October 7th, 2019
Arizona Trail Northern Terminus mm 0 to Orderville Trailhead mm 27
Distance in miles: 27 plus 1.5 walked on road to trailhead.
We’re up early to cram breakfast and coffee before we try to hitch a ride to the trailhead. Stellar makes awesome omelettes using the leftover Caprese salad I made from the night before. We say goodbye to our wonderful trail angels and hosts. Richard drops us off just outside of town. It’s still dark and we stand in the cold, having no luck. It’s hard to get a hitch to the middle of nowhere.
After about an hour, a truck pulls over. Two workers are on their way to Page and can drop us off at the dirt road that goes south to the trailhead. The guys talk in broken English about some of their trials and tribulations in the US. I just marvel at how despite this, they generously give us a ride. They are trying to keep a low profile and giving us a ride doesn’t exactly serve this purpose. It’s often the people that can least afford to give free rides that offer them.
Once on the dirt road, I know we have an even better chance of getting a ride most of the 10 miles to the trailhead. We walk for about 15 minutes until the first vehicle to come by, a sprinter van, stops to pick us up. A couple, both tattoo artists, are traveling around the country and have scored permits to the Wave. I love meeting people with so many varied backgrounds while I’m hitching. It’s part of the fun.
From the Wave trailhead, we walk the rest of the way to the AZT terminus. There’s a campground there and a father who happens to be wondering by with his kids. We ask him to take some beginning photos and comically, the kids want to be in the pictures, too. We invite them in…a trail monument photo-bombed by 3 adorable boys and their dog. It’s great. Such a happy, go-lucky beginning.
Somehow we’ve accumulated several kids and a dog for the AZT start. My, our trail family grew quickly!
The trail starts off with easy switchbacks up a hill. Then we snake up a small canyon and behind us are good views of the Vermilion Cliffs. We walk the rest of the day on a vast plateau, rising a few thousand feet in elevation. We started at less then 5,000′ but end up around 7500′. The temperature remains pretty pleasant throughout the day and I barely sweat.
We stop to have lunch after about 10 miles. In another few miles, we find 2 full bags of snacks on the side of the trail, with no explanation or markings. We assume that they’re up for grabs and I discover a Peach Bobo…one of my favorite bars. Just then, a thru-hiker appears from the bushes and I fear he’s the owner of the snacks, coming back to retrieve them. But no, he’s just coming back from a water tank, which we thought was dry. It’s great to meet this NOBO, who can tell us about good water locations.
We collect some water, our first source since we started, then come back to eat more free snacks. Afterwards, we run into our first SOBO on the trail. He’s an older gentleman and is on day 2 of the AZT. I didn’t expect to see anyone this first day and in a short time we’ve seen 2.
We hike on, having only 11 miles to go to get to a water cache. But the days are getting so short, it will be dark just after 6 pm on this new time standard (AZ doesn’t observe DST). We get to the highway and cache just as it’s getting dark. The surroundings are perfect for a stealth camp, with luxurious flat spots under the ponderosas. Water, flat duff, and a pit toilet…I’m in heaven. Except that the pit toilet’s already locked for the winter…booo. Oh well, it’s an exceptionally good day for the start of the AZT!