The moment is here, I started hiking the Arizona Trail at the Mexican border! Read all about this adventure now.
Off to Arizona!
After a few days of sightseeing in San Diego (what an awesome city!), my last day there is all about cleaning up and packing. I leave 2 bags with stuff at Paulo’s house (he makes sure I get them back after the trail) and my backpack is filled with camping gear and everything I need on the trail.
We pick up a rental car at the airport in San Diego and drive to Tucson in about 1.5 days. Along the way, we make a few fun stops, including at the beautiful North Algodones Dunes Wilderness. A very impressive sight.
We also do groceries for 12 trail days and send part of them ahead. I have a deja vu while stocking up, I ate a lot of junk on the PCT haha!
First steps on the Arizona Trail
On the morning of March 6, my journey starts. At the airport in Tucson, we are picked up by a shuttle. Together with Hugo, a Canadian hiker, we are taken to Montezuma Pass, a drive of about 2 hours.
The Arizona Trail crosses this parking lot, but the trail starts 2 miles south, so we have to hike down to the monument first. It’s really cool to finally see the monument.
It stands in Mexico next to an unfinished piece of wall. Doesn’t seem that useful to me, haha!
After many photos and a snickers bar (the first of many) we take off and the trail goes straight up. The monument is at an altitude of 1800 meters and the first mountain peak is at 3000 meters. You can imagine how difficult that is if you live below sea level and I’m having a really hard time. Fortunately, the views make up for it, it’s really beautiful here.
After only 4 miles (or 6 because we had to hike down first) we stop hiking and pitch our tent in a great spot. Almost 360-degree view, and we can see both the sunset and sunrise. Which is awesome!
After a restless night (I always sleep very badly the first night on the trail) we set out again. Still steep uphill but with great views. I mostly hike alone (Paulo has no trouble at all with the climb, so he walks ahead) and that’s actually really nice. This way I can keep my super slow pace and take lots of photos. Although it is a lot quieter on the AZT than on the PCT, I still meet a number of other hikers. Nice to chat with.
I’m really happy when I finally get to Miller Peak, the highest point on this stretch. It gets much easier from here, doesn’t it? Nope, that doesn’t go super fast either, because there is some snow, so I’m super careful. But it’s not too bad, so before I know it I’m at the first water source, an old bathtub in the middle of the forest. It is very clear, not bad at all!
Then I hike more than 3 miles through the forest, the path goes both up and down. Especially hiking uphill is tough for me. This is not surprising since my country has zero mountains. If all goes well, that will go a lot faster in a few weeks when I have my “trail legs”. During this stretch, my trekking pole slips, causing me to fall. Bruised knees and a small wound on my finger are the results. I feel like a huge klutz, but the damage doesn’t seem to be too bad.
During a long lunch, I recover from the fall and the climb, and luckily the trail gets easier. It goes down quite a bit and follows a creek which is another good clear water source. At mile 15.7 we pitch the tent in the woods. We hiked about 12 miles today. Not bad for a second day on trail!
We go to sleep at 7.30 p.m., that’s when it gets dark. That night I sleep like a log, around 4 am I wake up well rested. I still feel pretty good, except for the usual muscle aches.
It feels so good to be out here!
The third day is the first day that I can really enjoy the trail. No steep climbs, the path waves up and down through the forest and between the cacti. So relaxed! The highlight is the view of the bright blue Parker Lake.
A little further is a river, where several hikers are relaxing. Nice to get to know some people during the lunch break.
Then follows a warm climb up. Arizona is incredibly dry and it shows here. Even though it’s “only” 15 degrees Celcius, I’m sweating. Right now I’m not looking forward to the the really hot days.
It is difficult to find a good camping spot today. We need water, so we pitch the tent next to a small lake (or more like a murky cow pond). It smells a bit and it’s cold, not ideal. But of course, you can’t always find a five-star camping spot on a trail.
After a restless night and an ice-cold morning (the water in our bottles is even partly frozen), we set out again.
Hiking between the cows
The trail is so beautiful today! A beautiful landscape with great views. We walk for hours through a hilly area between the cows. They have plenty of space here, every now and then I catch a glimpse of a cow and they are always afraid of me.
During the last miles, I regularly get lost. There are so many different paths here that I don’t always know which one to get. Fortunately, I can quickly find it thanks to the Far Out app. At a water tank, I meet Paolo again. We usually hike separately and meet at certain places. He is now dependent on me because his water filter is broken. At night it’s freezing and your water filter can freeze. That’s how it breaks and that also happened to Paulo’s water filter. To prevent that from happening, I put the water filter and all electronics in my sleeping bag, then they stay warm.
We hike together for a few more miles and set up the tent just outside the cow area. For the first time, we sleep without the rainfly and the views of the stars are incredible. I sleep like a log that night.
Patagonia: the first trail town
Day 5 on the trail is nice and short. The first 4 miles go through the same beautiful landscape that we are used to and the last 3 miles along a highway. We arrive in the village of Patagonia. So weird to be back in the real world!
We enjoy this village to the fullest and spend a night in the hotel. All you want after a few days of hiking is a shower, wash your clothes, and food. We try almost all restaurants (especially The Gathering Ground is recommended) and enjoy the luxury.
After this, we are fully charged for the second part of the Arizona Trail.
Read the next post: A test of perseverance | Mile 50-117 | Arizona Trail #3
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