Arizona Trail/Update; Still Alive

[August 2.] I’m still alive! On July 30 I finished thru-hiking the Arizona Trail, having started on June 21 from Mexico. The trail was far better than I imagined it would be and I’m glad I did it how and when I did.

There’s a lot to say about the AZT. I just wanted to post something to let you know that I finished the trail. Some stats: It took me just under 40 days. Averaging roughly 16.5 miles per day for the almost 500 miles across the Sonoran Desert, then well over 30 miles per day until the Kaibab Plateau which I think brings down the average miles per day to just under 30 for the final 310 miles. As a whole, it was exactly 20 miles per day. The lowest mile day was the first day at 8.5 miles, and the only single digit day. A couple around 12+, many around 15-16 and even more 18s.

Eventually getting consistent at 20+ miles while carrying heavy water weight through the heat up and down mountains. After doing this for almost a month I got really strong, and it took less effort to hike 30+ miles per day with less heat/water weight and no elevation than it did to hike the desert miles.

Summer was the only reason I was considering thru-hiking the Arizona Trail, would likely never have attempted the Arizona Trail otherwise. I was looking for something hard, something long, something in the summer heat. The Arizona Trail stood out for this reason alone, being that it traverses extensive desert starting at the southern US border. I chose to thru hike the Arizona Trail midsummer because it was something that I really wanted to do.

My apologies for not remaining current with updates. I know a lot of you were interested and following and supporting, and then I stopped posting. If I could have kept posting, I would have. Having lost my iPhone during the unusually strong July 16/17 storm over the E Verde River I was unable to update for the final 2 weeks on trail. Used to using an iPad which has significant water resistance, I didn’t realize how vulnerable the iPhone was to moisture from just spray blowing in through the mesh. Phone was protected from heavy rain and from submersion but it was too late; it failed within the next 24 hours due to the minor moisture that seeped through the casing. The casing on the SE is just placed into the frame, only held in place by screws, is much more susceptible to moisture.

It could have been a lot worse. Gale force gusts and gallons of water had everything flooded, even the flats, dry washes were flowing. This was an unusually powerful storm and it came very suddenly off the rim and out of nowhere. I was well positioned and protected but was totally not expecting a storm of this magnitude. My tent is heavyweight cuben and it can likely withstand the force of that wind but it has to be rigged for it, spending the time to pile heavyweight stones on all the guy lines. I was in a good safe protected spot but the tent wasn’t anchored to withstand that much gusting. I’m assuming I’d have lost my tent if I had been out in the open or up higher.

Worried about the wind getting under the tent and potentially then being fully exposed to the freezing monsoon rain and hypothermic risk I chose to collapse the tent, even though this meant losing some protection from the bathtub floor, and some exposure to the water. Monsoon rains are ice cold, often with hail, dumping gallons of water in moments and are a serious risk of hypothermia, even though it’s midsummer at relatively low elevation. The storm lasted a while, and there was much suffering being partially wet, but I managed to keep my sleeping bag dry and was able to use it as a quilt despite the tent being wet. It wasn’t possible to sleep due to the cold, but was far far better off than I would have been if the wind had lifted the tarp. This was a very unusually strong monsoon out of nowhere, coming over the Mogollan Rim and dumping over Pine area.

When I reached Pine, the front page headlines of the newspaper at the Early Bird Cafe said 10 people had lost their lives in the storm. The river flash flooded at 45 mph, and 6 feet above the high point. It was likely moving a head of entire trees and burnt wood from the Highline/Dude fires. It could have been so easy to have camped on the bank of the river just past LF Ranch, technically monsoon season hadn’t yet started and no one expected a storm of this magnitude, it was rather unfortunate for those people in the river, it would have been a 45 mph tidal wave of wood.

I had the option to camp alongside the East Verde River but chose not to. It was already late evening and the riverbank is a comfortable convenient cleared and easy camping spot. It would have been a good time to stop, I had reason and motive to be there, just as well could have been there, but chose to continue on into twilight. These people lost their lives just because they were in the river during this unexpected storm and couldn’t get out.

Last year I thru hiked the Hayduke Trail midsummer, it was my first ultra long distance thru hike; as such a lot of my experience on the Arizona Trail contrasts with my experience on the Hayduke Trail. The Hayduke Trail is also 800 miles, but it traverses intensely rugged terrain exclusively as a map and compass route; requiring navigation in and out and across the canyon systems of southern Utah and the Grand Canyon. The Hayduke Trail is a significantly more difficult trail, and it took me 75 days, after caching it. The only reason they’re even close is that I spent over a month caching the entire Hayduke Trail thereby increasing/guaranteeing water availability.

The Arizona Trail was not cached prior to hiking it. This was deliberate. Having already experienced extensively caching the Hayduke Trail, I was seeking a trail that I did not have to cache. This was a big part of my decision to hike it. In a ways, caching the trail beforehand takes away from the awe of seeing new lands for the first time. Worried about having to hike for days through repetitive landscapes like the Kaibab Ponderosa, the less time spend prior and less knowledge of the land beforehand added to the excitement and novelty, this being far preferable to caching; it wasn’t intended as a way to make it more difficult, this having been something I had lost by having cached the Hayduke Trail beforehand.

Having just completed the entire trail, I wanted to take time to write something while still fresh in mind; not intending to discuss the heat/risks, qualifications, or whether it was right or wrong of me to be on the Arizona Trail traversing almost 500 miles across the Sonoran Desert midsummer.

The most frequent question by far that I was asked on trail: Do/did you hike at night to avoid the heat? I didn’t hike at night for anything significant distance. It isn’t possible to see the trail at night unless it’s a full or near full moon, which only happens for 1-2 days per month where it’s positioned overhead after sunset.

Plus, it’s necessary to sleep. It’s probably going to be impossible to sleep during the day, even if it’s possible to find good shade. Sleep is not to be underestimated. Cutting sleep or altering circadian rhythms is as debilitating as deep dehydration. I wasn’t seeking ways to bypass the summer heat. I wanted to be there in the summer desert heat, and with adequate water I generally hiked straight through the midday sun, with few exceptions though always at a slower pace.

Aside from the inability to see the trail, and likely sleep problems, there are Mojave rattlesnakes in the Sonoran Desert. The Mojave species is exceedingly defensive in standing it’s ground, even more so than any other. There will literally always be a standoff with the snake, it will always coil up and ‘stand’ up in place like a coil, often even before it begins rattling. It will never run away to avoid being stepped on.

Rattlesnakes are going to be highly active at night and are guaranteed to be on the trail. Even hiking during the day it was necessary to keep scanning the entire trail during any cooling or altering of the weather to avoid stepping on them. Scanning for rattlesnakes, especially Mojave is far more critical and immediate than dehydration ever was/is. Dehydration is a slow and gradual process that can be delayed and predicted. Being bit by a Mojave rattlesnake will likely require immediate evacuation to avoid loss of limb/death. I can’t stress this enough. You do not want to be bit by a Mojave rattlesnake. However many snakes I encountered on trail is a very small percentage of how many are on the trail at night. You would want to be wearing leg/shoe snake armor and/or using extensive lighting to hike/bushwhack the Arizona Trail midsummer nights. You don’t want to hike at night, even if you could see the trail. It’s like playing russian roulette with rattlesnakes. Trust me. Don’t hike at night. Unless you’re literally out of water and have no other choice.

I couldn’t really hike at night to escape the heat. Sometimes I’d go a little further into twilight in attempt at better camping spot, or have a waxing gibbous moon over a jeep road or perfectly positioned treeless burn area angled towards the western moon to get a bit further. Any opportunity I had to night hike was never useful at mitigating or escaping heat, nor was I looking for ways to escape it. The only full moon I had was at elevation by Mount Lemmon/Oracle Ridge and it wasn’t useful in avoiding any heat.

In general I tried to hike straight through the midday heat. The Arizona Trail with rare exception is typically never over 110F, which is a far cry from 115F+; it’s a really big difference. In general the highs were under 108 and it is still possible to make significant miles hiking through it. It is necessary to slow down to reduce exertion and elevating core temperature. It might be inefficient but sitting there doing nothing is even less efficient. Trying to hike at higher intensity to make up for sitting out the midday heat is probably going to cost as much water and be higher risk of injury, with adequate water moving slow through the heat seemed preferable. The only way to prioritize reducing water weight comes at the expense of time. After being heat trained it is more about having water, and how long between water, than about how to escape or mitigate the heat.

Though I generally hiked straight through the midday heat, I did everything I possibly could to coordinate not ascending in the heat. The sheer amount of water to hike up elevation in the heat is exponential and being stuck on an exposed climb midday has to be avoided. The AZT app made it very easy to know exact elevation for any segment, and I did everything I could to try to avoid ascending in the heat unless the distances were short and water availability frequent.

The weight of carrying the required water is significantly more difficult than the heat. There is a point where hauling extra water doesn’t increase range, slows you down, increases risk of overuse injury. Typical water carries were around 2 gallons. Occasionally 2.5 gallons, to as high as 3.5 gallons. In general, anything that can be done to carry less weight and close mileage between next water.

Being fully hydrated after being heat trained can often be a difference of roughly 6 liters to rehydrate from dehydration and still be perfectly fine. Assuming being fully hydrated and minimal elevation change it required carrying roughly a gallon per 10 miles in the desert leading to a very rough maximum range of 35 miles over varied terrain, but potentially much further under better conditions. At ponderosa level water carries were a small fraction of this.

Water is typically being chugged in extremely large quantities, and coming into a water source it was not uncommon to drink a gallon and not pee any of it out, the body gets used to this range of hydration. Dehydration has a range and is gradual. It’s theoretically possible to hike 10+ miles in the desert with no water weight but generally you’d want to carry at least a few liters. Running out of water will typically still have a 10 to as much as 20+ mile range before reaching severe deep dehydration, inability to function, and accompanying long-term recovery; though impairment due to the dehydration is far far sooner, and is an incredibly unpleasant sufferfest to say the least; the above numbers are just pointing out survival based not efficiency as the miles per day starts to drop drastically, just that there is a very long drawn out process, you don’t drop dead in 2 hours like you would at 115-120F+ while not being heat trained, which is world’s apart. I’ve been severely dehydrated before, especially on the Hayduke Trail. There will eventually reach a point where the dehydration causes deep cellular damage and starts to require long term recovery, for me this point is about 2.5-3+ gallons of water which I think came out to ~17%+ of body weight. I’ve thankfully never reached the point where the kidneys are so dehydrated that I’m peeing blood. On the Arizona Trail the most water I needed to drink to rehydrate was 6-7ish quarts which had no long term effects.

On the Arizona Trail I made every effort to stay feeling good and strong in effort to avoid any crises. I made sure I got sleep, made sure I ate massive quantities of food; so, that when I was having water problems, whether from the weight of the carry or lack of water, that it was the only problem, and that I had started from a state of being strong. Usually the crisis of dehydration is the result of a series of problems that leads to a downward spiral of bad decisions and misfortune and eventual positioning that finally leads to a fatal decision/mistake likely due to difficulty doing basic calculation that never would have been made under slightly better circumstances.

Typically the Arizona Trail is under 110F at it’s hottest, even during heat waves, and can be much lower. The start of the trail was during a series of record heatwaves, but the hottest day was while I was at the Gila River during the heat wave that had Superior at 110F. The Gila River canyon system is lower elevation and canyonesque and significantly hotter than Superior. I’m assuming it was 115F+. It just as well could have been 120F. I have no way of knowing. I realized it was record heat as I had already drank 2 gallons before noon. The ground was already burning so hot that it burned through my shoes and socks while standing still.

There is generally no real shade in the Sonoran Desert, and the ground begins to bake making it difficult to even sit down to take a break. Palo Verde and Mesquite are typically terrible at providing shade, a far contrast to Utah juniper. Saguaros have a narrow moving column of shade that is usually too short midday, they have to be really big, and not be surrounded by cholla and prickly pear or on a bad slope, and the ground will still have been heated. It is actually possible to follow the AZT for miles and miles with no actual shade, so that has to be anticipated to avoid overheating with no escape.

Theres so much to say about the AZT. I’m glad I did it the way I did it. There are hundreds of miles of Ponderosa forest, hundreds of miles of Saguaro, some extensive jeep roads, massive amounts of elevation gain up and down sky island mountain ranges, one after the other; all in all the trail was better than I thought it would be and far different from I imagined it might be. You can see how much effort so many people have put into the trail.

There were frequent 20+ miles in the desert with absolutely no water. Absolutely dry. Between Italian Spring to Hutch’s Pool starts approaching 30 miles, but there were some gallons left beside a roadside trailhead after 20ish miles. Cattle are still grazing in the low Sonoran Desert during the summer so there is still that water, though it’s usually pretty foul concentrate, it’s still water. There are some 50+ mile sections that would have absolutely no water, and the AZT association has installed several large steel bear proof water cache boxes at these critical points. Volunteers and the AZT association have spent considerable time and money placing water in these chests. Passing through midsummer I needed a lot of water and would frequently need 2 gallons from a cache, sometimes as little as 2 liters. All chests had water, as described in the most current app updates, which I updated as well, and I never left anything empty. There was one chest, I think the one by Freeman Road where I needed almost 5 gallons as it was positioned in between a likely 30+ miles with no water, coming off a near 30 mile carry.

Thank you for that water. It would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to continue on without it. Thank you to all the people who supported me. The people that gave me food or water. All the hitchhikes and rides. The trail angels, some of whom went or were offering to go so incredibly much out of their way driving me to places to resupply.

When you look feral after several weeks of hiking, not everyone is so kind. I literally did nothing but hike, eat, sleep, hike, buy more food, eat more food, hike. I never took a 0 (a day off from hiking). Never showered, didn’t shave, wore the same clothes, never slept in a motel, did nothing but his or do what I needed to do to be able to keep on hiking. Needless to say some people were scared of me. I said hi to some people and they got startled and screamed in shock. Saying hi scared them. I was outside a store in Flagstaff sitting on a bench with backpack and shopping cart, throwing out packaging and eating tons of food, and someone came over trying to give me money for being homeless, which was pretty emotional until being patted on the shoulder in what felt like condescending dehumanizing empathy. Earlier on trail, I had a man come out of an establishment and start yelling and harassing me. A ranger asking me if I started any fires. (I was stoveless the whole trip due to the fire restrictions). In the general population, people just judge you based on appearance alone. It was frequently dehumanizing, so it was a stark contrast to chance upon people who were so kind and generous and giving and supportive; that chose to see me as a person, or a thru hiker, or an adventurer, or as someone doing something other than just being feral, treating me like a person wearing dirty clothes instead of fearing for their safety or whether I was worthy of their society. Anyways, there’s so much that can be said. I just wanted to thank you and to let you know that I finished the trail on the 30th. It took me 14 hitches over a 3 day/2 night to reach my laptop where I just finished writing this. Will post on Instagram when I’m next able to.

Thanks again for all your support and interest. I’m not sure yet what’s next, if there is a next, or if there needs to be a next; I’m going to take some time for now. I really wanted to do something with the Hayduke over the winter, but the logistics and gear and months on trail make it something difficult to prepare and commit 4-5+ months for, and even properly prepared for there’s still no guarantee that it won’t be a high snow year, and too technical, beyond my ability. I’d love to be able to just take 3+ months and thru hike something like the Pacific Crest Trail, but I’m not quite sure that I want to, so should probably wait until I find something that I know I really want to do. I’m in pretty good shape, able to hike 35+ miles per day at this point, so it feels like a waste to watch it fade; but that’s the nature of thru-hiking I suppose… Thanks again for all the support! -Ari

To Patagonia

June 24

Day 4 
Extremely hot today. All day hiking through a desiccated swamp, pushing hard to reach Patagonia in time.

As I haven’t been eating enough I must have ‘hit the wall’ as the former sensation of fatigue or inability has been replaced with being pumped out. At slower paces I feel like I can just keep going indefinitely. It feels like my body is converting to primarily fat as fuel. 

Sheriff pulls over asks me if I’m coming off trail. Gives me 2x .5 liter water bottles. Kindness and generosity out of nowhere is warming. 

There is so much that I’d like to write about but it isn’t possible to thru hike this trail and still have an hour or two per day to write. 

Thanks for the fundraiser dinner from the couple from Idaho. Sat down to eat a real dinner for the first time on trail. Band playing. Lot of cowboys and mining companies establishing relationships. 

Bought food only to supplement what I’m carrying, and what I know I’ll eat. Some heavy high moisture fresh vegetables. Brick blue cheese. Tomato. Onion. Avocado. Lettuce. The highlights. Some other things as well.

Must have drank a gallon in Patagonia but still not fully hydrated. Endkessly this much water cup after cup from the festival/fundraiser paper cups makes it feel like I’m pouring so much into me. Wasn’t able to hydrate enough to pee.

Patagonia is a great town to resupply in. It’s so easy to keep talking to all the people.  

Massive water carry out of Patagonia but next sources are unreliable or likely concentrated or fouled. 

Hazard To Society 

June 23

Day 3
Was worried I carried too little from the last creek. It’s starting to get really hot and I’m very low on water. If anything I should have carried a few liters less from bathtub spring and a liter or two more from the creek.

The terrain for this morning was more unique and interesting then Kaibab style terrain. I’m currently following another Jeep trail. 

Yesterday I posted on the Facebook group that I was heading nobo and left June 21. I wanted to wait until I started in a bit and was more certain. 

I was taken aback by the sheer number of responses. From every possible gamut. Some supportive or wishing me well. Others condemning me and any support of me that I’m not just risking my own life but that of search and rescue. That it’s so hot it’s deadly. That airplanes are grounded because of the heat. That there is no possible way to stay safe so don’t tell him to stay safe. That you have no idea what his experience or heat tolerance is. That I need more sunscreen for my ego. 

I think that if a competent and aware adult wishes to hike midsummer in the desert it’s their right. I don’t think it’s fair to say that this individual is potentially putting other lives at stake. First of all if the search and rescue isn’t heat trained or lacks water then they shouldn’t be out there. And I don’t think it’s fair to not hike a difficult trail just because of the potential hardship that might come should I require help. Furthermore I know precisely where I am on the AZT negating any Search. There won’t be any crew doing grid searches in the heat. The reality of the matter is if something went very wrong SAR likely won’t be notified nor would they be coming. I guess the point I’m making is that this isn’t uneducated and reckless. I don’t think I need to demonstrate ability. In fact I think motivation and desire are more significant towards success than brute force training. It feels like I opened up a huge can of theoretical worms. Some people can be so incredibly soul sucking in their demotivation. 

I’m not hiking at all during the night. It defeats the point of doing it midsummer, plus there’s rattlesnakes that will be very active. In emergency I could potentially hike out at night. Not only that this trail is mileage marked. If I was in a life or death situation due to severe dehydration I would know EXACTLY which mile I was at. Not that it should matter, last year I thru hiked the Hayduke midsummer, which was incredibly remote, required backcountry navigation. I did it with no gps or spot. The only advantage I had was that I spent over a month caching water, as I don’t think I could have done it otherwise. I chose not to share this as it would only aggravate them further. If I’m going to thru hike the AZT it doesn’t not should it be a secret or anonymous. It isn’t egotistical to hike a fucking trail. It takes more ego to leave suburbia or a cubicle. The AZ Trail follows a single track, I know my exact location with no doubt, have the ability to nighttime evacuate, it has extensive water. Aside from the burden of heavy water and heat it is unfair to treat this as reckless endangerment. Other negative comments like:

Are you serious?

Say hello to Mr. Natural Selection.

I’d be surprised if something doesn’t go horribly wrong. 

Some people wishing me well which is motivating. I thanked them for being supportive. Some people being supportive. Very motivating in fact. To have been so down and have people wishing me well. 

I came across a steel tank holding thousands of gallons of water. The next few sources are spread within only ten miles but are murky and or unreliable. So I’m taking over 2 gallons which is excessive weight, in order to hike thru the midday heat, to be able to pour over my cotton clothing (long sleeve t and shemagh), and to be fully hydrated. 

I’ve had to start treating this water and the last, have finished the pure spring water. I’m using AquaTabs which is similar to bleach or AquaMira. I normally reduce dosage and let sit longer, especially clear water. I’m going to start having severe cramps with this much treated water if it’s similar to the liquid form. The tabs appear to be highly acidic; the acidity in this quantity is harmful to enamel. I didn’t want to bring a filter as on the Hayduke it just got clogged from all the sand. The sand isn’t an issue here, I may have been better with the filter. 

So, I just learned that the AZT crosses directly through the city of Pstagonia. I deliberately put in minimal preparation and ZERO caching into this trail. More fuel to the haters. I’ve never hiked a long distance trail that routed straight through a town for some reason I thought it was off route. I’d have carried a couple less lbs. I haven’t been eating much and have extra weight. I was originally planning to avoid what I thought was going to be a potential multi hour trip with hitching. As the trail goes through it I started jettisoning foo weight that I’ll never eat. I’m now at least 3lbs lighter, and all my gear fits inside my backpack, no need to strap the extra pair of shoes to the pack.

The reason I didn’t want to utilize a mail drop for the excess gear is that they only hold it for 30 days, post offices towards the end aren’t reliable, I wasn’t sure yet whether I wanted to hike the GET, only that I wanted to have the option. When I finished he Hayduke I wanted to use my fitness to turn back and hike it as a yoyo, I had already hiked the hardest part, fall was a good season for the trail, but I couldn’t a I lacked the provisions and gear.

It’s only a 3lb disadvantage at most. It doesn’t really make or break anything alone. Together with packs of tuna and more lbs of food it adds up.

At the beginning of a trail, consumables like sunscreen, or spices, don’t weigh that much individually but they add up to a heavier starting weight, especially if not using drop boxes.

Having so much water from that last source I can just hike and sweat through midday. Despite this it feels like I’m hardly covering any miles today. Some writing. Some sorting out gear and food. I’m practically walking all day but feels like slow progress. I’m under 20 miles from Patagonia and don’t want to be there when establishments are closed. 

Been treating .5 liters at a time. Repeating this process countless times. Eventually just treat the entire dromedary. 

There are fire restrictions and bears making it impossible to …

On the Hayduke I was able to set up tent while water boiled, while my metabolism slowed enough to have more appetite. It’s very difficult to eat 5000 calories in the heat, while exerting, but the exertion level keeps decreasing as aperture increases. 

It’s extremely difficult right now to recover enough appetite for a dinner break. It took me 30 minutes to eat a large tuna packet for the protein. 

So many people responded to my Facebook post. Will probably it’s a general comment of thanks for the support. Some people feel like I’m a liability and hazard to society. I can not afford the time to sit this much each day and thru hike this trail. 

I’m aware of the dangers and have adequate experience, this isn’t reckless. In response to endangering Sear and Rescur following a single track and knowing my precise location to a fraction of a mile on it, there would be no need for a search. I’m more afraid of requiring evac due to rattlesnake bite than severe heat exhaustion and or dehydration. Obviously I’m not wantonly carelessly oblivious to the fucking heat. I don’t think I should refrain from using the trail due to possibly inconveniencing SAR. At what pint do you consider SAR fair use versus taking advantage. Why do you make it seem like SAR is right there and ready to drop their life and come save me. I never expected nor wanted them. If my life was in danger I’d leave the trail potentially at night by any of the MYRIAD escape routes. On the Hayduke there were very few and far between. But I’m sure you feel that doing the Hayduke midsummer, even though I spent well over a month burying water, was wrong of me.  

I’m going to sleep on this. 

I don’t have the time to feed the haters and trolls. Soul sucking demotivating demoralizing. 

Wanting To Quit

June 22 

Day Two

I’m doing much better today. Lots of tall pine trees intermittently shade the morning sun, some north facing slopes sheltered from the morning sun.

With less direct heat the miles seem to go much faster. I feel like I’m carrying too much weight, mainly the extra gear in case the GET but that’s only a few pounds. I’m carrying some extra weight that I took last minute that can likely do without.

My main thoughts today are why am I hiking this trail. Ordinarily I’d never want to hike this trail. Part of it is seeing if I can be okay with limited resources and near no planning.

I don’t want to just thru hike trails, I’d rather focus on a long adventure like walk across Asia or to the North Pole, or sail across the ocean. That’s what I liked about the Hayduke.

It just feels like life is short, I’d rather attempt something more challenging than just miles. It feels like I’m trying to find reasons to want to hike the AZT to elevate it.

Perhaps hiking the AZT is a mistake. Perhaps it would have been best to do what was necessary to attempt the GET or something else. 

I just put my auto insurance on hold. 

It’s getting intensely hot.

Feeling stronger on the downhills and in general in contrast to yesterday.

Yesterday I only hiked 8.3 actual miles. But ascended 4K ft in the heat.

I’m starting to feel much stronger mileage-wise. I’ve been taking frequent preemptive breaks but am starting to feel strong enough to push harder miles.

I’m not sure I want to be on this trail but seeing as I already am I may just finish it and use the fitness and heat training for the GET.

The only reason I wanted to hike the AZT was because it’s summer in the desert. I don’t like being seen as a thru hiker. The AZT feels like a second rate trail, or at least not a trail to my liking. Of more significance, I’m not really sure that I want to be doing it, which means it may have been a mistake. I could hike the John Muir trail or the Sierras or spend a week in the Maze district. There’s a lot of things I could do. 

Today just feels like hiking the Kaibab again. It’s not fun. At all. The only redeeming quality is perhaps doing this midsummer. Because it’s hard. I don’t think I want to be here very much. 

My legs are already feeling stronger. Part of me wants to leave here and go hike the PCT. I don’t think I can justify taking 4 months right now I have obligations that accrue over time. Maybe I should buy a gps and attempt the Hayduke this winter instead of waiting to yoyo it and then doing it with just map and compass. I’m afraid that thru hiking the AZT is just going to burn me out. 

My hiking schedule seems to be roughly 6am to 8:30pm (seems like Arizona is an hour back) give or take, or almost 15 hours. If I was compelled it could be 4:45am to 9pm+.

It’s 5pm I’ve hiked ~14 miles so far today, an improvement. Biggest hardship is pack weight and wanting to quit. 

I came into the next water source carrying 3 liters which is too much. I even passed a couple poor sources as was carrying so much. Am willing to carry more weight if it’s fresh crisp spring water. It just seems that if I can do 5 miles into the evening and 10 in the morning I can go at least 15 miles on only a couple liters before it gets too hot and need more and need to rehydrate. If I can get to a good water source I can potentially not carry 3 gallons all the time. 

It’s almost time to set up camp, it’s getting dark, I have to stop to eat a packet of tuna as I need the protein to recover. I’m barely eating 1000 calories a day right now. Just have no appetite. I’m afraid of bears and don’t want to eat tuna where I sleep. 

Birds are suddenly very loud in a focused area, I look up towards the ridge I just descended and there’s a massive wolf or likely large coyote running along the ridge towards the descent, large bushy trail. Visible against the sky and between the pines, moving fast. Somewhat disconcerting to say the least, as I make a smelly mess trying to finish up and go.

It keeps getting darker as I try to place distance. My food is not currently in smell proof bags. The trails are covered in large coyote and bear scar. 

There’s obvious small bear tracks directly on the trail now. I’m trying to find a spot that is visible from distance to help avoid conflict. It’s getting dark and I have no choice but to set up my tent here. 

Stirring at the minutest noise as I try to sleep. 
Twice as many miles as yesterday but still under 20. 

Ascending In The Brutal Heat

June 21

Day One
I may have slept in Mexico last night. Coronado Monument is day use only so it was violate USA law, Mexico law or hike in and down within daytime with limited amount of water.

I can only haul so many gallons uphill before it’s just a wasted effort with no gain. So, I may have slept in Mexico.

Potential problems with sleeping in Mexico is fear of crime from the drug trafficking. Sleeping on exposed ridges during wind storms, due to fear of venturing further inland, is also no fun. I may have also collapsed my tent pole to prevent the wind from destroying my tent.

Up at the crack of dawn because I went to bed at first dark. I’m worried about next water. Even more worried about ascending in the heat. I’m carrying about ten pounds too much weight which is making this harder. I’m carrying several extra pairs of socks out of fear of sand bonding to them, but there’s no sand on a packed track or trail.

Last night I cached 5 pounds to reduce having to carry it down to the border and back up. I could have cached more but I didn’t want to risk losing really important things. 

Something stole my coffee. 

I think a bear stole my coffee. I’ve never had problems with coyotes or rodents stealing coffee left out in the open. So I just placed it beside a boulder and put a rock on top. It stole all my coffee. This is probably for the best, it was 5-7 ounces of good coffee. Wanting coffee and not having it is a shame. This seems like such a waste. That’s going to be one caffeinated bear. I fucking hate bears.

Ascending in the heat is brutal. The 0% humidity is intense. It sucks out moisture so fast. 

I’m doing all I can to avoid breathing out of my mouth. It’s not even 9AM yet. Pure blue sky and heat gazing the horizon. With this much heat and dryness there may be heavy clouds come evening. I’m trying to ascend Miller peak before the crux of the heat. It’s already severely hot. It’s not even 9 AM.

The young ranger/border patrol below at the pass assured me bathtub spring is reliable. Was worried about a vehicle parked there overnight because of the heat wave. Didn’t offer any water and I didn’t ask for any.

I keep ascending a small segment then sitting down in the middle of the trail is some sparse shade trying to recover. The heat is already intense and it keeps escalating. Even sitting here in the shade is hard to recover. I need to make that summit before it gets any hotter which requires more exertion and chugging water faster than I’d like. I’m really hoping that bathtub spring is as reliable as the ranger suggests.

My blood pressure is low from dehydration, I can feel it when I stand.

I could only last 20 minutes, the ascending in the heat is too much. I’m back laying in the trail beside a shrubbery attempting to reduce the exertion and recover. I can see the summit ridge but if I keep walking I’ll be digging myself into a hole. Assuming bathtub has water I’ll have needed 4 gallons to reach it fully hydrated, I only started with 3. I think I still have a few hundred more feet to the ridge and s few more to the peak elevation. This is over 2000 elevation gain I think.

It’s 3700 elevation gain go the spring at mile 8, no wonder. When my pack is the heaviest, plus carrying extra shoes for the GET, plus record heat. I have to drink this water for the ascent it’ll be easier from the summit even if bathtub is dry.

My sit breaks in the dirt eventually became pack off laying in the dirt. Ascending in the heat is brutal. Initially my breaks were a composite of too heavy pack, to much heat, too much ascension.

The intense heat and cloudless sky turned to some clouds which I promptly took advantage of. 

Ice cold rain and what was formerly life threatening heat is now high risk for hypothermia, within the span of minutes.

Endless cycle of hike then lay in the dirt squeezed into some various shrubbery. Eventually more motive for taking breaks becomes my incredibly sore legs. I have about a liter left but I can’t risk drinking it without teaching that spring.

I’m approaching 9000 feet and it’s still brutally hot.

There was a rattlesnake on the trail around 8500 feet, it ran away so fast, the spontaneous S shape, muted rattle due to damaged rattle, and it ran, or shall I say slithered away so incredibly fast. 

Snuck up on plenty of deer.

I’m feeling the effects of significant dehydration. I have no appetite and the thought of salt makes me gag.

4000 feet of ascending on the heat. I reach the spring at mile 8.1 and I can’t tell you the joy that comes from seeing a bathtub of water off in the distance in the middle of a pine forest. 

I collapse beside it too dehydrated and heat stressed to deal with anything but slow recovery. That water isn’t going anywhere and it takes less effort to dronk from my dromedary than sit up. The long slow process of trying to feel good enough to be able to eat something.

It flows at 1 liter per 1.5 minutes. Crisp fresh spring water. Keep looking over my shoulder for the bear; don’t bother treating it, there’s no need. My only goals are to try to eat food, go to bed early and wake up late.

Summer Solstice

June 20

The hot dry air is so intense it’s tangible. You can even smell it. Everything is just baked into raw desiccation and furnace heat.
The terrain is like a fairy tale, never ending rugged terrain. Blanketed in scorching dry heat. 
Bizarre Seuss-ian like plants like cane cholla and multiple yucca species, some with stalks over 20 feet high, detail the endless terrain.
One could write or take pictures of this for a lifetime.
I’m technically always over carrying or under carrying water. I have no way of knowing with certainty if the next water exists. 
Everything is so hot and dry and dead and hopeless without water. The hard part isn’t hiking in the heat it’s doing it with uncertain water. 
On the Hayduke I had high confidence in my next cache and there was always more confidence of next water. Here there’s no certainty of water; only plus is that there’s a track and no easy possibility of getting lost.
I’m in no hurry to reach the border as the solstice isn’t until this evening. I keep stopping to take my time as ascending in the heat is brutal. 
I keep sitting down in sparse shade of yucca or large manzanitas. Glad I chose the burlier prAna pants as they are like a second skin. I just sit on jagged foliage and scree, they block out the sun and UV rays. 
I just hike slow and steady until my core is too hot and I’m sweating too much then I sit down on top the trail beneath a sliver of shade, backpack still on.
I think I may have hiked a mile.  
It took me almost 4 hours to ascend to intersect the AZT to be able to hike down to the monument for the solstice. I’m carrying too much weight but there’s limited way around it.
I’m currently in Mexico trying to write less.

It’s starting to rain. Early heat wave affecting the monsoon system. I don’t need a rain jacket but as I’m carrying to cache in case I decide to do the GET I might as well. Maybe I’ll spend the night in Mexico. 

Hitchhiking

June 18

I have 3 days until the first day of summer to hitch to the Mexican border.

Record heat, near or even surpassing 120F. Instead of trying to leave it, I’m attempting to hitchhike towards it.

I have exactly 2.5 gallons of water. Enough food to reach and make progress on the Arizona Trail, but will have to find water fairly frequently. I’m not doing much exerting but can still easily drink this in one day.

I’m leaning on a cement bridge support beam beneath an overpass, it shading me from the early morning sun. It’s still cool.

Last night I slept on gravel beside an improved jeep track beside the highway, no sleeping pad. Too afraid of rattlesnake in the dark to find a better spot. My down sleeping bag is extremely warm when laid over like a quilt, for my tent was crammed and on jagged rock and I care too much about this bag to destroy it unnecessarily. I just picked this up from the post office and want to get a better sense of its warmth. The cold breeze blows around the edges that aren’t covered, which ordinarily isn’t enough to be cold midsummer. This hike, I’m not using any designated blanket to cut wind. Wearing the ghost whisperer jacket is enough to negate the cold enough to be comfortable and sleep.

Heat training makes everything feel colder, and being cold makes it impossible to stay asleep. I have some excess clothing or materials, can use the bag as a sleeping bag, I think I have adequate insulation to be warm enough to sleep.

Last evening I succeeded at parking my jeep and embarking. I have 3 days to hitchhike 750 miles towards the Mexican border. The summer solstice is the late evening of July 20, effectively making the 21st the first hiking day.

I want to be more excited, but I’m worried and fearful. I’m worried about being judged and despised for having long hair, braids, wearing stained clothing, hitchhiking, being desperate, inadequate sleep, being in need or want, wearing pants, wearing short shorts that show too much, being feral, being heat stressed and or incoherent and treated as an unsafe person and/or trash.

Right now I’m just trying to take advantage of this shade, clear my mind, get current on everything, organize my pack into smaller volume, so I can focus on try hard hitchhiking and covering miles.

iPhone appears to use 25% per hour, about twice as much as iPad. I’d love to be able to make more extensive pictures posts but I don’t have the time or resources to be a blogger. I’m not a thru hiker or adventurer. Nor am I a writer. I just want to write about and record this hike, consistently. It feels like writing is a way of sharing, of making it more real, and of taking s burden from my mind to be able to be more present.

I didn’t sleep enough but need to remain coherent enough and hydrated enough to not frighten people. Have to remove my flap from my cap, probably wear the orange Nike over the cotton, though the cotton is bleach white and new, not sure if I ….

Hitchhiking II

I’m taking the eastern state highways to avoid the major metropolitan areas. I don’t feel like being stranded or even robbed as was my hitch from yesterday. Train hopping, old mini van, safety pin nose piercing, gas checking, stories of being robbed and … ….