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Begins: Sep 19, 2009
Date: Thu, Sep 17th, 2009
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Arizona Trail Map
Well, I've made the transition from PCT to AZT (Arizona Trail) in several whirlwind days. For the exciting conclusion to my PCT journal click on the link at the bottom of this page.
What to say about the AZT? I'm not really sure. I know little about it as this was a last minute decision. In Snoqualmie, WA on the PCT I thought about the AZT and did a couple hours of research and a few days later in Skykomish I booked a flight to Page, AZ, a shuttle from Page to the trailhead and ordered the guidebook and maps. Basically the critical items to start a hike. A couple of weeks later I was at Laundrymat's in Portland (see next entry) and rounded out the planning and research over 2 days of internet. A new minimalist planning record for me!
So here's what I (think I) know about the AZT (no guarantee of accuracy!):
-It runs about 800+ miles from the Arizona/Utah border to the Arizona/Mexico border.
-It was "created" by a teacher (Dan something...sorry Dan) maybe 20 years ago as a dream. In March 2009 Obama signed the trail into the National Scenic Trail system. In between many volunteers, including the Arizona Trail Association helped the dream come true.
-It doesn't appear that many people have thru-hiked this trail. It's hard to say, but I would estimate maybe 100 people have completed the AZT.
-It appears that the majority of hikers go Northbound in the Spring primarily as the water is much better. I did not see too many hikers who went Southbound in the Fall in the past.
-Water does seem like it will be the biggest challenge. It will probably take a bit to figure out what types of "sources" are likely to have water. Not really sure what to expect here other than carrying a lot!
-The trail itself is not quite complete, but my initial impressions are that there is actually a fair bit of information on the trail, but maybe that the information actually exceeds the quality of the trail.
-The Arizona Trail Association has done an amazing job of providing a lot of information on its website to hike the trail.
-It appears that getting to the start and home from the end may end up being the biggest challenges of the entire hike. The start and end seem pretty damn remote.
-This trail seems like my CDT hike except I'll be alone this time adding to the difficulty (of course the AZT is only 1/3 the distance of the CDT).
-Navigation definitely seems like an issue. It's my weak spot. Always has been. I come from a long line of Tanzman's who can't navigate. I'm missing that innate sense of knowing where you are that many have. However, I am very good at using all the other infomation at my disposal to supplement my map skills.
-I wonder how many people I will see out here. Other AZT hikers? Day hikers? Hunters? ATV's?
It's hard to say at the moment what is going to be key, but here's what I've got in my "Map Bag" to start the trail:
-Official AZT guidebook from maybe 5 years ago or so. I was fairly dismayed to see it is from the same publisher and same format as the official CDT guidebooks which no one carries because they suck. Plus the book is printed on super heavy paper, has lots of pictures and seems to be bound with something close to the strength of steel wire making it hard to pull apart. Pretty much the exact opposite of what a thru-hiker wants. On the positive side it does have short descriptions of each section of trail, USGS 7.5 minute topomaps (although they are pretty shrunk down and hard to see), real pretty pictures and it's the only one out there! Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.
-The AZT data book which is downloaded from the AZT website. This has a good summary of data points along the trail and some notes.
-A water report from Fred who maintains a current water report and historical information provided by hikers. It's a bit tougher for me since the Fall water info. is much more limited than Spring, but is still an invaluable resource to have.
-16 super nice topo maps printed from the CD-ROM ordered from the AZT. I believe they produced them from Topo.com. The scale is much larger than the guidebook topo maps (contour intervals of 150' vs 40'), but much easier to see.
-Delome Atlas Maps for sections of the trail I am on. These are super high level and good if there is an emergency and I need to get to a town or just seeing what is around me on a bigger scale.
-Sections of Dave Hick's "e-book" which provides a lot AZT information and detail information on the trail sections. It looks like he produced this info. before the guidebook and all this other great stuff I have, but his info. still seems good. Plus he has a lot of good little tips and stuff.
-A small amount of town info. from Dave's site and Chris's site.
-And the grand fanale.....GPS waypoints for much of the trail provided by the AZT and downloaded from their website. I used a GPS on the CDT (no waypoints though) and really enjoyed it. I'm guessing that having waypoints for most of the databook data points will make things easier when things get confusing. I'd still like to improve my map skills, but the GPS is nice to have when completely alone in the middle of nowhere.
It probably sounds like a lot. It sure feels like a lot, but I really don't know what will be good and what I won't use much. For example will I prefer the small guidebook topo's or the larger AZT topo's? I'll figure it out pretty quickly and dump anything not used. Plus I'm only carrying the first couple hundred miles and shipped the rest of the trail to Flagstaff.
Oh, and here's the kicker. The trail has been changing a fair amount it seems so the guidebook (older) and AZT info. (more current) doesn't match up!
I am super excited for the trail. It feels like a challenge. Last minute decision. Limited planning. Lots of info., probably better than the actual trail. On my own. The beautiful desert Southwest.
The Arizona National Scenic Trail is a continuous, 800+ mile diverse and scenic trail across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people. Learn more: www.aztrail.org