The Arizona Trail

Part I: I don’t know what drew me to the Arizona Trail. Perhaps it was the fact that it is one of the few trails in the United States that you can start in February. I had met a few people on the PCT who had hiked the trail, but I went in with very little knowledge of what to expect. I began the trail with my friends Zach (Fievel) and Henri (Cous Cous), both of whom I met on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I am glad I went to Arizona. I got to hike a beautiful and well maintained trail. I enjoy off trail travel, but there is also something pretty relaxing about hiking along a well-maintained trail.

We started on February 26th, which is a little earlier then is typical. In order to avoid the high emissions of an airplane flight, I took the flixbus from Oakland to Tuscon, via Los Angeles. The 22 hour bus ride suprisingly only cost me $35.

I woke up early and walked from my van in Berkeley down to the BART station, and took the train over to the bus stop in Oakland. There is nothing like the feeling of setting out on a large journey. Soon I was being whisked through the central valley, down interstate 5 at 70mph. That I evening I was in Los Angeles. I enjoyed the two hour layover in Union Station, I spent the time exploring the various train platforms. Then the bus arrived to take me across the desert to Tuscon that night. Fragmented memories of waking up and seeing infinite desert on both sides only to be interrupted by a few minutes of sleep.

I felt fully alive upon arriving in Tuscon. Exhausted, and in a city I had never been to, but excited to begin a journey. I navigated the suburban, auto centric maze that is Tuscon and eventually got to the airport. I asked a local shopkeeper downtown about how to take the bus to the airport, but he reccomended I took an Uber instead. An hour later, my bus arrived at the Airport, and I found Cous Cous. Soon after Zach stumbled off the plane from Texas.

The three of us were anxious to begin the trail, so we each paid $60 dollars for a shuttle to the terminus. A steep price to pay for our impatience.

As we walked north from Arizona, many things began to change. About a week in Zach got a new job and had to leave. The desert in Arizona was more diverse then any of us expected, around every turn lay a new ecosystem.

The weather changed drastically too, 100 degree heat one day, and rain and snow the next. Cous Cous and I felt strong though, and we were comfortably doing 30 miles a day.

Our friend Clax was ahead of us on the trail and we were determined to catch him. We met another hiker named Usufructrees, and together we headed north through the desert. To pass the time we talked about CousCous’s studies in degrowth and municipalism, and Usufructrees told us about his apple farm in Eastern Washington. I bored them with endless geographic trivia.

A big storm came to Arizona and it rained for four days straight. I was not prepared for the rain and all of my gear got soaked. I barely got any sleep in the wet quilt. However, we caught up with Clax and his group, so new energy and stoke propelled us north through the storm.

In Roosevelt Lake, Cous Cous and I met a man name Timothy who took an interest in our hike. He did not understand why we were out here doing what we were doing, and continued to press us on it. “What is the point through if you are not trying to set a record, I could see all this stuff in my car” he told us. Finally he had asked enough questions and he pulled out hi knife instead “at any moment I could stab you all with this” he warned us. That was enough for Cous Cous and I, Cous Cous told him, “It’s better to be a satisfied pig then a satisfied human”, flipping the famous quote, to which he agree.

We walked on into the wet and rain, forced to take a large detour due to the East Verde River being in flood stage.

In Payson, things began to feel off, grocery stores were empty and we began to think we may need to take the pandemic more seriously. After climbing atop the Mogollon rim, we walked through the flat and muddy forests for almost 100 miles to Flagstaff. With no service, we wondered anxiously how things were progressing in the outside world.

Upon nearing Flagstaff, we heard the news and it wasn’t good. Our hike ended suddenly, after coming into town and reading about all of the deaths and lockdowns. It truly felt like the world was ending.

I took three Flix Buses to get back to the Bay Area and quarantine at my parent’s house for the foreseeable future.

Part II: It was two years before we could return to Arizona. Once the Canadian border reopened in Winter 2022, Cous Cous and I planned our return. I took a bus and two trains from Bishop to Flagstaff, and met Cous Cous at the trains station. It was cold and there was a fair bit of snow, but it felt great to be back on a thru hike again. The Grand Canyon was spectacular and before we knew it there was no more trail left to hike, so we went home.