Quick End to My AZT Adventure

After only three eventful days, and 52 miles I aborted my 2020 AZT attempt.  A combination of wanting to see my Dad who had just entered hospice care (he is still going strong as I type this), the AZT Association recommending stopping thru-hikes because of Covid-19, and worrying about Roberta being on her own during the pandemic all contributed to the decision. But it wasn’t easy, the trail was great and I felt good.

Getting to the Trail

I flew to Tucson on March 16, the day after Trump announced “this is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control over.”  IAH was nearly deserted but my plane was about half full.

IAH Terminal C on March 16

I arrived in Tucson, unpacked my pack, packed a few travel items in a USPS shipping box and Lyfted to a downtown post office. From the post office I hiked a couple of miles to the Greyhound station for my bus trip to Sierra Vista. Things really felt weird when I realized I was the only person on the bus.

Just me and the bus driver!

After an eventful bus ride (an accident blocked out original route and I had to talk the bus driver into diverting by promising to navigate for him – he did not have a smart phone or a map), I finally arrived in Sierra Vista and hiked a couple of miles to my hotel where I was informed that all the restaurants in town were only doing take-out.

Day 1, Mar 17, AZT Mile 13.6

Arranged for a Lyft at 6:15. News is getting worse – San Francisco is on mandatory lock-down. Ohio cancelled today’s primary. And Trump is still crazy. Talked to Bert last night and learned that Dad has gone into hospice. The AZT organization sent out an email to members. Basically the trail is open – be careful. 

The road up to Montezuma Pass – not paved!
My starting point for the day.

Lyft guy got me to the trail about 6:40 AM and I  walked the ~2 miles to the start at the border – dropping my pack on the way.  The trail start is actually on the other side of the “big, beautiful” border wall, which is basically a wire fence with a big hole in it. So I was, briefly, an illegal immigrant.

The official start of the AZT – Mexico!

On the way back I met two thru-hikers (Allen from Minnesota and another guy).

Allen (from Minnesota).

This was a tough day! Up for 6 miles – topping out at 9,000 feet. Close to a 4,000 foot day. Left the border at 7:30. Reached Bathtub Spring (8.4) at 12:30 and camp at 4:00.

Killer first day!
Miller Peak – 9,090′
View from Miller Peak, looking southeast.

Saw a group of Border guys doing a training hike and met two other hikers (Rory and Bec) from Flagstaff.  Bec grew up in Houston and lived in Montrose , “where all the cool kids lived.”

Border Patrol guys on a training hike.
Snow! Lots of snow on the north side of Miller Peak.
Bathtub Spring. How the heck… oh well. First water on the trail.

Beautiful day but windy! Saw a group of wild turkeys and some deer. Lots of water so far.  This was a 15.5 mile day (13.6+1.9) and tough for the first day.

 

First camp site.
Day 2, Mar 18, AZT Mile 31.7

Totally different day. It rained pretty much all day though not hard. I thought this was supposed to be a desert? In the first two days I have walked in snow and been rained on – in southern Arizona in March!

Parker Canyon Lake – in a light rain. Day 2.

I got to camp about 3:00 and as I set up the tent next to a tiny, almost dry creek and then the rain started up again. It rained hard for a couple hours. In a break I stepped outside my tent to see that I was now next to a raging river about a foot from my tent. I hurriedly stuffed everything back in my pack and scrambled uphill in fading light to higher ground. Got my tent up just as it started dumping hard again. 

The rain finally let up about 4 AM but then the wind came up. Gusts collapsed my tent a couple of time but it sprang back both times. A cold, windy, wet night and not much sleep.

Day 3, Mar 19, AZT Mile 51.2

Beautiful day of hiking! Almost like the trail is making up for yesterday – sunny and cool.  Met another thru hiker, Jacob, and hopscotched with him most of the day.

Pretty view on day 2

With all the rain there was water everywhere – too much water. Not a complaint you often hear in southern Arizona.  Spent most of the day wading numerous small streams.

Yet another wet foot situation.

The weather was perfect for hiking and I felt good so decided to push on to Patagonia, a 19 mile day.

Patagonia in the distance

I briefly got cell coverage in the morning and called the Stage Stop Inn and made reservation for this evening. Then called Bert. We talked it over and I decided to abort. Not happy but it is probably the for the best. 

Another unsuccessful thru-hiker?

Met several thru-hikers in Patagonia. A couple were continuing on and a couple had decided to stop.

Stage Stop Inn- my last stop on the AZT.

A few days after I exited the trail, this from AZT.org : “…If you have already started and can be fully self-sufficient for 800 miles and/or rely on assistance from a single friend or family member, consider all of your options very carefully. Bailing out and returning another time may be the best choice. The AZT will be here for you to explore in the future”.

AZT Preliminaries

The Plan

So here is my plan for the AZT:

AZT 2020 Plan

Getting to the start is a little tough, the trailhead is on the Mexican border 25 miles due south of Sierra Vista, Az.  I plan to fly into Tucson, take a Greyhound bus to Sierra Vista, spend the night and get a trail shuttle or Uber to as close to the trail head as possible. You have to hike about 3 miles to get to the official start.

Southern end of the AZT

Even though the trail is not as popular as the big trails (PCT and Appalachia Trail) they still have ~200 people finish it every year. The vast majority are north-bounders who hike in the spring (like me!) but a few people do it north to south in the fall. The spring option is more poplar because there is usually more water and the weather tends to be a bit better. Though, there may still be snow on the trial north of the Grand Canyon even as late as I will be there (early May).

Weather

Speaking of weather… at the southern end when I start the highs should be in the 60-70’s and the lows in the 40’s. By the time I hit Flagstaff, the highs will be in the 60’s and the lows in the 30’s. And the Grand Canyon will be about the same, maybe 5 degrees cooler. I’m hoping most of the snow will be gone from the trail by then but you never know.

Equipment

I will hopefully be a bit lighter on this hike than the Colorado Trail, thanks to a new pack I got for Christmas (thanks to my lovely wife!). For details on my equipment check out Jason’s AZT Equipment List, but here is a summary:

So my base will be just at 14 lbs (and I’m hoping to squeeze another ounce or two out to get under 14 lbs!).