Arizona Trail Trek
What a start to the Arizona Trail Trek! On March 14th at noon, 28 people gathered at Montezuma Pass in the Coronado National Memorial to hike with me to the Mexican border and back. You see, there’s no driving to the start of the Arizona Trail, to get to it you have to hike almost two miles down to Monument 102 that marks the border and the southern terminus of the AZT.
Starting out on the AZT
Looking into Mexico at San Jose Peak
Border Monument 102
A rare trail appearance by my wonderful husband Brian
We had a wonderful hike to the border, took the requisite starting out pictures, and then I read Dale Shewalter’s poem The Arizona Trail. The views from the hike and border are spectacular looking into Mexico.
After hiking back up to our cars, we went into Sierra Vista for the first of the Gateway Community Events at the beautiful Garden Place Suites. We enjoyed blues by C.J. Fletcher, tasty appetizers from the Sierra Vista Food Co-op, and Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery in Pine, AZ. It was great to see folks from all over the state coming together to talk trail and make new contacts for future adventures on the AZT.
Sierra Vista Arizona Trail Trek Event
Tasty appetizers from Sierra Vista Food Co-op
C. J. Fletcher playin’ the blues
Good crowd for the first Gateway Community event
The next morning, nine of us and a mini-donkey met at Montezuma Pass once again- this time for a 15 mile dayhike up and over the Huachuca Mountains. The mini-donkey’s name is Jasmine and her person that she hikes with is Leigh Anne. They were both a blast to have along, as was the rest of the group. We had a tough but rewarding day, starting out with a climb up to 9000 feet on the Huachuca Crest. The trail rolls along the crest, stopping at one of my favorite water sources, Bathtub Spring. Here we met up with BASA, Birdnut, and Norm, thruhikers that had come to the kickoff party and started the trail that morning.
Climbing to the Huachuca Crest
Miller Peak junction and the top of the day’s big climb up to 9100 ft.
Not much snow for March at 9000 ft.
Taking a break on the Crest Trail
Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!
We had incredible views on the crest before taking the Sunnyside Canyon Trail down the west side of the mountain. The trail finally leveled out to an old road in the canyon and I saw more bear scat than I have ever seen in one place. Pile after pile after pile. They really liked that canyon!
We ended our hike in Scotia Canyon and were met by shuttle driver extraordinaire Bernie with cold drinks, snacks and cookies for the folks going back to Montezuma Pass. My dad, who is out from Chicago to help with my hike, met me and I packed up my backpack for the next three days into Patagonia.
I spent the night in Scotia Canyon with Rick, who was hiking to Patagonia with me, and Levi, who was filming the AZT Trek for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. We had a wonderful full moon and were treated to a fantastic falling star.
First camp of the Trek in Scotia Canyon
The next morning, I was finally able to relax in camp for a bit and we got a leisurely start of 10:30. We would have left earlier, but there were three cowboys and their dogs making a giant scene trying to rope a cow in the forest. It was one of those wild-west holdovers that make you realize that some people still make a living roping cattle from the back of a horse. After they’d subdued the cow, they came over to say hi. The one asked, “You all hiking the trail?” And I said yes, that I am hiking the entire AZT. He looked at me from his horse and said, “Didn’t I just see you on T.V.?” Recognized by a cowboy in the middle of nowhere!! Cracked me up.
Rick and I finally got on the trail, tailed by Levi, our enthusiastic videographer. We all hiked to the Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead and the end of Passage 1 where we found mountain biker Steve, who had been at the kickoff party. He had put some water out for me at the trailhead that said “Go Sirena!” and we stopped to chat for a while. We were joined by thru hiker Jim with his adorable dog Chance for a lunch break.
Parker Canyon Lake
After lunch, Rick and I hiked for a while, up and down through the Canelo Hills. We had a great break along the flowing creek in Parker Canyon to filter some water. Nothing like flowing water in the desert. There was a climb to a small ridge with incredible views in every direction and we called it camp. Not too tough of a day, which was nice. There will be plenty of long, tough days ahead.
The full moonrise was spectacular and lit up the sky like it was daytime again. I slept like a rock and was treated to an amazing sunrise from my sleeping bag. I love cowboy camping under the stars- who wants to look at the inside of a tent? Not this girl.
Moonset and sunrise at Canelo East ridgetop camp- click to enlarge
The next day was up and down, up and down through the Cinnamon Hills (Canelo in Spanish). The landscape is one of oak-dotted grassy ridges, every so often giving views of the surrounding Sky Island mountain ranges. We could see the Santa Ritas, Mustang, Rincon, Catalina, and Huachuca ranges from high points of the trail. The Catalinas looked so far- and I’m going to walk there and beyond!
From the right- Mustang, Rincon, and Catalina Mountains
Middle Canyon break spot
I felt really good, finally settling into the fact that I get to live outside for the next two and a half months. I was giddy with excitement- finally, after 7 years of dreaming of thru hiking the Arizona Trail, here I was! In the intervening years, both the trail and I had changed a bit.
One of the highlights of the Canelo West passage is the hike through Meadow Valley. Rick and I marveled at the wide expanse of golden grasses bathed in afternoon sun.
Rick enjoying Upper Meadow Valley
Upper Meadow Valley
Down Under Tank
As it got later, we were looking for a place to camp and chose this nondescript clearing on a grass and catclaw covered hillside. It turned out to be much better than we had expected and we were treated to a colorful sunset followed by yet another picturesque moonrise.
Sunset from Canelo West camp
The next morning, we hiked to Red Bank Well and got water from a solar-powered windmill that shot water out of a pipe on a tall green tank. These passages are in open-ranching territory and we passed many bovines, some with impressive horns.
We were dropping elevation and as we got closer to the Harshaw Trailhead the temperatures soared and poppies and other wildflowers began to appear. Springtime is here!
Red Bank Well- when the solar is working, water shoots out of a pipe on the big green tank at left.
Micro Chicken on the AZT
One last gate before dropping down to Harshaw Rd.
We reached the trailhead, still three miles outside of Patagonia. I was planning on staying with the couple who runs the visitor’s center and owns Patagon bike rental and Maggie was kind enough to meet us and take our packs into town. I stopped to adjust my right shoe after she drove away and the entire tongue of the shoe pulled right out!! Shoes are the most important thing when you’re walking across the state and I immediately started thinking about what I was going to do.
This is not supposed to happen to new shoes.
We walked the road and the first thing we saw when we got into town was a poster advertising the Arizona Trail Trek event in Patagonia on the 20th! Exciting that I’ve just walked 52 miles into my first town from Mexico. What a great five days on the trail. We had a paleta (Mexican ice cream bar) from Ovens of Patagonia to celebrate.
First thing I saw when I got into Patagonia is an Arizona Trail Trek poster for the event on the 20th
Thankfully, I had gotten into Patagonia a day earlier than expected, and Rick was having a friend of his pick him up and bring him back to Tucson, where he’d parked his car. I caught a ride and before I knew it, I was back in Tucson and buying a new pair of shoes. Brian, my husband, was ecstatic to get to spend some bonus time together and I slept in my own bed. Not exactly what I was expecting, but not the worst thing that could happen by far.
Brian, my ride to Tucson, and Rick, my traveling companion from Mexico to Patagonia at the end of a successful first leg of the Arizona Trail Trek.
Now I’m back in Patagonia and the second Arizona Trail Trek event is happening tonight at Plaza de Patagonia, 277 McKeown Ave from 5-8 pm. Music by Jamnesia, tasty food from Ovens of Patagonia, and Arizona Trail Ale. Hope to see you there!
To donate to the Arizona Trail Trek’s mission to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association, click here
The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with exclusive incentives kicks off on Friday, March 28th at Sky Bar in Tucson- 536 4th Ave from 7-10 pm. Come out for music by Cobracalia and performances by Midriff Revival, Belly Dance Tucson, Brandye Asya, Dragna, Troupe HipNautic and Black Sun Tribe! I am pretty sure that I am the only thru-hiker that comes off the trail for belly dance performances. That’s just how I roll.
Don’t forget, you can also follow the Arizona Trail Trek on the Arizona Trail Association’s Facebook or on Twitter @AZTRAIL- see you on the AZT! Full list of Gateway Community events and public hikes at www.aztrail.org/azttrek
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