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AZT 10 Year Trailaversary

Celebrating my 10 year Arizona Trailaversary!

Ten years ago today, I completed the last section of the 800-mile Arizona Trail, connecting my steps from Mexico to Utah. I hiked the trail to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition I have had since 1997, and finished the trail on May 12th, Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. I can remember the mixture of feelings of sadness and excitement after leaving my last snack break with friends at the Kannally Ranch windmill to hike the final miles. I mostly recall the sadness, the disappointment that my big adventure was over.

AZT Completion hike 2009

Starting the last section at Tiger Mine Trailhead, 2009

Finishing the AZT 2009

Finished the Arizona Trail! Photo by Terri Gay, 2009

Because at the time, I thought that’s all I was going to get. One big adventure before settling down, having kids, and continuing the life script.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was it was the beginning of a giant life shift. Hiking and backpacking, making my own way through the desert, had opened up a whole new world to me and I wanted more.

I had done this big, rugged, scary, intimidating, unfinished long-distance trail, most of it solo. 15 months of hiking, 9 months prior to that of planning. Almost 2 years to the day that I took a hike from the American Flag Trailhead on May 7, 2007 that gave me the idea to try to hike the whole AZT.

So many spreadsheets, phone calls, journal entries, writing to organizations to support my hike, media outreach for my fibromyalgia awareness campaign and fundraiser. There were so few resources for the trail back in those days. When I first sent an email to the Arizona Trail Association for information, I got a paper packet mailed to me. 60 miles of trail remained to be built when I hiked the trail and by the time I finished it had just been designated a National Scenic Trail. Both the AZT and I have come a long way.

One thing that has not changed is my passion for sharing information and inspiring people to get on the trail themselves. That’s why this AZT Day Hikes book project for Wilderness Press is so important to me. It is my way of being a tour guide to all my favorite pieces, stories, and views on the AZT. Ten years later and I’m grateful for all the opportunities that this trail has given me – both personally and professionally.

The last piece that I hiked to complete the trail in 2009 was the Oracle passage #13, ending at American Flag Trailhead. I hiked this piece again yesterday for research for the Day Hikes book and it was a great day of reflection. I celebrated with a piece of tart cherry almond pie from the Oracle Patio Cafe.

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Kannally Ranch Windmill, AZT

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Celebratory tart cherry almond pie from Oracle Patio Cafe

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Ancient metate (grinding hole), reminder that this is the ancestral land of the Apache

Here’s a quote from my journal from that day: “It felt amazing to have finished this epic journey. I am so lucky to have been able to have this experience. I have seen breathtaking deep canyons, high peaks, amazing sunsets, and more wildflowers than I’d ever imagined. I learned a lot about myself, including the fact that I am way stronger than I thought and capable of things I’d never imagined possible. I definitely got the grand adventure that I was hoping for. ”

After all, if I could walk across the entire state of Arizona, what else could I accomplish that I previously thought unimaginable? I even got to hike the AZT again as a thru-hike, taking two and a half months on my AZT Trek in spring 2014 to raise awareness and funds for the Arizona Trail Association.

Without the Arizona Trail hike, I probably would not have been a hiking guide, a river guide, Trail Steward and Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association, or the owner of my own business, Trails Inspire. I now make a living promoting the outdoors through writing, photography, public speaking and trail design.

As for my fibromyalgia, I had ten years without a flare from 2006-2016. Since 2016 it has flared up from time to time and I have learned to manage it by staying active, getting outdoors in whatever way I can, and listening to when I need to take a rest.

I am grateful for my husband Brian, my Dad for being such a big part of my experience, for family, friends, and followers of my accounts and this blog. For the privilege of being able to take the time and energy to walk for 80 days to complete this journey. For companies like Summit Hut, Gossamer Gear, Huppybar and others who have believed in me and my passions. The adventures keep on coming and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’d like to hear me talk about the experiences I’ve had on the Arizona Trail, I’m doing a presentation in Scottsdale for the Arizona Mountaineering Club on Wednesday, May 22nd from 7-9 pm. Details and free registration at this link.

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Excited to be included as a guest on the latest season of Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette!

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!
We talk about adventures, wildlife rehabilitation, living with an invisible chronic condition, and of course, the Arizona Trail and my upcoming book with Wilderness Press. I met Nicole when she was thruhiking the Arizona Trail in 2017, and it was so great to reconnect with her and chat about our experiences. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording it!

https://www.nicoleantoinette.com/podcast/sirena-rana-dufault/

An owl sits atop a Saguaro cactus with the moon visible

Great Horned Owl released back into the desert after being rehabilitated

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