23.86 miles. Two days. 4862 feet of elevation gain. 59,300 steps. Passage 1 of the Arizona Trail is officially completed!
I got up at 3 AM and drove 3 1/2 hours to Parker Canyon Lake where a friend of mine picked me up and drove me to the Coronado national memorial park. He drop me off at Montezuma pass where I met Rick and Jess, a father and daughter who were beginning there through hike of the AZT! We chatted for a few minutes and then I tossed my pack behind the wall so I could take the quick hike down to the border where the trail officially starts.
I got to stand in Mexico for two minutes! I didn’t have my passport! Fortunately, the border patrol people must’ve been looking the other way. 🙄
After I took a selfie in front of the border Monument, I made the climb back up to Montezuma pass where, happily, I found my pack in the same spot that I left it.
After a quick break, I strapped on my pack and headed for the crest Trail to make the long climb to Miller peak, 3500 feet of elevation gain. Almost immediately, I was passed by a border patrol agent and two Army Rangers.
I climbed and climbed up and climb some more on the trail full of switchbacks. I saw a couple of abandoned copper mines and very surprisingly caught up to the Army Rangers! I could not believe it! But God had a plan. We hiked together for about a mile and when we came around the backside of the mountain, there were two enormous trees that had fallen over the trail. It took some effort to climb over these trees and there was no other way to go around them. It was awfully handy to have a couple of men who lent me a hand getting over those trees! Very serendipitous! After those trees, those boys got in front of me and I lost sight of them and did not see them again, which makes me wonder if they were even real. Maybe they were angels.
When I finally reached the top of that mountain, I was over 9000 feet high, the highest I have ever been with my feet touching the ground. I took my pack off for a 15 minute break, Broke out the cliff bars and the beef sticks, took some photos, and I said out loud, “Lord it would be awesome if I ran into Rick and Jess again.” Put my pack on again and proceeded to go over the hill and who do you think I ran into!? Oh yes! Rick and Jess! I ended up hiking with them for most of the rest of the day!
When we finally got to a point in the trail where we were actually going down, they decided they wanted to get into Sunnyside Canyon by 5 PM. Not only are they hikers, they’re also trail runners so they’re able to hike up to 5 mph. I let them go around me and they said they can meet me lower on the trail.
So I pressed on. At one point I got to a trail Junction, took my pack off again for another break, and heard a funny noise. I couldn’t decide if it was a bird I was hearing or a person pretending to be a bird. Being so Close to Mexico, you never know if you will run into somebody crossing the border illegally. I quickly put my pack back on and made a beeline down the trail before I could scare myself silly.
On and on I went down the trail. The sun was getting lower. The trail is getting darker. He told the Lord I just wanted to get low enough and to a level spot to pop up my tent. Oh and it would be great to run into Rick and Jess again. I came down around a switchback and came upon a flock of turkeys! The biggest turkeys I’ve ever seen! I said hello to the turkeys and I carefully move through their flock. And just as I passed through the flock Who do you think I saw!? Yes that’s right!
Rick and Jess were setting up their campsite. I asked if they minded if I joined them. They welcomed me. Rick was filled with tips for backpacking. And experienced hiker and backpacker, He showed me how to hang my bag from a tree limb so critters wouldn’t get into my food. I had a great time with them.
The night was quite cold so I bundled up in my sleeping bag. I slept pretty good and I was up at 5 AM to break down my tent and hit the trail by 6 AM. I wrote a note to Rick and Jess and a Gospel of John telling them to text me when they got near Phoenix if they needed anything at all. I talked the gospel into Rick’s boot, Strapped on my pack and hit the trail for the last 8 miles to the trailhead.
The day was beautiful. I found some water and filled my Nalgene jar. By now the trail turned into what appeared to be an old mining road. As I came down the mountain, the road kept crossing a dry stream bed until it became a road running through pasturelands where I encountered cows! I said hello to the cows and I asked them not to mind me passing through, that I meant them no harm. They looked at me and ran the other way.
I reached the trailhead at 10 AM, did a little victory dance, and hiked The extra mile back to my car. I pulled out my change of clothes and went into the bathroom to discover I was caked in dirt. Ha ha!
What an adventure! I can’t wait for the next backpacking trip!
189 miles down, 891 miles to go. 1000 miles for MercyShips!