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The Start: Arizona Trail Edition




What is Jackie up to?

I have been dreaming of hiking the Arizona Trail (AZT) for about three years now and planning this adventure for the last year. The AZT is a long, mountain bike and hiking trail spanning from the Mexico border to the Utah border (and yes, it includes a Rim-to-Rim of the Grand Canyon in the final stage—I couldn't get enough two years ago!). I plan to average about 25-27 miles per day and carry a pack with all my survival needs weighing around 25 lbs depending on how much water I carry.




I've hiked long hikes and dabbled in ultra running, but this AZT adventure is in a new category of challenge for me. I will begin the first few miles with friends, Mile Marker and Maxi, but after a few hours, I will be on my own completely as we have different itineraries and goals. This will be, by far, the longest endurance event I have attempted solo, and I believe I have a 50% chance of “succeeding.”

The biggest challenges I will face are very long days, cold nights, potential loneliness, heat/sun exposure, dryness, lung issues (like what happened in the Grand Canyon 2 years ago), and my body not holding up (I've had my fair share of injuries in the last 5 months, so I'm not in my best shape... at all...).



I haven’t prepared for this hike. I have known I wanted to attempt it, but my research and training was minimal at best. I figured I would have the time on the trail to get in shape and learn about what I’m up against. I’m no pro hiker, so yes, this will be extremely challenging for me. The AT was 6 years ago and the CT 5 years ago. I’ve backpacked a week here and there since, but 800 miles of Arizona desert will be no joke and I will suffer.






However, I find it important to push myself every now and again, so while I'm nervous and realistic about my potential "failure," I also know I will grow in immeasurable ways by putting myself in a situation I'm not sure I can handle. 

If you feel like following my progress, you can track my GPS tracker here.




Day 1: Mexico border to Parker Canyon 24.8 miles

Omg. Woke up so tired. We accidentally woke up an hour early bc Madeline didn’t have location services turned on her android and Arizona doesn’t participate in daylight savings. So, instead of waking up at 6:00 am, we woke up at 5:00 am. We didn’t even realize it until we were up and at it at 5:15 am. We began to have coffee and get dressed. Mile Marker (Madeline) texted our trail angel shuttle driver to ask if it would be possible to go a little early (our original pick up time was 6:45 am). We never heard anything and at 6:40 we began to get nervous. Joelle had also picked up fuel for us, so we began to make a plan B. Finally at 6:46 Joelle confirmed she was in the lobby of the Hampton Inn, so we rushed down. We moved slowly packing up the car, got gas, and drove to the trailhead.




I had hoped to be walking by 7:00 am as I had a huge day ahead of me, including tons of elevation and a 4,000 foot climb right off the bat.

When we arrived at the drop off trailhead, Madeline announced we had a 1.7 mi backtrack hike to the border. My lack of preparedness was surprised by this, but I could adjust and just have a longer day and hike into the night if needed.







We hiked down 1.7 miles to the Mexico border, got angry at the partial wall that was built there, took photos in the wind at the monument and trekked back to the parking lot. Mile Marker and I had dropped our packs for this out and back section. We picked up our packs and headed out. 5k complete. Hundreds more to go.

We began the huge ascent and I naturally separated from Maxi (Nick) and Mile Marker (Madeline). I was on my own now.



The morning was cold! We were high up in elevation (climbed up to 9k or 10k feet!) . I should have stopped to put on more layers but I kept thinking the weather would change soon enough. Eventually it did.

During the big climb, I noticed some wheezing in my lungs at the end of my inhalations.










SNOW! Forest bathing! Even a few aspens! The smell of pine was so refreshing and comforting.


I peed a lot. Like too much. Didn’t think much of it and thought I was maybe over-hydrated.

Knee from previous fall in December in Arkansas started hurting. I had severely bruised my femur and couldn’t even run for 10 weeks leading up to the hike. It hurt like 25% of the day intermittently, but I just hiked through it.



Left hip hurts a LOT when I’m not hiking. No pain while walking, but random movements when I’m getting water or anything else it hurts. 8 out of 10. This is an old recurring running injury. Hopefully it goes away with all the climbing and glut activation like it did two years ago in the Grand Canyon.

Bunion on my left big toe that caused me to take a year off climbing is a bit sore, but ok.

Hip bones are bruising from hip belt on pack.

Blisters on toes developed (mild and will be okay). I stopped at 3:00 pm to air out my feet and wrap toes in wool to stave further blister issues. The toes don’t bother me while I’m hiking, but they are very tender to the touch.




Verizon wireless welcomed me to Mexico and I proceeded to be connected to TELCEL for the times I was able to hop on the network, lol.

Scenery was GORGEOUS ALL DAY! Taking so many picture breaks definitely slowed me down, but the beauty throughout the day was stunning!


I did some running here and there and definitely some slow strolling. I don’t have a rhythm yet and I’m not used to working out this much! I’m out of shape and my body is feeling it. I wanted to stop about 5 miles before I did. The last bit was a mixture of surges and singing out loud to slow walking and looking at the FarOut app to see how much further I had to go. This daily mileage pace is going to be very hard on my body.

Arrived at camp at 7:00 pm in the dark. There were some families camping, but luckily they went to sleep when I did. It was nice to have a little human contact at the end of the day.

Beans and rice needs flavor and salt. It was so bland. I am CRAVING salt. My meal man does not include enough salt and this is a problem.

Fel


l asleep by 9:00 pm to the sound of the little stream in Parker Canyon.

Day 2

Passed 9 AZT thru hikers. HOT and sunny day. Synced up with Honey Locust (another hiker) at a water stop. I soaked my feet and hung out for a bit. We left together luckily as we helped each other through a bushwhack section where we lost the trail. My legs got very cut up by a new thorny bush plant while bushwhacking. OUCH.



I later dropped him and pressed on. There were many cattle gates to walk through with various latch styles. The comments on FatOut about the gates keep me laughing.

There isn’t much water. I am noticing I am hoarding water because the uncertainty as me a bit anxious. I’m still figuring out this trail.

The sights and flora were spectacular.


I soaked my feet three times and it was so worth it every time.





Saw Honey Locust one last time at the final water stop (a cattle tank). He was going to camp there along with Particle and Fancy Dan. I decided to press on 1.5 more miles to a higher point with cell service. The sun was still out and I was still feeling good.

Set up camp just past a dirt road crossing and this was my first night to camp alone. I had a harder time falling asleep tonight as my mind was racing. I had turned on my cell phone and was overwhelmed with emails and texts. I needed to make a real game plan for the next few weeks to get my resupply boxes in order and figure out my daily mileage plan. I worked on my phone in the tent.

Had a tough time eating my bland beans and rice. It was a chore to get it all down. Needs flavor and salt. I peed a TON today too. I’m not retaining water as my electrolytes are not in balance. Tomorrow I head into town to get a resupply box I mailed to myself and I will buy some chips.

Sleep around 10:00 pm.













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