Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Arizona National Trail–Passage 1 Scouting Trip (April 5, 2016)

Arizona Trail logo - outline of state of AZ with trail intersection

For more than 2 years I have been planning this hike, Arizona National Scenic Trail, or the AZT, and now it begins, well sort of… I still do not have the gear I need for an extended stay in the wilderness, but I have begun as of today, to explore the trail by road, visiting as many trail towns, trailheads, etc. as I can reach with my van. 


From guide book, p. 50:  A historic obelisk and simple barbed-wire fence at the Mexico-U.S. border mark the official start of the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) from it’s southernmost point.  Here, before your eyes unfolds the expansive San Rafael Valley – a unique Sonoran grassland environment that is beautiful during all seasons.


Entering the Coronado National Monument, this sign was a disappointment, No Camping.


The Visitor Center.  They were friendly and has a few nice exhibits.

Today I began with Passage 1, a roundtrip hike from Montezuma Pass, in the Coronado National Monument to the Mexican border.  I was told by the Visitor Center that is was 3.7 miles round trip but that may not be correct.  Afterwards, my body felt like it was more like 37 miles. 


This is the hike I did 4/5/16.

Yes, I have some conditioning to do… and am going to do it… “on-the-trail” training (you know, like on-the-job training?).  As I travel by van to check out the locations, I will be going out on some overnights, camping out, testing my gear, and then returning to the van.  I will refine my body and my gear as I proceed northward to the UT border where I will begin the solo thru hike southward.  I pray, my gear and I will be ready for it by then, early Fall 2016.


From the guide book, page 53:  At the top of Coronado Peak, is where Flagstaff schoolteacher Dale Shewalter sat with friends on a clear, cool evening and presented the question of whether it would be possible to link a series of trails across the entire state.  (When I learned he had the same birthdate as me, I considered it a sign, that I should hike this trail.  May 16.)


A spur from the Joe’s Canyon Trail, the trail descends steeply to the US/Mexico border. Here you can view International Boundary Marker 102 located at the southwestern corner of the park. This trail marks the southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, an 800+ mile diverse and scenic trail that extends from Mexico to Utah. For your safety, please do not cross over fence into Mexico.



There was a fire a few years back that killed many of the trees.

Joe's Canyon Trail and the Coronado Peak Trail are both part of the National Trails System and classified as National Recreational Trails. The Yaqui Ridge and Crest Trails are part of the larger Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) which stretches nearly 800 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border at Coronado National Memorial to the Arizona-Utah border.


My hike was surprisingly beautiful.  I didn’t expect that.


Trail markers, a rock cairn, and an AZT marker.



I thought I had to hike all the way down there, but then around the bend, there it was the border and the marker.


From the guide book, page 52:  After touching the monument and traveling north for almost 2 miles, you arrive at a trailhead at Montezuma Pass.  Getting there is worth the effort, as you will no doubt agree when the passage climbs onto the first of several landforms called sky islands, which are unique to Arizona.  These isolated mountain ranges rise several thousand feet above the surrounding desert, resulting in dramatically different life zones from those found at lower elevations only a few miles away.  These elevated biotic communities are evidence of what the Sonoran Desert climate was like 10,000-plus years ago and as the climate has warmed, the plants and animals have retreated higher into the hills.  Thus, these sky islands are surrounded by a sea – of desert.


The fence was cut open in a number of places.  That was my greatest fear, was running into Mexicans, but I saw none.  I saw no people until I was almost back at the parking lot.  Then I saw a female guide taking two people to this location.


Post put there after a Treaty between Mexico and America.


Well there it is, the beginning of Passage 1 of the AZ Trail.  Now that I have hiked it, I might not return in the Fall.  I forgot to take my photo at the monument, so who knows, I may come back just to do that.  I sure it will be easier to hike at the end of the 800 miles than at the beginning.


There were more trees along the trail than I expected, and they gave some welcomed shade. I rested under this one a long time, just to listen to the quiet. (my brain is making too much noise).  I felt very at home and at peace out there, alone in the wilderness.


Tiny tiny little flowers, smaller than a penny.


Ah ha, almost back to parking lot.  And as I got to the parking lot, there was a young lady seeing a male hiker off… his pack looked very very heavy and he was carrying at least 3 gallons of water.  I told him I thought he had enough water.  I don’t think I could have carried his pack.

I used 1 1/2 bottle of water, a few grapes, and a couple bites of a Payday candy bar (and had no breakfast).  I began at 7am and returned to the van at 11:30am.  And I was slow.


Yes, I am a happy camper, a tired and sore happy camper.

From there I went on to find two more trailheads, Sunnyside Canyon Trailhead and also Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead.  Parker Canyon is where Passage 1 ends and 2 begins.

More details on training and conditioning.

  Next:  Passage 1 & 2 - Scouting and Research Trip.

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Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.