It’s been a hard few days. The topography has taken me from desert scrub to conifererous forests, only to drop me back into desert scrub so I could once again greet and then ascend away from my Saguaro friends and into the rocky, wet landscapes of the forest.
* I’m in Pine, heading out sometime tomorrow, maybe with a friend(s)
* Mile for mile, this might be the prettiest long trail
* I have some microspikes and am ready for snow 🙂
Like the changing climates of the sky islands, the community of the trail has also been changing. I left LumberPack on the side of a hill, surrounded by a superbloom complete with ocotillos and many saguaro friends. I went racing ahead to Superior, to meet up with a ride, where I planned to take a zero (a day of zero trail-miles of hiking).
At some point on my way to Superior it occured to me I could take a half day (near-o) instead, and hike out to meet ShortStix who was only a little bit behind me at that point, and aiming to complete the trail by May 2nd. Who needs to rest their wary bones anyway? Meanwhile, LumberPack pushed ahead of me while I was in town, with intent to complete the AZT in under 30 days.
And then everything changed.
Shortly before I got to Superior I learned that the AZT was closed for 8 miles somewhere between the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and the North Rim, where trail crews were looking to remediate a rock slide, until June. More unsettling, however, was that once I made it fully into Superior, I learned that the community was fracturing. Between the high snow year making hiking between Pine and Flagstaff difficult, and the closure in the Grand Canyon, hikers were ending their hikes and going home, or drastically changing their plans and schedules. The once vibrant community, typically hell-bent on getting to Utah (“Utah or Death!”, wrote one hiker in the log books) was now aimless.
After reaching out to a friend living in Flagstaff, I was given some good beta (information) about the likelihood of some old off-trail routes I might be able to use to connect the south rim to the north rim. Many, many hours into my town day later I was able to pull a technical route together that would likely be doable. The adventurers of yesteryear were certified badasses, as most of the information I used to generate the route came from a 1980s Grand Canyon book I quickly pirated. The only things needed for this route to go would be a buddy, some snowshoes, and some really sticky rubber tread — and ShortStix was only a half day behind me!
In the morning, I texted with ShortStix to see about meeting up with her and to gauge her interest in the technical alternative I’d cobbled together. She decided to swing into Superior, and we chatted about options before heading back on trail.
By the second day, ShortStix was leaning toward doing a more social trail until her May deadline, and then coming back in October to finish off the Grand Canyon. None of the other folks we left Superior with had interest in hiking long days to be rewarded with a treacherous scramble up the Canyon followed by the privilege of slogging through 70-ish miles of snow and mud. Damn. With the lovely pieces of hiker trash around looking like unlikely adventure buddies, I cranked up the milage to catch up with LumberPack in Pine. A few hours before making it into Pine, I learned that LumberPack was having some foot issues so was going to jump off trail to zero in Payson. Double damn.
The Venn diagram of hiker trash and peak baggers or dirt bags (climbers) appears to have a much slimmer overlap than you might expect. I might not find the trail magic needed for a reasonable adventure buddy.
ShortStix is going to catch-up with me in the morning, and after breakfast we’ll see if the trail gods will send us both back out on the trail to slide through mud and glavant over snowfields on our way to Flag. If I have not found an adventure buddy for the technical route by the time I get to Flagstaff, it looks like I may need to just enjoy the Canyon for a day instead, and come back for a week in the fall to finish off some footsteps using a less perilous route.
With love and adventure,