I woke up underneath my juniper tree at my last camp of the Arizona Trail Trek, glad that I had a little time to myself before everyone arrived to hike the last 11 miles to the Utah border with me. I wrote in my journal, something I’d done very little of this hike. Sure, I’d jotted down notes and things to remember, but not the kind of writing outdoors that feeds my soul.
Scott, who had been on several of my other hikes along the way, popped out at Winter Road around 8:30 am. He’d started in the dark at Jacob Lake and had already hiked 17 miles. He was glad he’d caught me for the final hike into Utah.
Around 9 am, my dad arrived with my mom and other hikers Anne and Steve and my husband Brian came with Levi, the videographer.
The trail rolled through the sagebrush and in and out of several canyons. It was a gorgeous day with big fluffy clouds and a nice breeze to keep the temperatures down.
The trail went into Larkum Canyon and strange rocks appeared. There are baseball to softball sized round inclusions pitting the rock faces along the trail, I would love to know what causes this.
The trail climbed out of the canyon and wound through the junipers before coming to a spectacular overlook where we took our lunch break. You could see all the way into Utah, colorful sandstone and rock formations and the Coyote Valley below.
The Stateline Trailhead became visible in the valley and I knew my journey was soon coming to an end. We hiked the 22 switchbacks into the Coyote Valley and then through the sagebrush.
I could see my husband Brian in the distance and he yelled “Arizona Trail!!!” I yelled it back, feeling triumphant. I had just hiked here all the way from Mexico!! I stopped for a picture at my favorite hole in the rock near the trailhead before continuing the rest of the way to the Utah border.
My dad was there to welcome me and Brian had put the Arizona Trail Trek banner up on the gazebo at the Stateline Trailhead. We all cheered as I reached the border and Brian had set up a celebration with champagne and cupcakes to toast the succesful completion of the Arizona Trail Trek.
I didn’t have a lot of time to savor the moment, because we were on a schedule to be back in the Gateway Community of Page for the big finale celebration. It was bittersweet leaving the state line- I was so proud of what I’d accomplished with the hike, the events, and raising awareness for the trail, yet now it was over.
The finale was hosted by Sanderson’s Into the Grand, a museum dedicated to the history of commercial river rafting on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Hoss and Karen Sanderson were incredible hosts and cooked up a delicious dutch oven meal and Bob Paluzzi provided the entertainment. It was a fitting place to end the hike, as I will be starting my season as a guide on the river at the end of June.
It was a most jovial atmosphere, with people coming up to congratulate me left and right. I got to tell a bunch of stories and celebrate the realization of a dream I have had since 2007. Seven years since I’d first had the inspiration to thru-hike the Arizona Trail and it was totally worth the wait.
After the event, we went to Antelope Point Marina, who was kind enough to donate a houseboat for the evening. We stargazed on the top deck and saw many shooting stars. It was a fantastic way to end the hike!
What an experience. It has been three weeks since I finished the trail and it’s something that I’m going to be processing for a long time.
I wouldn’t have been able to hike across the state without the help of many wonderful people who volunteered their time and talents to make this happen. A million thanks to the following:
- My sponsors- Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, That Brewery, Peace Surplus, and Summit Hut!!
- All the folks who donated through the Indiegogo campaign or at the events- the Arizona Trail Trek raised $17,800 for the Arizona Trail Association!
- All the businesses that hosted and the musicians that provided the entertainment at the 13 Gateway Community events- thanks for creating a space for people to enjoy themselves while talking trail!
- Folks that helped with shuttles and vital water caches up and down the state, volunteering their time and gas money to make the public hikes and backpacking trips happen
- People that hosted me and my dad in the Gateway communities- thank you for opening your homes to us!
- My backpacking bestie Wendy Lotze for helping with planning, logistics and food
- Ambika B. for her help with the Indiegogo campaign
- Sarae Hoff, for designing my sweet Arizona Trail Trek logo
- Leigh Anne Thrasher and Jasmine the mini-donkey for being so supportive and a delight to hike with!
- Christy Snow and Jeff Harris for all the wonderful things you do
- The Arizona Trail Association for being composed of the nicest and most supportive people you could hope to meet- I have made countless friends through the ATA, people who are willing to go the extra mile to support the trail they love so much.
- My fantastic husband Brian for supporting my dreams and helping at the events when he came to visit me.
- Saving the biggest thanks for last- my dad came out from Chicago for two months to support me on my journey, driving countless miles and running supplies. It was always such a treat to see him waiting for me at the trailhead and I cherish the time we were able to spend together.
Amazing that it all came together as well as it did. There were so many different pieces that had to work properly and I consider myself very fortunate that everyone involved stayed safe and healthy.
So now I’ve hiked the Arizona Trail twice, and am proud to be part of a pretty short list of repeaters. I’d hike it a third time, that’s how spectacular this trail is. Next time it will be southbound in the fall to see a different perspective. Who knows when that will be, for now I’ve got to shift my focus to my upcoming season as a guide on the Colorado River. The only thing keeping me sane after my hike is that I know that I’ll be spending my summer in my favorite place, the Grand Canyon.
Whether you came to the events and hikes or virtually followed along, it was great to share this incredible journey with you. Thanks for being a part of it!