry quickly.
I’m leaving a little later than usual and taking it easy today. At the first creek, I dry my sleeping bag, which only takes 15 minutes. Great!
The gorgeous Mazatzal Wilderness
After that it’s time to climb, we go into the Mazatzal Mountains and it is really beautiful here!
At the next water source (there is so much water at the moment, I barely have to carry anything) I meet Gaucho who I haven’t seen for two days. He is also hiking a lot of miles in the last few days. I go on for another five miles and just before the spot where I pitch my tent near a sign that says I’m halfway on the trail, yes!
I have hiked over 18 miles and set up my tent in a beautiful spot in the mountains. How wonderful it is to set up your tent in these kinds of beautiful places. It’s definitely one of my favorite things when I’m hiking in the US. I don’t camp alone, I am joined by a hiker I haven’t met before. I don’t have a great feeling about it, it’s creeping me out a little. Fortunately, Yazie arrives in the dark and I feel better right away.
I sleep pretty well and get up early, chat with Yazie (he’s always the first one up), and then I hit the road. It is a beautiful hike along a ledge overlooking the scenic mountains. Soon I meet Dave and we continue hiking together. At mile 400 I’m having a little party, what a great milestone!
The path is easy to follow today and goes up and down along the mountains. I feel so lucky that I’m able to do this. It is great to be here. At the end of the morning, I meet three new hikers at a water source. One turns out to speak Dutch, wow! I’ve been on the road for over four weeks and this is the first time I speak Dutch on the trail.
After a short conversation, I continue my hike since I still have a lot of miles to do today. And the views are really beautiful here, I enjoy every second of it.
After more than 21 miles I pitch my tent in the woods. Again in the company of Dave and Yazie, it’s nice to always have some friends around.
The next morning I get up early. One more night before I finally sleep in a hotel again (I haven’t showered in 10 days) and that’s why I want to hike as many miles as possible today. That way, I don’t have to do much tomorrow. Fortunately, the path is relatively easy today. Not too much climbing and especially a lot of descending.
I do notice that I am starting to get tired after hiking for so many days without any breaks. I trip regularly and even fall a few times. Just like I did a couple of weeks ago. Usually, I just get up to continue, but on the second fall, I see some blood on my leggings.
There is a big cut on my leg. I must have landed on a sharp rock. A band-aid isn’t enough, so I put on some sort of temporary pressure bandage with gauze, sports tape, and a bandana. It stops the bleeding and it doesn’t hurt too bad, so I can continue hiking. After more than 19 miles I pitch my tent under a tree on a hill.
It doesn’t look like my leg is bleeding anymore, and I’m happy about that. Today I only have to hike 14 miles. I have a great milestone today, as of today, the Arizona Trail is the longest long-distance hike I have ever done. In 2019 I walked 444 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail and today the hike ends at mile 450. And I’m not even close to the end of the trail!
A little break in Payson
At a water source, I meet Yazie, Dave, and Gaucho and with the last two, I hitch a ride on Highway 87 to the town of Payson. It’s one of the most American towns I’ve ever been to. This place mainly consists of well-known restaurant chains, hotels, and a Walmart. Not really fun for sightseeing but perfect for recovering, washing clothes, buying food for the next section and eating a lot.
I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past few weeks and the hiker hunger is slowly kicking in. I eat more and more (I have to, I burn way more calories than I take in) and I even manage to eat the large American portions. Payson is therefore a great place to take a break.
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