The past days had been a mix of leading people on day hikes, backpacking with one person or another and interacting with a bunch of people at the Gateway Community events in Sierra Vista and Patagonia. What a wonderful thing to have been able to reach so many people just weeks into my journey.
Added into this mix were interviews for various media outlets and a visit with my dad, brother and his girlfriend who were in from Chicago. All in all, this meant I hadn’t had any time to myself yet on the trail.
This wasn't just any piece of trail to me. I had been on the very first crew out here in October 2007 when the Las Colinas passage was just a line of flagging tape and pin flags in the middle of the desert. My trail crew, The Crazies, built trail every other Thursday for years, putting in thousands of volunteer hours to make the Arizona Trail a reality.
It’s so nice to be alone on the trail— people ask me if I get scared and I often reply that I am as comfortable out here as I am in my living room: just myself and whatever it is that I want to do.
For example, in one canyon, I came across the most adorable horned lizard, colored perfectly to match its surroundings. I picked him up and spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of it and then holding it in my hand. I pet its scaly back, and it flattened into my hand and fell asleep. If I’d been hiking with a group, I might have taken a picture and moved on, missing this wonderful interaction.
As I descended in elevation from oaks and junipers to prickly pear and mesquites, more and more wildflowers appeared. I was stopped in my tracks by a hillside of yellow desert mariposa lilies and the trail was lined with pink and white fairy duster. It also got quite a bit hotter and set off my allergies. You see, I’m allergic to the desert I love so much. I can’t even have most of the plants touch my skin or I break out in a rash. Oh well, that’s what long pants, long sleeves and allergy medication is for.
I hadn’t gotten on the trail until the afternoon because I had to do a video shoot in the morning for the video for the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, but I still managed to make decent miles. I weighed my camping options and decided to stop before the end of the passage in a valley that shielded me from Highway 83 and the houses nearby. It was right around mile 100 of the trail, according to the maps and my data book. I was treated to a spectacular sunset and a view of the Rincons and Catalinas, the next mountains ahead.
The next morning, I got on the trail with 15 miles to go until my pickup point at Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Trailhead north of I-10. I planned on zipping through it and being done by early afternoon. That was, until I met Terry.
I’d hiked a couple of miles to Twin Tanks and heard a horse. There was a camp underneath the tree and a man waved and said, “Come say hi!” So I did. Terry was also doing the whole Arizona Trail at once, on horseback. He’d started three weeks ago and was taking his time up the state with his two horses and two dogs. He made us both a cup of coffee and I spent three whole hours visiting with him, trading stories with a fellow traveler on the Arizona Trail.
Eventually, I had to move on to make it to Gabe Z. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to have any problems finding Passage 7. After all, I had written the description for this passage and the next in the new guidebook, “Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail.” It’s also pretty flat, and winds through ocotillo, creosote and mesquite flora.
The weather was overcast, and I even got rained on for a little bit nearing I-10. I had my big wildlife encounter of the trip so far— five deer crossed my path right before the I-10 underpass.
I crossed under I-10 and as I hiked along the rim of Davidson Canyon, the ground was covered in tiny flowers that turned the desert yellow. I could see the green cottonwoods of Cienega Creek Natural Preserve ahead and knew I was nearing the trailhead.
The Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Trailhead is a special place on the Arizona Trail, another piece that I helped to build. Zimmerman, a 30-year-old aide to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was killed along with five others in the January 8, 2011 Tucson shootings that injured Giffords and a dozen others. The trailhead and interpretive trail celebrates his life, love of the outdoors and the Arizona Trail.
I was happy to see my dad waiting for me at the trailhead; he’s been such a great support these past two weeks. I have a couple of days off to spend at home, and then the Arizona Trail Trek begins again. Come Saturday morning, I will hike with a big group of people from the Gabe Z. Trailhead into Colossal Cave for a full day of activities. Then, in the evening I’ll be at the La Sevilla Campground for an evening of entertainment by Eb’s Camp Cookin’, food by It’s Greek to Me, and Arizona Trail Ale by the campfire.
What an experience the Arizona Trail Trek has been so far, I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.
I hope you’ll continue to follow along with me to hear about my adventures in the Rincons and Catalinas, or even join me on this incredible adventure unfolding over the next few months across the state of Arizona!
Sirena Dufault is excited for the opportunity to hike the more than 800-mile long Arizona Trail. Her mission is to spread the word about all the amazing experiences this trail has to offer. Sirena is a part of the Arizona Office of Tourism’s Guest Blogger program. To learn more about this exciting opportunity, or to apply, please visit: arizonaguide.com/guest-blogger