Sunday, February 14, 2010

100 Miles on the Arizona Trail

Chris had a work gig in Albuquerque last week, so we decided to make a road trip out of it in order to take advantage of the opportunity to run some supported miles on my next long-distance trail project:  the Arizona Trail!  The AZT runs about 800 miles, the length of the state--in the normal zig-zaggy trail way as opposed to a straight line, of course--from Mexico to Utah.  Since the first segment included the snow covered 9,000+ foot Miller Peak in the Huachuca Range, I'd decided to start with the second section, about 20 miles north of the border.  The previous day a USFS ranger had informed me that to not see drug smugglers or other illegals would be the exception.  He continued, saying they'd most likely try to avoid me but also cautioned "Where there are drugs, there are weapons."  (O_O)  As we drove to the AZT crossing at the start of section 2, the vibe felt increasingly BAD--I would be mostly solo on the trail until Chris intercepted me, running south.  Upon reaching the beginning of that section, I was sufficiently wigged out (Chris probably more so) to suggest starting at the beginning of section 3, probably not much safer in reality, but I felt better about it and feel that one should always respect their intuition.  (So far, so good.)  As we drove further north, I mused that there's often not much of a line between bravery and stupidity.  Border patrol vehicles were a frequent sight as were signs such as this one.  Whoopie!

In 4 days--2 halves and 2 fulls--I met a total of just 5 hikers and 3 horseback riders.  I'd previously not spent much time in the Sonoran desert.  It was splendid this time of the year!  Mornings were crisp and invigorating, usually hovering at just below freezing, but within a couple of hours temps warmed up to the 60s so shorts were quite comfortable.  The cacti were incredible, with more than a dozen varieties evident. Many animal tracks were seen but, sadly, not many wild animals.  There were a lot of cattle (grrr!).  The AZT is still a relatively new long-distance hiking trail; in fact, just last year was it designated a National Scenic Trail.  It is also intended to be a primitive trail; consequently, it is lightly marked, generally only at junctions, with hardly any "confidence markers."  This isn't the Appalachian Trail!  Fortunately, although educated guesses were required in a couple of spots, I didn't get lost or off course.  (Well, there was one time, but I figured it out...)  It was one of the rare instances where I carried a compass and actually used it; no high-tech GPS gadgetry here... 


I got in only 19 miles the first day, Super Bowl Sunday (not that we watched), before a deluge of precip thwarted any desire to go beyond the awesome little town of Patagonia, yet another destination to add to my growing list of 'Places I Could Live for a Year.'  It poured nearly all afternoon and made the next road access impossible with our 2WD Element.  (Secretly I welcomed the afternoon's rest because my hip flexors were screaming after cross country skiing in Los Alamos a couple of days prior.)  The second day was a nice 34 miles through the Santa Rita Mountains and Mt. Wrightson Wilderness and also some of the first and last miles of the Old Pueblo 50 mile course, a race I ran in 2006.  The third day was 28 miles to just north of I-10 (top photo).  Because the Rincons and snow-covered Santa Catalinas were going to be problematic as far as crew access, we decided to stop there and drive around to the other side via Tucson.  Oracle is another unique little town and sometime home of one Edward Abbey, among my favorite of writers.  It was the first time I've ever spent the night in an A-frame (oh, so 70s!) BUT the second time in my life that I've gotten "Room 1."  Hee hee!  This place was inexpensive, cozy, and warm.  I wanted to spend another night!  Alas, we had to get back to California... but not before getting in 15 more miles on the Oracle Ridge section of the AZT.  Only 700 more miles to go..


On the way home we did a drive-through of Joshua Tree National Park and got in a quick hike up Ryan Mountain.  Love that place!  We returned home to perfect weather and got in a lovely 19 miler in Point Mugu State Park yesterday.  The flowers are blooming, the meadows are greening up, arms and legs were bare.  It feels like June in New England...

2 comments:

ultrastevep said...

Hi Sue....

Now the AZT? Very nice! I wish we were living back in NM, I'd come and join you for some miles...
I think it's time for you to do what Deb is about to do....buy a gun for protection. You can get a Glock 9mm and have a shoulder holster, which would at least scare off any bad people trying to attack you while in the more southern section of the AZT!

Hi to Chris,
Steve (and Deb)

davidultra49 said...

Hey Sue, The new adventure sounds exciting. Nothing like drug smugglers to make an already difficult task like running through the Sonoran desert that much more of a challenge. Were you still interested in coming out to the Kokopelli Trail in May? I'm making my attempt on May 1ST.If you shoot me your e-mail I can send you some details. My e-mail is davidultra49@yahoo.com. Have fun and stay safe out there girl. Later

Dave