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The day after tomorrow we start!
(March 20th, 2008 – Tucson, Arizona)
I first started thinking about the Arizona Trail 10 or 12 years ago when I encountered a solo backpacker from New York State resting in a shady glen at Happy Valley Saddle in the Rincon Mountains. “Where you headed?” I asked. “Utah” he replied, “I’m walking the Arizona Trail.”
Since that day I learned that the Arizona Trail traverses 800 miles of spectacular country from Mexican border to the Utah state line. Flagstaff teacher Dale Shewalter conceived the Trail in the 1970’s. In July, 1988, the first segment of the trail was officially dedicated. Now, 20 years later, the Trail is nearly complete with only 51 miles left to map and construct. An incredible amount of volunteer effort has been invested in making the Trail a reality. The Arizona Trail Association coordinates this effort. Their website is excellent: http://www.aztrail.org/
More recently, Terri Gay’s quiet and persistent passion for the Trail kept the idea of an Arizona Trail through-hike on my mind, until I decided about a year ago to make time for this grand walk across Arizona.
And now, the day after tomorrow we start!
Tonight the dining room in my home here in Tucson is jam packed with trail food, supply boxes, gear, and last minute shopping lists. Tomorrow there will be another round or two of frenzied shopping to pick up forgotten and overlooked items, and then a final cut of gear to get the pack as light as possible for the journey.
Tomorrow evening my wife Irene and I will welcome Jim Romer and Terry Woolston, both from Phoenix, to spend the night with us before Jim, Terry and I drive south to the Mexican border on Saturday to start the trip.
Jim, my brother-in-law, is retired, and has agreed to provide support for the entire hike up to Utah. (Thank you Jim!) He has also spent the last two or three months exhaustively researching the Trail on the Internet, and has compiled an amazing library of printed maps, GPS waypoint lists, and written descriptions of the route. Jim plans on meeting us periodically where the Trail intersects roadways to re-supply food, water, necessities, and fix us up with the map sets we will need as we work our way north.
Terry is my hiking partner for the trip. He also is a volunteer Trail Steward for Passage 23 (Mazatzal Divide) of the Arizona Trail. In this capacity, he donates much of his spare time to maintaining, and caring for this very rugged section in the mountains east of his home in Phoenix. (Learn more about the Passages at the Arizona Trail Association website)
Stay tuned … as the trip unfolds, I’ll do my best to tell you about the hike, the planning, the gear and other things of interest.