Yooooo people! Welcome to the most sporadically-updated hiking blog ever. Still haven’t finished my PCT writeup- when will I commit to that? I dunno. I just bought a “new” $160 rain jacket for $40 and am finishing up my gear purchases for next couple hikes; this motivated me to write something instead of trying to use the interwebs to decide whether I really truly need a replacement umbrella or not.
Anyway in the meantime I hiked the AZT over a few days in November, and the month of April. It was a super dope trail, just what I needed. It was definitely challenging at times but mostly just really really chill. Gonna write a lil summary right now, all in one post – sorry guyz!
If you’ve been following me tho you can see my lil updates, I have decided for now to prose it up here, and do poetry/pics on instagram. I’m @haikuhikes whhaaaat.
Before you ask, hiker nerds, here are the things you want to know so I can get back to my story:
I had a 4L water capacity but usually only needed to fill up 2-3L maybe 1x a day, I’m a camel, sorry guys. I go like 10-12 miles/L on average, more if it’s colder. I didn’t cook this time, I cold-soaked my dinners which were always instant refried beans + cholula packet + coconut oil packet. I did not get sick of this. I also ate avocado + 2x tuna packet lunch most days and did not get sick of this either. Otherwise, basically bars ‘n’ chips ‘n’ dried fruit/veg things. I only set up my tarp 3 nights and probably only needed to for 2 of them. My baseweight was right about 7lbs. I tried out the new Frogg Toggs emergency jacket, it got holes super easily. I also used polycryo for the first time, it also got holes really easily. I might try the polycryo again because I can’t help my gram-counting self. I saw 2 gila monsters and 1 coati and tons of birds and tons of deers and tons of elks and tons of lizzies and 0 rattlesnakes and 0 mountain lions and 0 bobcats. I was super happy about all that. The whole thing took me 33 days between the November section and April section.
I hiked the portion (100 miles-ish) back in mid-November, as I mentioned on a previous post. My friend had invited me to hike down the Grand Canyon with them. I had just finished the PCT a month and a half earlier, and was still adapting to my return to civilization (it’d been 5 years since I had an actual apartment, 7 years since I’d lived in Philly, couple years since I’d played trumpet, had spent half of the last 2 years sleeping on the ground, and another 7 months living on a boat…yeah). So it was good for me to hit the trail for a minute, another hit of wilderness-IV. November was a great time to hike- no heat issues for sure! I actually had an extra day and decided to dick around Flag for a day (super fun town!) instead of getting to the GC or Tusayan early with nothing to do. I headed out and the first day did like 18 miles, a nice little jaunt through the city as the main resupply alternate was closed due to controlled burning. I actually think this was a better idea. Got up around the Snowbowl area, coming down from that there were lots of nice aspen. Then it went through a little bit of ponderosas again, I camped in some sketch place in that kinda forest. The next day headed downhill and eventually hit some really nice pinyon-juniper rangelands which was most of the rest of the way to Tusayan/GC. Very flat walking…I only needed to stock up once a day for water due to the cold, even with only 2L capacity. I did like 25-26 miles the next 3 days up to Tusayan. Water froze every night. I only saw two other hikers (they were together) the whole week, and a couple people working on Babbit Ranch driving big trucks. Lots of time to contemplate the vastness of land and the vastness of life. I did the few miles from Tusayan to the GC after staying overnight there on points at a hotel, then came back to wait for my friends (who didn’t arrive until like 9pm?). Saw everyone the next am, I think we didn’t start hiking until 11? Who even knows. My 2nd time at the GC and first time hiking all the way down. We took the Bright Angel trail and I managed to get a spot at Bright Angel camp (they all booked Phantom Ranch which was way out of my budget). We were the ones partying late in the cantina both nights, whoops! I was so happy for this experience of having time to chill at the bottom, I knew my thru hike would be a little rushed and I’d probably have to head straight through.
Flash forward to April! Doin it baller style- I wore my merino hiking dress to my gig in Philly (I told people I liked it so much I was gonna wear it for the next 30 days; cue confused facial expressions) and went straight to the airport after, where I ended up riding down to the Mexican border with people doing the bike race. This was a great way to start- man, the bike gang people were just sooooo chill. Talking about stop offs at breweries. Now, we are also speaking of some serious athletes, but the whole thing was more of a portable party, a moveable feast- rather than the negative dude-bro vibing fest that was on the PCT last year, and AT to a lesser extent. I finally got to the hiker start (it’s different from where the bikers are- they get a nice, flat dirt road- we have a lil hill to go up and down). Squeeze through the barbed wire, take a terrible selfie, head back up where I am surprised to see my first hiker already at sundown. I go another mile or two, totalling only 6 miles, 4 actual trail miles with the 2 mile hike down to the border. Pretty windy, but also an amazing view. Not terrible with starting at 6-odd pm.
The next day I finished the hike up Miller Peak, plodding my way up. I meet another hiker at the lake where I get first trail magic- a beer and tangerine from the creators of the AZT 300/750 bike races. Wow, this trail is great! I’m not sure if it’s the beer or some wind, or just missing the sun for so long after a relatively snowy winter, I end up not deploying my umbrella as much as I’m wont to do. I realize I’m starting to get burnt.
The next day my goal is to get to Patagonia by 4 to pick up my package. I have like 19 or 20 miles, it’s flat tho…no big? But I somehow get lost, only realizing this when this other hiker comes at me to tell me I’m going the wrong way. Whaaa? We both end up racing to Patagonia, trying for a hitch to save the 1.5 mile roadwalk which we won’t make in the 10 minutes we have until the PO closes. We get to town at 4:06 and bless them, the post office lets me pick up my package. I look like a wild woman, my arms/face are totally red, and also I am dripping ants I got all over my pack somehow? We go to the Velvet Elvis where after a bathroom break I return to find the other hiker is quitting. He has hiked the PCT and AT before, hiking today the same rate as me, but he’s done. Wow. Well, it is kinda hot? IDK. I force myself to do the roadwalk back to the trail, another 7 miles I plod that night. 28 on day 2, yay! Almost back on schedule (was a few miles behind since we got to the border late) But then I kill it all by getting lost on day 4, I waste 2+ hours, I Just Can’t, so go back to the place where I’d made my error and there’s a water source, and siesta for several hours as ATV’ers and bikers roll by, asking if I’m ok. Ugh. I listen to an audiobook on emotional IQ and meditate a couple times. Then a mile after I start hiking two prongs on my umbrella break. I fix it sorta but it’s not functional in the wind. Between this and lobster arms I hike the next few days pretty much only between 4pm and 11 am. Full-on vampire mode, this mostly sucks.
It’s not until Tuscon where I’m able to get a cotton long-sleeved shirt, which is actually something I’ve never worn before. It’s pretty sweet. I learn that the other hiker from near the lake, as well as the girl I saw camped at sundown the first day, also got off trail due to heat exhaustion. Droppin like flies! I take a double zero there in the 100F heat, consider even quitting, meanwhile chill with two of my friends from acupuncture school, as well as buying a sweet thrift store dress for my friend’s upcoming wedding. I also turn my phone data back on, where I have a short text conversation with this guy I’ve been seeing…in a kinda ambiguous situation. The sorta one with missed timing and being friends and colleagues and it could just be a temporary-but-healthy-experience-in-relationships-thing (what I assumed was most likely), or being-used-just-as-a-body-with-a-pulse-and-appropriate-anatomy-thing, or maybe even this-could-be-an-unexpectedly-good-thing-for-a-while-thing. Sigh, now in the future I’m unhappy to report that it was actually number 2 it seems…as that lil exchange was the last one before he ghosted both me and most of our mutual friends. I guess Universe tho is clearing out space for someone who is down to party with the Daichovo D for reals? At this time tho I was trying to just do my thing, which involved apparently hiking 30ish miles a day amidst cholla and saguaros to 90s rap/hip hop and MBMBaM podcasts, thinking about what’s been said and unsaid, of how my life even came to be the way it is…bit of gratitude too.
I head up Mt Lemmon on a day with a windstorm- oh well! At least I have long sleeves. It takes all day, but I’m rewarded with 1. seeing some other hikers a few miles before the top 2. general store with potato chips and ice cream 3. heated bathroom with outlets that I sleep in overnight. Yayyyyy! I see a biker the next day after passing through the INSANELY windy Oracle Ridge, chill with her for a while. She gives me half an avocado which I trade for a kale larabar, I think I won that exchange. I hear that Kodak of KCHBR insta-fame is right behind me, which I’ve heard for a couple days. Maybe I’ll meet him? Would be cool to get info on Sierra route hiking as I’m planning to do the SHR this summer. I end up going into Oracle which was sorta dumb in that I wasted half a day hiking and I’d had pretty good energy- but hey! Ended up getting my period, I went to bed super early, and Marnie @ Chalet Village Hotel is one of the best people I’ve ever met on trails. Highly recommended!
Still not many hikers! I finally saw some on the day with Ripsey wash- 3 GET hikers named 42, Last Call, and One Gallon. I stop to talk to One Gallon for a good while, not realizing that he’s a hiker legend! Super cool dude, and I found out much later reading something or other on the internets, that he’s a triple triple crown hiker? Whhhattt. This is what I want to get out of hiking- not the achievement, but that zen thing of just being chill, not giving a dayum, no ego or at least way less than I have. I still have this competitive thing about me that wants to Acheive, which can be healthy and for sure has let me have amazing, amazing life experiences, but it’s impossible to separate this completely with the whole Not Good Enough/Not Measuring Up program I have installed from my upbringing…nurtured with good ol’ Catholic guilt trips…come into full fruition with 6 years in studying classical music in university and more years tryin’a gig and audition and get somewhere. And I didn’t even have that crazy of a time, many people I know suffered way worse. Well, that’s what I’m out here for. Getting my body tuned up, and my mind tuned up.
Yo! Speaking of this- if you’re reading this far and forgot – my poems this hike I think were really good, check ’em out @haikuhikes . They are super positive mostly compared to the negatively-tinged drivel here. I guess I still had a lot of hope about life and that situationship or whatevs. Maybe it’s the real me? Who even knows.
I don’t see any other hikers after the GET peeps for a while. One night I get spooked out after 32 miles when I’m about to camp with 3 sets of green eyes in the not-too-far distance. Oh, man? WTF. I am yelling at them and putting poles over my head and blasting Shake Ya Ass (but WHATCH yo’self) by Mystikal for a half hour. They come slightly forward. Two of the sets of eyes seem smaller. Is this a curious mountain lion or bobcat family. Whyyyyyyy. I heard there was bobcats in this section. Finally I give up and get down in elevation a little, camp under a juniper where I think I see a black widow. Don’t give AF.
The next morning I see three white-tailed deer staring down at me from the top of the hill.
I get to the Gila river crossing near Kearny. The construction crew dudes point out where the water faucet is, then try to get me to stop hiking due to the rabid bobcat on trail. Great. They tell me it’s super unwise to proceed 1. by myself 2. without a gun. They can’t believe I don’t have a gun, and I explain that no thru-hikers carry one. Shit, I don’t even carry a knife. Just out of principle (tho I have recently acquired a titanium mini-scissors, I’m ballin). The next 10 or so miles which seem like they should be really easy, they’re mostly flat, just really take a lot out of me. It’s not even crazy hot I think, but I’m draaaaaagggging. Also I see a whole lot of bobcat prints. Yeah. I take an hour break at the last Gila river access point where I get some nasty silty water and see a dead fox across the way and have an impromptu sexy boudoir selfie shoot with cows in the background.
Around 5 or 6 it’s time to make the climb up to this last mountainy ridge before Superior. I start blaring Moon Hooch on the speaker of my phone (sorta stopped using headphones mostly, I haven’t seen many hikers on trail). The cows freak out which is hilarious to me since they don’t go off trail, they just keep going on the track. Also, because Moo Hooch. Also, because Cattle Dance Party. I heard them in October when they played along with Too Many Zooz on a show I played. I missed the chance to sit in because it was like 4 days since I came back from the PCT and after our set w/WPO and then a good 20-30 min of dancin-out to Moon Zooz I just reached capacity overload and had to split. So I’ve been listening to them a lot this hike. I have this vague idea I want to make a brasshouse band like that but I really don’t know what form it will take yet.
It starts to spit rain a lil after I set up camp so I put up my tarp for the first time all trip. Windy AF, it came down in part. I need to get better stakes. And/or be better about site selection, even if weather seems good. What will I do on a more remote route?
Superior is kinda amazing. I try to hitch for an hour before calling the local hotel which has info for a trail angel who gives rides. She is a lil crazy and I’m not 100% convinced she’s not living out of her van (no judgement! been there) but she gives me a ride into town, and I ask if she can give me a ride later back to the trail. Sweet. I eat at the place in town where I strike up conversation with some people from Australia who are interested in my pack- they can tell I’m a hiker (yay! this like, never happens, between my dress and UL setup) but confused how I’m fitting all my stuff in my pack. I also make friends with this retired lady and her daughter with whom we discuss changes in the city of Aspen, CO (I lived/worked there for a summer about 10 yrs ago, and they used to live there), as well as UFO sightings and communicating with orcas.
I charge things and then also get a decent cup of coffee at this other cafe which is a totally different vibe. The lady who runs it has a husband with terminal cancer, you can tell that she’s doing this just to get a break and be social. Kinda has her shit together with feminine wiles, all these dudes comin in with obvious crushes on her- even at age 70 you can see she has her game. Local photographers, biker dudes, rando people passing by. Not tryin for it, but just nice, and sweet, and put together. I try to learn something from this. Dudes don’t approach me super often- not so much a big deal, as I usually never like anyone until I know them a while anyway, but it is annoying sometimes to see people I’m with chatted up and I’m ignored. I think part of it is I have RBF- resting blah face. I look bored or something. Growing up I was always the person people told to smile. Which made me smile less. I just note these things more now that I’m in and out of civilization a lot these days.
I make a push over the next couple days and manage to get to Payson in order to meet my buddy Dan from acupuncture school who takes me into town to resupply (whoops! missed the post office before it closed) and get Thai food. I wish I knew that we were both wandering weirdos when we were in school- oh well. Super cool to reconnect tho. I mention a possible plan to meet up and try some fungi over the summer, something that seems to be coming up a lot for me recently, and I’m interested in as a way to work out some mental issues that there’s been increasing positive research on.
Somewhere in the next section I meet two AZT hikers! Yay! They are Shaun and Crusty, and are super cool. Hiker frens! I decide not to camp with them tho, it’s like 6pm which is super early. I punch out another few miles, but see them again the next am because they got up early. We end up hiking together all the way to Pine. Shaun is 28, an ex-bari sax player from NYC who got caught up in the scene, and hiking has been a huge part of his recovery. We both are chatting non-stop about thru hikes (we were on AT and PCT same years), the musical-name-game, and other rando stuff. Oh, also about that rabid bobcat, which apparently was legit, and actually bit a hiker a few days before me. Cripes. Crusty is 19, super quiet, but very chill. Out hiking trails at this age, not having bought into the collage industrial complex, doin her thing with quiet self-confidence! I wish I had my shit that together at my age of 36 even. We roll into Pine where we learn THAT brewery has stopped renting a cabin to thru hikers, as of, today. WTF. We focus on eating things and resupply before finding a place to stay, and then learn there is nowhere to stay, no one is returning calls, or it’s booked, or no way to get there. Finally THAT lets us sleep on the volleyball court with promise we are out early in the morning. Thank you guys!!!
The next day I really like the idea of taking a shower, I’ve only taken 1 in over 2 weeks at this point. We get breakfast and charge, finally the winery folks call us back and they can pick us up and let us shower and charge things! We buy ocotillo flower wine and plum wine and I have a few beers from the brewers, we get pretty buzzed while eating thawed out chicken fun nuggets, listening to crazy sax music and watching Judy Tenuta vids and writing poems. Ray from the winery said he’d be back around 3 but actually it takes later and we’re not on trail until well after 6…um, we don’t even care at this point. Thanks for the shower! Yo- hikers, stay here in Pine in their awesome yurt. But call earlier than like 7pm like we did- whoops.
We hike together again the next day but then I lose them, make a plan to meet up after like 30 miles, but I don’t see them? I think they went off trail a mile to this ranger station with water and chargers, we just charged, it’s 8:30pm, F that. I’ll prolly see them the next day, but I never do again. Kinda bummed.
Anyway this all is on my mind as I head into Flag where I hope I can get some vittles, and a ride up to the Grand Canyon. I decided not to repeat the other section, as I hiked it within the last couple months, and I’m short on time. I get a ride with a dude and his two sons who I read about in Wired’s blog of the Sierra High Route, which I’m hiking later this summer. He’s friends with Rockin’ who is a bada$$ hiker whose home range is the Sierras. They even buy me a beer when we get up to the GC! I also buy a slightly overpriced pizza. I can’t eat much then, but it makes an amazing breakfast the next day.
I’m able to get a permit for Cottonwood camp finally at 10am the next day. Woot! Time to hit the south Kaibab trail. I make friends with a lady on the bus from Tuscon and we leapfrog each other down the incredibly windy trail. Yeah, this place is enough to make me forget all that dude nonsense, for sure! Just a place of awe, of communion with humanity. I’m the sort of person that doesn’t often read books twice, visit the same place over and over, but I for sure want to come here again and again. Just one of those places. The Eastern Sierras are another. Just so stoked and freaking out and talking to rando people on the trail. Sometimes I read or hear from hikers how they are annoyed by the masses. Hey there Ed Abbey- I agree, but disagree! When I see people who are just so amazed by all this Natureness, from all parts of the planet, I’m so happy.
At Phantom Ranch I take a break to get out of the heat for a few hours- there’s a heat wave and I only have 7 miles to go. A guy who leads hiking trips recognizes that I’m a “real hiker” and he buys me a beer. My buddy from Tucson buys me a beer as well. And I had already bought one, sooo…4pm drunk hikin outta the GC! Niiiice. I realize after about 100m I lost a pair of socks, um, oops, too lazy to turn around. Sucks tho- the ones I have left have giant holes in them. Also it’s supposed to snow maybe in next days?
The next morning’s climb out to the North Rim is not all that bad, lotta wind and a bit cool when I stop, but very, very awesome. So many redbuds, all in purple bloomin’ glory! Up on the North Rim I see the first two rim-to-rim-to-rimmers of the day, they’s crazy! It’s pretty windy and cold up top, I’ve got all my clothes on now. Also I seem to have shin splints again for reals? Ugh. I hobble and hobble forward, since I want to avoid the snow and rain if at all possible. Luckily this year there ain’t much snow north of the GC, it was a very dry winter. Which means more fires, ugh. Fingers crossed for yous guys. I manage to get to Jacob Lake where I crash on the 2nd day and it rains at night (heard there was snow back closer to the GC).
The last day I manage to have a good breakfast and still get to the border at 6pm, even with taking a zillion photos. Hey! Um- why does no one talk about the last 3 miles to the UT border? Some of the most spectacular hiking I’ve seen so far in Lyfe. Gets me so stoked to do the Hayduke portion of the Vagabond Loop in hopefully spring 2020. Rain forecasted again- it’s a lil cold and windy too, and all the campsites are taken – so I crash in one of the bathrooms. Sorry guyz. Like 3 days after I finished they put up an AZT end monument, just missed it! All I found was a sign for state line campground, and a sign for leaving UT on the road into the camp.
The next day I have a permit for Coyote Buttes – it’s supposed to rain here – what to do? I stick my thumb out thinking I will just hitch in whatever direction people are going. I actually get a ride to the Buttes with two retired travellers who are super cool. We explore together and it’s so amazing, and I feel really grateful to be doing it with other people. It starts hail-snowing and we head back to the car after our little 5 or so mile loop. A great way to end my AZT hike!
You know what’s not great? Trying to hitch for the next few hours. I got back to Stateline Campground around 9am. It’s snowing, then raining off and on. I decide just to wait in the covered area by the bathrooms. I hang out first with some Dutch travelers I met the day before, then with a lady named Sunshine hiking the Hayduke. It’s her first real thru other than setting the FKT on the Annapurna Circuit a year or two ago…on pace to have one of fastest times for Hayduke also, wow. She does a lot of endurance stuff like running, biking, climbing etc. This after doing the corporate thing and being like, meh. Oh, btw she’s like 32 and has done all this. Super inspiring.
Hitching literally from inside my sleeping bag isn’t working super well, natch. After a few hours I decide to take a ride up to the campground a mile or two north, where I’m told there’s better hitching. Yeah, so this campground is super not protected from the wind and rain, at all. Another hour goes by and I successfully plead for a ride to the main highway between Kanab, UT, and Page, AZ. Another half hour, a ride to Paria outpost. Then finally a ride to Page where I give up around 6:30 for burgers. I book the Holiday Inn on points and hope I can get a ride the next day down to Flag. This was my longest hitching ever! Yikes.
I drag myself to the highway again near a gas station- at least it’s sunny today! I make a sign and get a ride in 10 minutes. Yeah, this is how it’s supposed to be. The guy is heading all the way to Flag to find out from his laundry person, who has been incarcerated for beating up her ex boyfriend, where his clothes are. Fuk yeah ‘mer’ka.
I check into the Grand Canyon hostel and meet Kodak! It’s a lil awkward as it’s all like, yo, I know you but you don’t really know me? I guess he’d heard of me somewhere along the grapevine. I tell him of my plan to hit up goodwill for non-stinky clothes for the plane, he is super down. We stop at this bike shop first to see if they can fix his bag, it takes forever tho and he is super prolonging his conversations with them, it’s pretty awkward. While walking towards goodwill he realizes he should just ride there since his crashpad for the night is nearby. I wait and have a beer at a bar. Realize goodwill is closing in like 10. That’s fine, I actually have the next day. What annoys me is when I see Kodak come up, sorta look at me, and then sorta park his bike, then not, then just leave, without saying anything. Um. Another person I never see again!
Anyhoots- the next day I walk to Goodwill and it’s amazzzzing! The first one is one-a those guys-a that weighs by the pound. I get a pair of leggings, a satin set of pj’s, and a Mexican embroidered bag to put everything in for $1.50. Then get a sexy bikini to attract Jersey Shore trash on beach forays at another thrift store down the street.
I go to the airport eventually and decide to celebrate by drinking throughout the way. I’ve never done this before, somehow the underwhelming ending (hiking was amaze, but then no one really to celebrate with) and lingering hurt from ghosting, and going back to the grind. But I get a couple nice poems pumped out, have a cool conversation with some workers in the PHX airport, listen to some Beyonce with them, it’s all good. I’m pretty happy my next trip, even if it’s shorter, is just 2 months away. At this point in my life I definitely still need this, even if I’m growing some roots I think.