Twig Adventures

AZT Day 34: The Hiking Season that Finally Ended

November 9th, 2019

Bathtub Spring mm 780.5 to USA-Mexican Border mm 788.6

Distance in miles: 8.1

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(An aside, this long-overdue post is about my last day on the AZT and of a very long 2019 hiking season. Between the CDT and AZT, I calculated that I hiked around 3,500 miles. This is not including all the day hiking and short segments I did in Florida and Colorado, which probably brings my total to around 3,800 miles. I will follow up with summary posts but in the meantime, enjoy this last day, as I did).

It’s very quiet overnight and I have one of the best night’s sleep, ever. I’m right about the condensation though. My tent hasn’t been this wet inside and out in over a month. It’s not the worst though and I know everything will dry very quickly when I air it mid-day. The trail is also wet. The overgrowth leaves condensation all over my legs and for the first time on the AZT, I have slightly wet feet. We climb just a little ways and come to a trail junction leading to Miller Peak at 9466′. It’s only another half mile to the top and we have tons of time, so heck yeah, let’s do another side trip. Getting up to this highest point for the entire Arizona Trail is the perfect way to finish this hike.

What a great decision since the views at the top are some of the best. The sun has just come up and the clouds are beautiful. Sky islands dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. I almost feel like I can see where I started the CDT in the New Mexico bootheel, only about 100 miles distant. Looking at all the mountains to the south, we feel compelled to keep going. Too bad politics and strife make that impossible. I’m so lucky to live a country where I can hike freely and safely for so many thousands of miles. There’s really no other place on earth where one can so easily see all these magnificent landscapes, walk seemingly endless trails and enjoy living in the wilderness relatively worry-free, especially as a solo female. This, walking through so much of the country, has made me proud to be an American.

I’d like to stay up here awhile longer but it’s a little too chilly. We head down down down towards the trailhead at Montezuma pass. The trail continues to be overgrown but all the switchbacks cut into the rock indicate it’s a trail that’s been established for a long time. There are remnant slabs of concrete at the top of the peak, so I assume the trail was built to access the former structure…perhaps an old fort or lookout for the nearby army base?

At the pass, we commandeer some picnic tables in order to explode our packs and yard-sale our gear. It feels good to spread it all out…the last time I will have to do so. I make some coffee, using the last of my gas canister. I text Jon and nail down our rendezvous. He wants to meet us with beers at the border but we’re not sure if he can make it from the road to the trailhead. We’ll find out shortly. We relax at the scenic overlook, watching tourists come and go. This delayed finish feels a bit off but then so did this whole hike. I’m not feeling the overwhelming joy and sense of accomplishment that came at the end of the PCT. Maybe it’s just been a little too much after the CDT. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to combine them. The CDT experience was very overpowering…perhaps I needed more separation to give the AZT its own special timeline. Regardless, it’s been a lot of fun and an interesting trail.

We decide to wait until Jon gets to the pass so that we can confirm our plans. He arrives along with his friend Randy, just as expected. Stellar and I begin the last mile+ down to the border while they try to drive the road. We can see this road from the pass and it looks like its good. The last bit of the trail goes by fast and we shortly come to the monument. It sits on the other side of a simple barbed-wire fence that has been cut and tied open, allowing easy access to the monument. It’s pretty funny to see this level of border “security” in times of the “wall.” They need to work on this section a little still, I guess.

Stellar and I take turns crawling through the fence and taking pictures. Unfortunately there is no one else to take pictures of us together…I really regret that we didn’t get a finisher photo of the both of us. The trail ends on top of a ridge and we can’t see down to where the border road is. We presume that’s where Jon is waiting for us or maybe he is trying to hike up to the monument? We’re not sure.

Looking west along the border, from the Mexican perspective, down towards where we hope to meet up with out ride….LOL, good thing we’re Americans!

Standing on the monument, I feel happy but very little else. For the second year in a row, I have hiked all the way from Canada to Mexico. But it doesn’t feel like it. This season has been a lot more drawn out and convoluted. But hey, I hiked all of the Arizona Trail and things do feel like they have come full circle since I first saw it a year ago, visiting Jon after finishing the PCT. I’m glad to have done it.

After a few pictures, my focus quickly changes to finding Jon. If we couldn’t all meet at the border, the plan was to hike back to the pass. We decide to deviate from our back-up plan and hike along the fence to where the road begins. It’s pretty easy going at first but then we see that the fence goes down a very steep hill. About the time that the road comes into view, we a paralyzed by a very close gunshot. Up until this point, the border seemed benign. Suddenly, we are picturing all sorts of scenarios about who might be shooting at us. Coyotes, border patrol, the Mexican army? No, it’s just some hunters shooting at a deer that our movements flushed. After figuring this out, we continue down the hill, noting that there is no white jeep waiting at the end of the road.

Not wanting to get in the line of fire of anymore hunters, we decide to just walk the road back to the pass. This will add many more miles but we hope to either get a text to Jon or get a ride from the hunters. We walk for a few miles along the border and then north where it turns back towards the pass. We do manage to get in touch with Jon, who drives back down from the pass to pick us up…at least he followed the back-up plan.

We finally get our finishing beers while Jon recounts the story of how he and Randy tried to walk up the hill but found it way too steep…I don’t blame them for giving up since Stellar and I could barely manage to stay upright coming down. Instead of meeting up with us, they met an AZT thru-biker named Dani, giving her a ride back up the pass. They tell her that they are looking for us and she knows who we are from the trail registries. In fact, she has been just a little bit behind all along and hoped to catch up and meet us before it was all over. I am surprised to hear that a bikepacker was trying to catch us all this time, though to her credit, she did take a week off along her journey.

On the way to Sierra Vista, we catch up to Dani along the road and share another beer with her. We all agree to met at a Mexican restaurant in town. There we find Lake Placid Dan (who we met on the trail about a week ago) plus another thru-hiker, Gardener. A trail angel named Dar drives from Tuscon to give them all a ride back to her house. She runs a hiker hut in her backyard. I wish that we could visit her too but at least we get to meet her at the restaurant. It’s a fun and festive way to celebrate the end of the trail.

Again, a huge thanks to Jon and Dar for being such great trail angels and helping us thru-hikers and bikers (reluctantly) find our way back to civilization. Jon even buys everyone lunch, despite a lot of protest. After lunch, we drive a few hours to his house, where I’ll be relaxing for a couple days. And that’s it. The Arizona Trail. About 800 miles, 34 days, and some of the best trail angels and magic in the universe. Thanks for sharing in the adventure.

 

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