The Arizona Trail FKT attempt + section hike (600mi)

*Disclaimer: This article is not a description on how you should hike the AZT, it is just a personal reflection of the hike I did.*

Pre AZT – Buckskin Gulch

I decided to fly into Page from Phoenix and hitch to White House Camp Ground where I can start hiking down the Paria River to where it confluences with the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. The Buckskin gulch is a truly specatular canyon which is also part of the Hayduke Trail and caught my attention from the point when I heard about it from the first time. Since I was there, I thought „why not“. The route is kind of challenging, I was not thinking that there will be so much mud and water in it! I waded thru chest high pools full of mud water several times which was „fun“ but not the best idea in terms of breaking a record. However in retrospective the Buckskin was the best day on the whole trip an d I know I will be back for more someday.

 

It took me 9 hours from Whitehouse to Wirepass. Including a small detour (yes I got lost in a slot canyon) I did not stop a lot. Better plan a full day. Or even 2 days. The route is about 24 miles long. There is no drinking water in the Canyon. I brought 6 Liters, half of it for the night and start of the AZT the next day. There is no water at Whitehouse nor at Stateline. However I could have gotten water from campers at both I suppose. But who knows if there are people beforehand?

 

The FKT attempt

I started at the Stateline Campground on Oct. 1 and went southbound from there. It started to rain in the first night and never really stopped. I wanted to quit on day 2, continued and got an injury which I thought at first is from overuse but as I found out later was likely caused by an irritation I got from my shoes (both legs) after I got them really messed up the day before at my approach to the northern terminus thru the Buckskin Gulch slot Canyon from White House CG. I hiked down to Flagstaff in big pain and realized there, I had to pull the plug on the FKT. I changed shoes, let the injury heal + a storm move over and continued at a more sustainable pace. Overall It feels I just did not have a good  window to attempt it.

 

The Hike

After realizing I can no longer work on my goal I was kind of unmotivated to go on, the monotony of northern Arizona was not a big motivator either. There where still storms coming thru which forced me to stay somewhere indoors or in my tent a lot so I knew I will not make it to the mexican border in time to catch my flight. I did not want to move the flight back because overall I was just not super motivated by the route and the fact of the „failed“ fkt. I actually wanted to move out earlier but could not get a flight. So I made the best out of it and hiked on till I reached the Highway after the Santa Catalina mountains from where I hitched in Tucson.

 

Soltitude

Great! The AZT does not see a lot of hikers, but it is increasing. Be prepaired for not seeing anybody for days and to camp alone.

 

Campspots

There are flat spots everywhere! Just make sure there is nothing on the ground which can puncture your mattress. I went 600 miles without puncturing my neo air. So If you are careful an air matress is fine I would say. Generally speaking, there is a lot of stuff out there that wants and will puncture yourself and your gear!

 

Wildlife

I saw elk, deer, tarantulas, a wolf spider, 4 rattlers (2 alive, 2 dead), havalinas, hares, birds and coyotes. Falling asleep in the desert with the sound of coyotes was the coolest, almost spiritual experience. I saw bear scat and prints in the Mazatzals but no bear itself. There was also cattle, but far less than I had anticipated.

 

Water
October 2018 was the wettest year on record in Arizona I have heared. So it was basically everywhere. Springs, rock pools, creeks were my main supplies for my drinking water. In between natural sources I took water from caches which are stocked by trail angels or other hikers. I personally would not make the effort to cache water before. If I would, I suggest to bring a couple of extra gallons for public use. Write your name and a „public after ….“ date on it in case you can not make it to the cache, so people know it is free. Carry out empty gallons! I imagine in dry years the water situation is pretty miserable. Bring a working filter and drinking powder to cover the gross taste.
I used the BeFree Filter with a 1L bottle. As backup I had AquaMira drops refilled in minidropper bottles.

 

Resupply
Fairly easy I would say, I did the route without a stove, so I mostly ate, tortillas, refried beans, cheese, crackers, chips, gummis, fresh fruit & vegetables, nuts and all kinds and forms of chocolate. Going my pace I never carried more than 4 days of food. I did send boxes to: THAT Brewery in Pine, P.O. in Superior, Mt. Lemmon (not really necessary) and Patagonia.
All I carried as „kitchen“ is a spork and a plastic container for cold soaking.
I always charged my electronic devices while having a meal somewhere.

 

Navigation
I did the whole route with the GutHook App on my iphone 5. I did not carry any backup. The route itself is fairly well marked. Sometimes you have to look around a bit but I never got lost in that sense.

 

Gear

My baseweight was about 3.5 Kilo. I used a Palante Simple Pack, Cumulus Quilt 150, Cocoon silk liner, TAR Neo Air R, Zpacks Hexamid Solo, one pole, 7 stakes, polycro groundsheet, Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, Montane merino long sleeve, La Sportiva Hail Rainjacket, umbrella, Montane Windpants, thin merino Gloves, Fleece Hat, BeFree Waterfilter 1L, iPhone5, 10000mah Anker power bank, Anker quick charge wall charger + cables. Do not bring a white shirt 😉

I want to thank all the kind people I have met during the hike!

Pictures
All pictures can be found here

 

Anything else? Feel free to ask me Qs in the comments!

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