Trail Magic

When I first started looking into “thru-hiking” I discovered something called Trail Angels.  Along the Appalachian Trail, the granddaddy of our thru-hiking trails, there are these amazing people that apparently get their kicks by showing up at random trail/road intersections and hand out refreshments.  Some just leave a cooler of water, others go way overboard and set up kitchens . . . God bless those people.

IMGP0250This phenomena apparently happens so much along the AT that it’s becoming a part of the expectations for some hikers.  If anything on the internet is true, then some of the legends of hikers with entitlement-syndrome must be as well.  I suspect that it’s only a few bad apples that are creating the drama.  The rest of the stories of surprised and grateful hikers strikes me as the norm.

Either way, the Arizona Trail network of Trail Angels is nowhere as developed as the hordes on the AT.  But they’re there.  The most common act of love these angels do is to stash water at various intersections.  If you visit the Arizona Trail site and check out the maps, there are literally hundreds of places where the trail crosses a road.  In some cases, major roads.  There are even a few places that the AZTA has installed water cache boxes.  These are animal proof, metal boxes and dedicated angels stash gallon water jugs.

I think the reason this is the most popular type of angel support is because the AZT is known as “800 miles of water stress”.  Luckily I have access to a water report that’s updated every couple of weeks or so.  It tells me where the most common water sources are and their relative reliability.  Regardless, the water isn’t abundant.  Some hikers have reported carrying 6-9 liters because water sources are so far apart.  Each liter weights 2.2lbs, not counting the vessel.  That means 13-20 pounds just in water weight.

Anyway, yeah . . .so these water caches are pretty damned appreciated.

Maybe if you happen to be playing outside, near the Arizona Trail, you’ll take it upon yourself to stash a couple gallons of water where hikers & riders might find them.  If you do, then make sure to use those typical gallons you can buy from a supermarket; the ones that look like milk-jugs.  The reason is because they’re collapsible and light, making them easier to haul out.  Also, if you see empties, please haul them out, especially if you are in a car or on a bike.  Especially.

If you’re in-state and feel like camping along the trail to surprise and delight hikers then please take photos – I’d love to see images of AZT Love!

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One Month Left

I have exactly one month left before I put sole to dirt.  On September 19th I’ll be waving goodbye to my friend, Chuck and heading south. I’ll be attempting my very first thru-hike of any trail.  Luckily I happen to live in the state where the trail exists, no doubt the logistics of an out of state hike is more daunting as well.

For the last 5 months I’ve had my “kit” on a folding table next to my desk.  When I’m going ADHD at work I turn around and look at the kit – I mentally scrutinizing every piece.  “Can I find something lighter, or one that has multiple uses?”  “Do I really NEED that?” How much can one really leave behind before you start compromising your preparedness?  There’s a saying – “there is no such thing as bad weather; only bad decisions and/or gear”.  So I’m looking at every single piece and trying to pare it down to the perfect balance of need vs. want.  Weight equals pain and luxury.

So I’ve got my kit dialed in; at least I think I do; here’s a video I shot in one take on the first try.  I’m a bit surprised that I mostly made sense.

I’ve got some pretty great gear and an amazing wife that’s willing to finish stuffing priority mailing boxes & sending them to places as I go along.  I’ll have an InReach so I’ll even be able to let her know if I need any additional stuff or gear replacements.  I truly do have it easy, really.  If Lewis and Clark can discover Oregon without modern gear, then I’m pretty sure I can stumble to Mexico with my cool gadgets.

My favorite part of this whole trip, right now, is that I’m actually taking 60 days off, at a very inappropriate time in my life.  I have so much shit to do right now.  I know, I know – we ALL, ALWAYS have tons of shit to do.  But my shit is also seasonal – the fall is pretty damned important.  It’s when our busy season starts ramping up; in fact there are some major events that are already booked, that will require human effort.  I’m going anyway.

I’m glad I’m a Gemini; I get to watch one twin say “%$#@!-it, I’m going outside to play”, and the other twin shake his head, condescendingly, and say – “but you have responsibilities”.  Usually, unfortunately almost exclusively, my sensible twin wins.  This time – not so much.

I’m on board with the sentiment that memories are the greatest investments of all time.