SO….. 800 Miles completed on the AZT.
Well no, remember we are doing this Arizona trail both Northbound and Southbound – out and back, so the AZT, for us, is not 800 miles but 1600 miles. We are just now over 50% done with our nutty goal.
So you might ask “have you learned anything new since your 25% 400-mile completed post from August of 2017?”
I have learned a couple new things.
First, our state, the state of Arizona, is actually kind of small. The more trail sections we complete, the smaller Arizona becomes to me. We have run into a good number of thru hikers on trail this last year. Thru hikers are people that set out, mainly in one direction, and choose to hike the entire trail from Mexico and Utah in a single long 25 day – 60 day long single hike. I see how it’s possible to do this hike now and even more if I wanted to. I see how sheltered, physically and mentally, I have been in society. You are most likely sheltered too though and I bet you rarely think about it. We don’t conceive of the world like our forefathers and mothers did. They braved travel and peril with a concept we rarely can dream of today. For the most part we limit ourselves to a tight schedule and a finite area of space. Like an animal in a fenceless cage. Every day, we drive to the same job, park in the same spot, eat lunch at the same time, pick up the kids, come home, watch a show and go to bed then to all do it over again. You’re routine rarely changing year after year. Sure we take vacations and travel, but do you even feel the sense of freedom of movement? So blindly are we lost to the freedoms we really have in the world. You need so little to live but our daily lives demand so much of us. The trail has granted me a glimpse into the freedom by knowing I can survive. Survive on my own feet, a backpack, shoes and an umbrella…. Don’t forget the umbrella… Personally I don’t know the real feeling of a long distance traveler’s journey but I can see the possibilities now. Something I never could understand before.
From a practical hiker sense what do I know now, standing half way from the beginning and half way from the end?
I think, in a sense, I have graduated into a professional day-hiker for sure. Tom and I have our hikes down to a science. My gear selection is pretty well known now and does not change much. Z-Packs Packpack and Hobo hat are greatly faded from the sun and my Merrill’s are worn down from the endless steps and sharp rocks. The Black Diamond hiking poles that I love so much are scratched and forever stained with dirt and sweat. In general though, day hiking the entire AZT is a unique challenge since it’s with me all the time. With 24 to 26 hikes per year, I am always out there or thinking about heading out there. Always contemplating and planning the next hike. Not as the naïve excitable neb from 2 years ago, but as a dogged veteran approaches his mission; with determination, confidence and insight.
I know moving forward on the AZT, I will discover a lot of similar sights and sensations that I have felt in numerous times the past 800 miles. Much of this trail looks the same, rarely distinguishable from turn to turn and I resign myself to that. While peppering around the state in day hikes can remove the pleasure of pushing into a new region or climate, since you might have been there a month or so back. Don’t misunderstand, I do believe I have many wonderful moments on the AZT in front of me but I do find myself wanting to be released from the singular continuous trail. I would like to explore the non-AZT hidden treasures of the state or beyond. Even in the future, I would like to revisit the AZT as a bikepacker, moving as a lightening like pace, so much quicker and farther than my greatest efforts in my trusty midtop Merrill’s.
This is where I am at. Hardened from the past, determined to complete the mission but excited about my newfound desire for something more