March 17th-20th, 2021
I woke early to catch my 6am shuttle from the hotel in Tucson. After a short stop in Sierra Vista to pick up two other hikers we heading south into Coronado National Memorial. From the Memorial’s visitor center I took the Joe’s Canyon Trail to access the AZT. The trail winds its way up Joe’s canyon gaining 1000 feet in the first mile. This was just the beginning of the climbing for the day.
To get to the official start of the trail I had to do a 2 mile out and back to the obelisk. I stashed my pack up on the ridge and headed down the trail to the border. Standing at the border looking south into Mexico my excitement for the trip ahead really began to sink in. My excitement was short-lived, as the reality of the extremely dry Arizona desert came crashing down, in the form of an uncontrollable nose bleed. I raced back up the trail towards my pack bleeding every step of the way. Large drops of crimson blood splashed across the rocky trail.
My transition into Hiker Trash had happened much faster than I’d expected. Technically at that point I’d done just one mile of the AZT, and already I was looking like I lived on the fringes of society. I couldn’t help but laugh as day hikers shuffled by. There I was sitting on a bench, one mile into an 800 mile trip, with a plug of tp up my nose and dried blood all over. My mustache, beard, and shirt were covered. Welcome to the AZT!
With my nose bleed mostly under control I continued the day’s climb up into the Miller Peak Wilderness. Climbing up and away from Montezuma’s Pass the trail became much steeper and my weak couch legs began to burn. Straight out of the gate the trail ascends the side of Miller Peak, up and over 9000 ft, before dropping slightly to Bath Tub Spring. I set up camp on a ridge past Bath Tub Spring with four other hikers. It was clear and cold that night, and I barely slept, but it felt really good to be back on the trail!
I spent the following day descending from Miller Peak into Parker Canyon. The pines gave way to scrub and small juniper. This would become a common rhythm of hiking through Arizona’s sky islands. One day you’d climb thousands of feet into the island, and the next day you’d descend thousands of feet leaving.
On the morning of day 4 I made my way into Patagonia, which was my first planned resupply point. Thanks to Katie, I’d also arranged to take a day off at a local place dubbed Goatlandia. The hike into town was less strenuous than the first couple days. I cruised through the Canelo Hills to Harshaw road for the 3 mile road walk into Patagonia. As a rule road walking can be tough, but this short stretch into Patagonia was quick and easy.
Patagonia is a perfect little trail town. It has everything a thru hiker needs to enjoy a nice relaxing zero day. I spent the day hanging out with the many animals of Goatlandia, resupplied at the local market, and had some delicious pizza from Velvet Elvis Pizza.