Through serendipity and much generous help from new and old friends, we started at the southern terminus of the AZT, which is found at the Mexico border.
Steve celebrated with his classic pose:
After the odyssey to get to the trail from our home in Ohio, which was a fabulous journey in its own right, we both were so excited to finally just start hiking.
The Huachua mountains greeted us right away and offered us a steady, steep hike up, up, up with extreme buffeting winds. At Bear Saddle, the winds were so strong, so chilly and so powerful we had to concentrate just to keep our footing. It was this power and this weather that spoke to some inner, subconscious part of me and I could not quit smiling - the huge wide mouthed kind that makes sensitive-teeth people like me wince, but I simply could not stop - and then the giggles started in. Yes, giggles....crazy town giggles. I almost started yelling from some primal place inside me, but by this point Steve was watching me closely. 😄 I found such delight in the incredible power of Mother Nature and so this became one of those moments I tucked safely into a very sacred place in my memory and heart. The trip could have ended at this moment because I received immediately what I sought, but I'm glad it kept going a bit longer.
The wet AZ winter gave us precious, life giving water everywhere. Sometimes it was hard to trust if that water would be there so we always carried lots, but this year, it pooled and cascaded from the desert in all manners of springs, streams, rocks, and depressions. What a gift to witness this life changing force.
The water made every desert plant bloom this year and we got to savor the sweetly scented, blooming Manzanita, which bees adored.
The Arizona Trail goes up and over many mountain ranges, so it is a challenging trail physically and mentally, but traversing so many different ecosystems - thanks to changes in elevation and moisture - is very, very cool. We are still in the high country below as evidenced by the big pines.
Notice the change in vegetation with low junipers and scrub oaks as we descend...
Grasslands take hold in landscapes usually too dry for trees and in lands that are not overgrazed, the grasses persist and thrive and make for striking visual landscapes alive with so many grassland dependent animals.
The lower elevations meant no more post-holing and slipping and sliding on trail snow, but it meant hot temperatures (20 degrees above normal at times) and intense sunshine so we both utilized and appreciated our lightweight umbrellas.
The town of Patagonia offered us our first resupply, showers and non-trail food. It's an eclectic town well worth a visit especially when winter gets too much in the northern parts of the country.
Serendipity worked its magic on the trail too and a big piece, not yet mentioned, though through this whole time they were woven into our experience, are new friends: Deborah and Bill. We met Deborah in the Huachucas after she hiked in several miles with their friend Terri to send her boyfriend Bill on his way. She told us to watch for Bill and that he just had knee surgery five weeks prior. WOW. Knee surgery? You would never know; this boy can hike (and climb and design and fly and on and on and on)! He offered us, not only the amazing leukotape for blisters and knee pain help for me, but great conversation and an easy, comfortable, happy friendship....just like that.
Deborah met up with us off and on during our shared time and hiked with Bill and included us in all the support she gave Bill. (She would have been there the whole time if her knee hadn't told her no.) That meant, car lifts when coming into town, pack lifts, fresh, local vegetarian tamales (one of my most favorite foods on the planet), all sorts of food goodness (she is a fantastic cook as you would have to be to cook for oodles of hungry peeps on Colorado River trips), great conversation, excitement about life and nature and water. A fellow Cancer and hence, deeply drawn to water, look at the magic Deborah discovered...
We LOVE these people!
This sort of serendipity plus the simplicity of life on the trail is why we keep going back. Food, water, shelter and experiences...that's life distilled on the trail.
Kentucky Camp is magic. That's all I will say other than if you hike the trail, end your day here.
The caretaker welcomed us, made us laugh, made us feel at home and gave us such a wonderful break. Thank you.
Of course, Steve forgot his sun umbrella made him a bit wider than normal. ha!
Bill usually hiked with us for a while, then his quicker pace took him onward. Our longer hiking days usually reunited us with him at the end of the day. We won't ever forget one night at dark finding him in a dry streambed intercepting us, with his camp all set up a ways out and saying to us: "It's about time you kids got home." ❤
Ah, the desert, the blooms. Happy, happy.
Full Worm Moon, March 12. This night is forever in our memory too. The full moon and mountains and grasslands filled all our hearts with such gratitude.
Bill in the distance under the same big, beautiful moon....
Our sleeping mats and bags were the only things that separated us from Mother Earth. Imagine waking in the night and opening your eyes and seeing billions of stars and shadows of mountains and hearing contented, rustlings of critters and hootings of owls and not just thinking, but understanding deeply you are part of this whole huge connected web of life. My body responded in a very feminine way to this energy and this was moment two that I tucked away into my very sacred place in heart and memory.
We loved this hike...
and we also decided the full 800 mile hike on a timeline was not for us. We discovered we like to hike less than 15-20 miles a day so we have time to see, explore and savor. This trail showed us what we do and don't want in our backpacking trips and for that, we are forever grateful for all 125 miles on the AZT. Lessons in flexibility, resiliency and inspiration lay in our lifelong dream of long trail hiking and they of course, came in a way we didn't expect, but that is life and therein lies the importance of living dreams and not just dreaming dreams.
Next post we will share what we did next through a bunch more serendipitous moments that landed us in this van:
(Can you believe this giant van was our ticket to our car? It's wrong and right in so many ways.)
Steve made some great, short You Tube videos from the AZT that you don't want to miss: