It wasn’t even much of a toss up – quarantine at home or on the trail….
My daughter shares my spirit for traveling and experiencing. Like me, her passport’s seen a lot of use. She also followed in my footsteps as a Rotary Exchange Student – me to Somero, Finland, her to Grenoble, France. But in reality her sense of adventure far exceeds mine!
Two years ago, she found a passion: hiking. I don’t profess to understand it. I don’t dislike nature, but I don’t like being wet and muddy when it rains. I’m not into sleeping on the ground, I’m into sleeping in an actual bed with an actual roof. Not showering or having indoor plumbing for days is absolutely NOT my thing. But good for her, she LOVES it and gets to experience the world in a far different way than I ever have!
Last summer, she and her boyfriend, Avery, spent four months hiking part of the Appalachian Trail, and this spring they spent a large part of the pandemic hiking the Arizona Trail.
The AZT, as it’s called, runs 800 miles (1287 km) from the Mexican border at Montezuma Pass to the border of Utah and Arizona. It traverses the mountain ranges of the (Santa) Catalinas, the Huachucas, and the Rincons…all in the first 200 miles. AZT is designated as a scenic trail, and the first 200 miles covers the Mexican border to Tucson.
Here the ‘wall’ is a simple fence with a simple marker for both border and trailhead. The journey to Patagonia – the next town with facilities and supplies – is 51 miles (82 km) and begins close to Miller Peak Wilderness area, in the Huachucas.
Miller Peak is the highest and most southern peak in the United States. Altitude here is similar to an 832-story building, about 9400 ft (2865 m) in elevation — hence snow in Arizona!
This small town is a reminder of the old wild west in its architecture, but the locals were very friendly and not outlaw-like at all! 😊 The food was more authentic Mexican cuisine than what we are accustomed to here in PA, and the RV park provided much-needed running water for hot showers that felt fabulous on aching muscles. Plus, the foothills were good practice for the more rugged Rincon Mountains that lay ahead…
Vail into Tucson
After a three-day hike from Patagonia, the high-end suburb of Vail came into view. A short Uber ride into town to resupply, and then two days of rest before tackling the next leg of the trail. Vail to Saguaro is a single-day hike, taking a path through Colossal Cave Mountain Park.
Saguaro National Forest
The beautiful Saguaro cacti grow naturally only within the Sonoran Desert, just outside the Rincons. As high as 60 feet tall, Native Americans used them as construction materials once the cacti died. The cactus is not yet considered ‘endangered’, but there are very strict regulations for harvesting, collecting, and destroying the plant. The Saguaro National Park Boundary and part of the trail where the cacti grow wild are below, and in this area, the Rincons begin to give way to the Catalina Mountains.
Oracle – where the mountains end
Oracle lies just outside of Tucson, and this is where the Catalina mountains end. Seriously, they just end. Not like a gradual slope into a lovely meadow, but a sharp drop off into the town of Oracle. In the distance lie the Tortolita Mountains, another 5 miles of walking.
Just thinking about walking these 200 miles in the Arizona heat makes me feel hot and tired, but just looking at their faces in that first picture tells me how happy it makes them! Stay tuned for Part II — the next 200 miles from Tucson to Superior, coming soon.