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Buck30 - Other Trail Journal - 2023

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Entry 33 of 33
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Brian (Buck-30)
Begins: Nov 16, 2023
Direction: Westbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sun, Dec 17th, 2023
Start: Myrtle Beach
End: Myrtle Beach
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 497.5

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 633
Journal Visits: 2,395
Guestbook Views: 35
Guestbook Entrys: 2

AWT Planning/Summary Information

Overall

The AWT was a great hike. There aren't a lot of options in the winter so it's nice to see another low desert route added to the mix. In particular the variety of cactus and the great Saguaro was really incredible, I never tired of seeing these giant cactus all around. The AWT is adventurous and also mostly low desert, so make sure you like the low desert before you come out here! I expect that I will hike the AWT again to fill in those winter months. Thanks to Colter for putting together a cool route!

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Difficulty

If you are an experienced desert hiker then I thought the AWT was fairly easy to moderate (except for 3 sections I'll discuss in a moment). It's mostly the low desert and primarily washes, XC (cross country) across giant valleys and old 2 tracks. If you know how to read a map, walk on rocks, avoid brush, manage your water and make good decisions then I didn't think the AWT was all that hard.

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Don't ignore the "experienced desert hiker" part! You are provided very little information for the AWT. A GPS track that is just straight lines across the land, not mapped to exactly where you are supposed to walk, water waypoints and a short list of towns. That's it. If you only know how to follow FarOut and apps and trails like that, you probably won't do well on the AWT.

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This was actually one of the things I loved the most about the AWT. Although Colter had vetted the approximate way to go with his "straightline" mapping, I spent all day making my own decisions about exactly where to walk. I found this to be fun given the terrain is pretty forgiving from a navigation standpoint and kept things interesting.

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Keep in mind, there are 3 very difficult sections of the AWT. First the Galiuro's are a long (15+ miles) section across the small but burly mountains that are severely overgrown with catclaw and brush. This is a very difficult day of hiking. I'm not sure if there is a reasonably easy way around this if you wanted to. The second is the climb up the backside of Table Top mountain, no one does this. I thought it was awesome and while wildly steep at the end and a bit tough to walk, it was short and doable. There is a decent trail down the other side. It's easy to walk around this (the Desert WTH walks around this if you have access to those materials). The third area are the Eagletail mountains. There were a couple of gnarly canyon miles near the end which were awesome, but tough. This looks easily walkable around if you really wanted to.

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I wouldn't suggest skipping any of these sections. The AWT is frequently in the low desert big desolate valleys. I do enjoy this type of hiking, but I think you also need some small mountains and hills to "spice" things ups. If you take out these 3 sections you are really missing out.

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Desert WTH

What is this WTH you mention a bunch coming up? This is the Desert Winter Thru Hike (WTH), a winter route created by Blisterfree who has created many routes in the southwest. I hiked the WTH in 2022 and it was absolutely stellar. A BTR (Brett Tucker Route) gets you the gold glove treatment with a highly vetted beautiful route that is completely dialed in. The WTH is about twice as long as the AWT at about 800 miles as it covers not just most of Arizona but a long chunk in California too. The WTH is highly recommend to hike and a bit more "polished" than the AWT (as in a ground truthed GPS track and updated water charts and you'll never have to climb through a barbed wire fence!).

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I really loved the AWT for its "unpolished" route and I really loved the WHT for its polished beautiful route.

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Terrain

High level the AWT spends most of it's time in washes, XC across valleys and old 2 tracks. I don't know the exact numbers, but a big estimate would be 35% 2 track, 20% XC across valleys, 30% washes, 5% trail and 10% pavement.

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None of this terrain is insanely difficult, but each has its own difficulties compared to actual singletrack trail. The washes can be a bit sandy or deep gravel making it harder to walk. They also can be blocked by catclaw and other brush at times and can be pretty wide to where you are basically navigating the best channel to walk. The 2 tracks are the easiest and other than being rocky at times, fine to walk. I almost never ever saw a vehicle on a 2 track I was walking. The XC across valleys can range from quite easy and flat with little obstacles to undulating hills, weaving around brush and dipping into and out of every little wash possible which can be tiring. There's not a lot of pavement, there are 2 large roadwalks. The first is early on across the Pinaleno mountains. This road is very quiet and quite scenic. I assume the AWT avoids any possible mountain crossing here due to winter/snow possibilities. The 2nd paved walk is through Eloy and AZ City although I found a way to cut this in half by taking the Santa Rosa canal for an extra 10 miles which I highly recommend. Then there's some pavement usually in and out of each town, but it's not a big deal. There's very little real trail, the Galiuro's are all trail and brutal! And the trail down Table Top mountain. That's about it!

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Should I Hike This Route?

[Excerpted from my WTH Summary entry]

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This route probably isn't for everyone! Don't just assume you'll like this route cause you've thru hiked a bunch before. Or don't just hike this route because your alternative is sitting at home or being chased by pit bulls on the Florida Trail. This route is probably unlike anything you've ever done. It's the LOW desert. That means average elevations of like 2k. The high point is around 6k. The LOW desert is like 99% greasewood. That's an exaggeration, but the low desert has a set number of very common plants and that's basically what you see all the time. This route also has a high number of dirt road miles if you've only done like the triple crown trails. This route has a lot of rocks and poor footing at times. This route has a lot of XC. You'll have to carry a bunch of water. If in your past you ever bitched about the "desert" on the PCT in SoCal or CDT in New Mexico then please don't do this route. You won't like it.

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Personally I LOVE the LOW desert. I love having 360 degree views every moment. Seeing every sunrise and sunset in the short winter hours. I love all the cactus and I've always liked greasewood. But that's me. I really love thru hiking. I get the sense (from podcasts or blogs or whatever) a lot of people really like the social experience or the large network of trail angels and it's less about the actual hiking and being out in nature. If that's the case then you probably don't want to come out here. Everyone always says it's "all about the people". Well there are no "people" out here! And like I said, if you didn't like the PCT and CDT deserts then go hike the Florida Trail!

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Getting to the start:

Eastern terminus: This is about 5 miles south of Duncan to a dirt road and then 3 miles (walking) on the dirt road to the AZ/NM border. The most common way to get here would be to fly into El Paso or Tucson (or even Phoenix) and take the Greyhound or Amtrak to Lordsburg which is a CDT town. From here there is a once daily Greyhound bus to Duncan at 9:50 am. Or you could hitch from Lordsburg. I didn't want to go through the hassle of walking 8 miles to the start or hitching the 5 miles from Duncan and walking the 3 dirt road miles so instead I mapped my own 11 mile route from Duncan which rejoined just over the crest around mile 11. I enjoyed this simplicity and would recommend it although technically you don't touch the AZ/NM border if that's important to you. Duncan is just inside Arizona.

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Western Terminus: Finishes in Parker. No public transit options here. You could hitch south down to Blythe for Greyhound or Yuma for an airport or north to Lake Havasu City for a shuttle to the Vegas airport ($ 75-$ 95).

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Alternatively you could walk to Lake Havasu City using a combination of canal/dirt road/XC. This addition goes through the Whipple mountains which is a beautiful section and highly worth doing. This is what I did. Then you can get a shuttle to Vegas. This misses the last 20 miles of the AWT and walks 60 miles to Lake Havasu.

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Water

Water is interesting on the AWT. It's like 90% metal cow tanks/troughs and 10% game guzzlers. That creates plusses and minuses. This is basically the exact opposite of the WTH. The nice thing about the guzzlers is that once you see that a few of them have water they pretty much all have water and become quite reliable. But on the flip side, in a dry year or if you hike in early season, the guzzlers actually can be dry or low. With cow tanks, this water is all being pumped up from the ground and really doesn't rely much on the monsoon season or winter rains so they are likely to have water regardless. But on the flip side, they can be super undependable from year to year. They have a tendency to break or the cows get moved and the water gets turned off. I was very surprised that 2 years after Colters hiked that most of the cattle tanks were just fine. I had about 5 that were dry/defunct. It's a bit more frustrating since you never know how much water to carry, I always had to carry extra which is heavy, but then when you hit a dry tank I never had enough to be super comfortable to get to the next source. Just enough to survive. I think if just 1 person hikes the AWT per year and reports on water then this helps a lot. Maybe they'll find a tank or 2 dry, but overall these tanks don't change that much.

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The longest carry is probably around 35-39 miles at the very end (going into Parker) assuming the last cow tank is dry like I had. This is really the longest carry by far though and these miles are pretty fast. Normally I'd say the carries were a very reasonable 10-20 miles apart, of course you never know when a cow tank source might be dry.

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The game guzzlers in Arizona are usually pretty dependable in all but the driest times. I did have 1 that was broken/defunct which isn't too bad. Occasionally there would be a dirt stock tank or a canal section, or a couple sections with pothole water in the rocks, but this all was pretty uncommon. Basically be ready to drink out of cow troughs.

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The water was what you would expect from a cow trough. Usually decent, but sometimes algae, sometimes a mineral taste, sometimes a dead bird in it. But hey, it's water.

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Season:

This route is meant to be an option for winter hiking. The eastern half of the route is much higher and colder (up to 6k in the Galiuro's). You could get a bit of snow up there. Colter did it in January and had below freezing temps most nights. My temps from mid-Nov to mid-Dec were really nice. Lows in the 40s, highs in the 60s and 70s. Because most of the water are cow tanks this route isn't that dependable on the monsoon season or the winter rains like the WTH. But Colter hiked in a wet year and did have more natural water than I did, but not enough to make a big difference. If you are hiking it late Fall like I did then you'll want to go WEBO to get the higher elevations done earlier as it gets colder. If you are hiking it in January or February then I'm not sure if matters as I would think the dead of winter won't make much of a difference. Like the Galiuro's will be just as cold on 1/1 as 2/1, but you might want to check that. If you are hiking in March then I'd go EABO to catch the western end when it's warming up.

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Resupply

The towns were pretty decent for a desert hike. Desert hikes notoriously have crappy towns so these were pretty ok overall. The AWT is short so there are only a handful of towns. I didn't take any zeros, but stayed a night in each town basically and took a decent nero. I have a separate entry with more info on each town.

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Caches

Colter and Wyoming did caches for their hike, but this was primarily as they didn't know where they would find water. Colter has said if he hiked again he wouldn't cache and I agree with him. I didn't do any caches and it was fine. There is a 136 mile carry from the start at the NM border until Oracle unless you hitch into Stafford after about 55 miles. I thought this would be a pain so early on so I was happy to do the long food carry. At least the Galiuro's are when you will only have a couple days of food left (if you are heading WEBO!).

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Maps/GPS/Navigation

Colter provides a GPS track in google maps on his blog that you can download. Keep in mind this isn't a real GPS track! This is mostly straight lines across the landscape connecting places Colters wanted the route to go. He specifically told me not to exactly follow his straight lines which makes sense when you look at it. Colter is super hard core and I get it, the low desert is easy navigation so you kinda can just walk where you want. But this was a bit too little planning for me so I spent a few hours at home "cleaning up" the mapping. I tightened up the straight lines and placed the "trail" in washes when they existed since I knew from the WTH that would be where I would be walking mostly if available. And I checked satellite and moved the straight line track onto 2 tracks (dirt roads) when they existed. These are the places where Colter was walking anyways, he just didn't quite map that. It's actually quite hard to spot a 2 track when on the ground if you don't know where it is. It was nice to scour satellite at home and map where I could pick up these roads. My mapping at home added about 15 miles to the route since you really don't walk in a straightline most of the time. And then on trail my watch showed me doing about a mile extra per day more weaving around brush etc. When on trail I made some changes here and there too, nothing crazy.

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After the hike I cleaned up my at home mapping with a few things learned while on trail. I'm willing to share this GPS track with anyone interesting hiking the AWT. I also recorded my hiking with my watch, but I don't plan on releasing that. This route is really meant to be walked all day by making your own decisions. The way I actually walked could be walked a lot of different ways. Everyone should have the experience of this route being adventurous.

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But if you'd like my "at home mapped non-ground truthed GPS track" then send me an email. And you have to be serious about hiking the AWT. This is not for people who send emails just asking for GPS tracks and collecting them. You must actually hike the AWT! If you don't I will find you and haunt you.

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Anyways, I only used the Caltopo app with my GPS track and my fancy Garmin Fenix 6x Pro watch with maps/track as a backup. Navigation is very straightforward in the low desert and you should know how to read a map. You'll be making your own walking decisions all day long. Also, there's no one out there to save you.

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Camping

The AWT is one of the best trails for camping. You can literally almost camp anywhere, anytime. It's really that easy. And my campsites were super scenic. Great 360 views all the time. If it's windy out though you are going to have a hard time finding protection. I'd suggest cowboy camping rather than dealing with a tent in the wind if it's not going to rain. If it's going to rain and be windy then pick your spot wisely!

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Dangers

I can't think of anything in particular for an experienced hiker. I didn't even see a rattlesnake the entire trip. If you know how to read a map and manage your water you should be fine. If you don't, well please go hike the Florida Trail! It has FarOut. Just be careful in the few more extreme sections out here and you'll be fine. This is a good trail to have an Inreach, if anything happens, ain't no one going to come find you!

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Gear

If you are out here then you know your gear so I won't say much.

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My pants were important. There's not a ton of insane bushwhacking on the AWT but you will do a lot of XC where you brush up against a lot of prickly brush like catclaw. I had a lot more prickly brush on the AWT vs the WTH. My legs were constantly touching plants on XC stuff and in washes. The brush didn't really slow me down and the pants help keep things moving normal. If you don't wear pants in the Galiuro's you will be bleeding a lot.

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My gaitors were also key. Dirty Girls will be shredded, I'd highly recommend the LevaGaiter from Blisterfree. These are very light but much more rugged. Again, with the XC and washes I would have had so much in my shoes without gaitors.

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My Neoair did fine out here vs the WTH where I got 5 holes in it. Just luck I guess.

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My silver umbrella is usually my favorite thing but on the WTH I found it was almost useless. It just wasn't hot enough to need it and usually if there was a storm it was also super windy and impossible to use. I decided not to bring it on the AWT and was happy with that choice.

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If you are hiking the AWT in the core winter months, dress warmer than you think, it can be surprisingly cold in the desert. I think a winter hike could easily have highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s during cooler periods even if it's normally warmer. Especially the east side. And if you have a desert storm be ready to find a motel! A couple days of rain and wind in the totally exposed desert is not fun in any way.

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Wildlife

I didn't see a ton. I saw Javalina's the most which was cool, I like them. No bighorn sheep and no rattlesnakes. A few foxes. Lots of rabbits. Some deer. Very occasionally wild horses. Lots of little birds around the guzzlers and in the washes. No desert tortoises :(

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Bugs

I basically had no bugs other than flies some nights around my tent (but I was zipped inside and it was only while in my tent). I didn't carry DEET or a headset and didn't need them.

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Cell Service

Tons of cell reception. Not a day went by where I didn't get reception at least once. Frequently I had it all the time and other times it was just occasionally during the day.

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Permits

You should get the Arizona State Land trust permit. It allows you to hike and camp on State Land and you do walk through a fair bit of State Land. It's only $ 15. Not that I ever saw anyone to enforce it, but it was worth having.

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You also need a free permit for certain parts of the Sonoran National Monument. I had to create an account and I found the reservation system to be confusing where I had to check in online daily which was weird. Maybe I was doing something wrong. Bernie found some sort of advanced check in that I never saw. I think the AWT only goes through the Monument in Zone A. I made a reservation for a few days and only checked in once. I screenshotted my reservations figuring my effort was good enough. Obviously I never even saw anyone to check my permit.

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People

There are no other hikers out here so bring a friend if you don't like being alone. I also very rarely saw other people (non hikers, ie hunters, OHV, boondockers). Usually I would expect to see more OHVs or trucks on some dirt roads, but I really rarely ever saw anyone. The quiet was very nice. On the flip side, occasionally it would have been nice to yogi some water when a random cow tank was dry and that never happened.

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Journal Photo

Arizona Winter Traverse (AWT)

The Arizona Winter Traverse is a new 460 mile route across southern Arizona, starting on the Colorado River just south of Lake Havasu and finishing at the New Mexico border near the little town of Duncan.

 

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