This was my very first Arizona Trail hike. Being a little nervous and considering the two days of rain prior to the hike, I wanted to create a hike close to a paved easy access trailhead. Pine trailhead just south of Pine Az and only about a 10 minute drive north of Payson fit just perfect. Being extra cautious I created the hike to head out east 5 miles then turn around back to the trailhead and then weather permitting head west 5 miles and double back. This way if things got too difficult we had a jump off point at the 10 mile mark but could get the 20 miles if everything went well. So…. bright and early in the morning, my 19 year old nephew and I set off for the AZT. It was our first long distance hike so…. you need to give us a break. This hike turned out to have everything a novice hiker would want condensed in one day… a little rain, mud so heavy it caked our boots they grew to twice their size, amazing ridge trail views with painful 1000 ft uphill climb and even a couple deer sightings….. and that was just on the east side section. After getting back to the car and reflecting upon the first 10 miles, we crossed highway 89 and quickly found ourselves on a ever persistent up and down climb for 5 miles. The sun broke and the day almost instantly turned tortuously hot. We were exhausted and from mile 12 to 15 it was a battle with the trail. No more smooth and well…. trail like, it was just volcanic rocks, not trail but only an occasional caren to guide us. By mile 15 we were out of water and simply toast. Good thing was most of the 5 back was downhill with a small stream at Oak Spring to filter water and fill up our bottles…. our very first water filtering experience and I have to say… it tasted great. On that hike, we learned a lot, never trust the weather, prepare for cold and hot, carry at least 2-3 liters of water person and that miles 17 to 19.5 will always suck…. All in all though this was the perfect first hike and I would recommend this exact hike for your first AZT trail hike too.
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