The Pacific Northwest Trail: Eureka, Montana to Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho

Here are the experiences I had through the Purcell Mountains. Fortunately most of the snow at this point had all melted. After leaving Eureka the trail followed a railroad for a short distance, followed by a series of dirt trails that led into Rexford, Montana. 

Rexford is not much of a town than it is a resort for people with boats. I picked up some town comforts from a general store, because why not, and I made my way to the first challenge of this section: the climb up Webb Mountain. It began with a 7 mile, paved roadwalk. 

This in my opinion, is terrible. Walking on a paved road with moderate to heavy traffic is just not fun. It did follow along the Koocanusa River though, that was cool. After trudging along the road, I finally made it to the base of Webb Mountain, where the steep climb began.

 

  • Getting to the next town using any means possible – it’s not always a small dirt path. 

I’ll begin explaining the climb after I give you a little background on the PNT: it likes to hit summits & follow high ridge lines, while spending as little time in a forested valley as possible. This is purely due to the good views obtained at the higher elevations. There are other, easier ways to get around the mountains (and sometimes you can choose to take this type of route) but they are always following low-level valleys (i.e., no good views). Since I love good views, 9 times out of 10 I would opt for the high routes. Every now and then I would choose the easier route depending on how much food I had or how my mentality was doing at the moment. 

Now that you have a vague idea of what the trail is like physically, I’ll explain the climb up Webb Mountain.

 

  • Looking down at the Koocanusa River from Webb Mountain. 

This climb was described in my guidebook as the “first PNT climb” of the trail. I read this and was like, uh-oh. This will probably be a steep one…and it was. 

Climbing from the base of the mountain up to the summit consisted of gaining ~3,500 feet in elevation within 4.2 miles. It’s not like I haven’t done that type of elevation gain before but this was different. The climbing is really steep and constantly goes straight up or down, with not much of a grade in between. All I had to say about this climb in my hand-written journal was the following: “It was rough but I did it.” 

When I made it to the top, I took a break at an abandoned fire lookout tower, enjoyed the views of the Koocanusa River, and continued on.

 

  • Getting lost – an inevitable part of this adventure. 

The PNT began to head towards Mt. Henry, opting to summit that mountain as well. Truth be told, I tried to opt out of this climb. It’s hard to explain in a way for people to fully understand but my mentality was being drained fast in between towns. The mixture of the constant climbing, having to accurately navigate my way, and having to always be aware of wildlife all at the same time was hard to get used to at first. I did get used to it later on though. 

So yea, there I was at a trail junction. One way led to the summit of Mt. Henry while the other one dropped down and meandered through a valley until it met again with the primary PNT route. I tried to take the trail that dropped in the valley with no luck. After about 2 miles down this trail, the vegetation began to get really dense with vines, trees, and bushes that were all growing over my head. The trail soon disappeared. I tried to continue through the vegetation and find it again because I really wasn’t feelin’ another summit just yet. The more I tried to find the trail, the more I got lost. At one point I couldn’t see anything around me, nor could I find where I came from. I used this opportunity to take a break, keep calm, and figure it out. I decided I was just going to hit the summit of Mt. Henry. 

Yea, it’s more climbing that I didn’t want to do on this day but being lost sucks. Based on my maps I knew that if I just bushwhacked back uphill, I would make it onto a ridge that met back up with a trail leading to Mt. Henry…so that’s what I did. At this point, I’ve become pretty comfortable with bushwhacking. It’s just another tool in the toolbox now.

 

  • The ascent up Mt. Henry was beautiful. 

Technically, the PNT doesn’t hit the summit of Mt. Henry. It skirts around the mountain reaching a point about 0.5 miles away from the top. But I’ve climbed this far, so why not just push on? I climbed the additional few hundred feet in elevation to the summit. The views were amazing up top and the sense of accomplishment was strong. I took a break at the summit, studied my maps, and began to descend down a ridge. 

The pattern of the trail was to follow a ridge, hit a couple of summits, drop down in a valley, climb up another mountain, and repeat. It was challenging but the views were one-of-a-kind in this area, with views of endless mountains extending across Montana, Canada, and Idaho. After a while I made my way into Idaho and also to the last big climb of this section: Bussard Mountain.

At this point, my body was in pristine physical condition. I had gotten used to the constant, heavy climbs that the trail offers. It was the mentality that was constantly challenged. That part never got easy. High highs were followed by low lows. The mental aspect seemed to follow the physical aspect of the trail – big ups and big downs with not much in between. The lows sucked but the highs were incredible. Imagine a feeling of extreme happiness that encompasses the entire body from head to toe, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. I’m sure this is due to the excessive amounts of endorphins being released in the brain from all the physical activity. I can’t explain it more than that but just know one thing – it’s addicting.

 

  • More eyecandy from Montana and Idaho…notice the faint trail?

I had a good mentality before climbing Bussard Mountain so it went by pretty easily. I took a lunch break near the top of the mountain to rest up before the final push into Bonner’s Ferry. While I was eating, I heard the sound of a dog whimpering from around the corner. I immediately thought, “Oh cool, someone brought their dog up here. Now I can have someone to talk to!” I had been alone since leaving Eureka. But then the animal came around the corner and I quickly realized that it wasn’t a dog – it was a full-grown grey wolf. 

  • This isn’t my picture, I found it on Google Images…but it looks identical to the wolf I encountered. 

Before it noticed me, I saw that it had a rabbit in its mouth. This was comforting because I knew it wasn’t looking for more food. Regardless though, I kept my eyes on him as he walked by. When he got about 15 feet away, he finally noticed me and stopped in his tracks. Our eyes locked and I remained calm to show him that I wasn’t phased by his presence. Without breaking eye contact, I grabbed my bear spray, took off the safety, and pointed it at his head.

After having practiced this maneuver many times, I was able to do it in one solid motion. The moment I pointed the spray at the wolf’s head, he ran. He jumped off the side of the mountain and I don’t think he knew this, but there were a lot of fallen down trees (known as blowouts) where he jumped. I heard him crash & tumble before picking himself back up and running out of sight. I hope he didn’t lose his rabbit.

  • Up and over Bussard Mountain in Idaho. 

After the wolf encounter, I decided to pack up and continue with my day. I considered myself lucky that it was just a lone wolf. I didn’t want to encounter a pack. I made my way down the mountain and to a highway that led into Bonner’s Ferry. A trail angel (someone who helps out the hikers) gave myself and another hiker that I just met, Simple Sole, a ride into town. Apparently Simple Sole had always been just a little bit ahead of me this whole time, although I had been alone for days. He got a room at a motel while I setup my tent in the motel’s ‘backyard.’ 

This town was a nice stay. I ran into my friend Raven again and met some other hikers named Free Bird (who has hiked an insane amount of miles), Roadie (who I had recently met on Instagram), and Nightrider (a friend I made along the PCT last year)! We all hung out in town together and exchanged stories of this trail as well as other trails from the past. Raven and Freebird split off early while Nightrider, Simple Sole, Roadie and I rested up in town. 

After recharging, we went back out to start one of the most intense parts of the trail: the traverse across the Selkirk Mountains.

Dirty B

Keep following along as I write about the best experience of my life – the Pacific Northwest Trail!

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The Pacific Northwest Trail: Glacier National Park to Eureka, Montana

Here it goes; the adventures and experiences I had along the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). I will start off by explaining my experiences through the Rocky Mountains. I heard this trail was exceptionally challenging, with some hikers claiming it to be the “double-black diamond” of the national scenic trails in America. This is due to a couple major reasons: the relentless, daily elevation change & the reoccurring navigational problems. It takes a crazy person to want to attempt something like this and fortunately, I fit that role well.

So anyways, let’s flashback to the very beginning. My family dropped me off at the LAX airport, where I had a plane going to Kalispell, Montana. From there I had planned to take a bus/train combination to get to Glacier National Park. After doing the whole baggage check thing in the airport, I sat next to my terminal to wait for the plane. A guy sat next to me and when I saw him, I knew he was a long-distance hiker. I’ve got a good eye for it nowadays. I asked him, “You’re a hiker aren’t you?” He said yes and introduced himself as Hard Time. He told me that he was heading to Glacier National Park to go to the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). He told me his friends were picking him up in Montana to drive up to Glacier and that I could tag along. Sick! I met up with his friends, a guy and a girl named Squints and Beans, respectively. I knew of Beans from Instagram so it was cool to actually meet her!

  • The start of a grand adventure. 

So there we all were, driving towards Canada to begin our journeys. We got our backcountry permits for Glacier National Park and went up to the Canadian border. Because the PNT & CDT start at the same place, I had the pleasure of hiking 6 miles with my new friends before the PNT turned west, while the CDT continued south. This was where one of the biggest mental challenges began: hiking alone in grizzly country.

Hiking alone in grizzly country required me to be on my A-game all day, everyday. I always had to be aware of my surroundings and I always had to be prepared to confront a bear. This was a major contrast to the typical “zone out and hike” method that I’m used to.

So off I went, making my way to the first physical challenge: the “impassable” Stoney Indian Pass. The rangers all told me there was too much snow still and that it was dangerous. Although they gave me a permit to do it, they did so begrudgingly. Truth be told, I laid anxiously awake in my tent the night before the ascent up the pass. Was I in over my head? Can I actually make the ascent? These rangers really had me thinking but I am too stubborn with my goals to let it get to me. I woke up early the next morning, feeling fresh and excited to begin the challenge.

  • The views up and over Stoney Indian Pass. 

Turns out that the ascent wasn’t that bad. There was a lot of snow, the rivers were flowing heavily (and were freezing), but it wasn’t anything beyond my capabilities. I took a break at the top of the pass and soaked everything in. The mountains here are jagged and majestic looking. There’s also life EVERYWHERE. This might just be the most beautiful place on Earth.

I made my way down the pass and had lunch in a nice, shady spot by a river. A girl that I had met the day before caught up to me. Her name was Raven and she was doing the PNT as well. We both ate together and talked about our experiences so far. After lunch, the rest of the day was spent hiking down into a valley. The next day I went up Brown’s Pass.

  • Glacier National Park showcasing more of its beauty. 

The views here were incredible! The mountains were all capped with snow and there were countless waterfalls from all the snowmelt. After taking a break at the top of the pass, I began the steep descent to Bowman Lake – a beautiful turquoise colored lake. I saw a black bear during the descent! He was in my way so I yelled at him. He immediately jumped on his hind legs to look for who yelled at him. When he found me, our eyes locked for a few moments. I didn’t really know what to do so I just let instinct kick in and stood my ground. I let him know that I wasn’t intimidated. He then hopped back on all fours and casually walked off the trail. I then made my way down to Bowman Lake – all the while clutching my bear spray for protection.

  • The bittersweet end of the traverse through Glacier National Park. 

I followed along Bowman Lake until I reached its southern edge. From there, I exited Glacier National Park made my way into the first trail town – Polebridge, MT. Polebridge was a nice, small ‘town’ with friendly people. There wasn’t much to offer so my stay here was short. I made my way back to the trail and upon my return, I saw a grizzly! Luckily, he didn’t seem interested in me. He just looked at me while walking across the trail and then continued with his day. He was a full-grown bear with a beautiful brown coat. I’ll never forget it. I just wish I had time to take a picture of it.

The next obstacle was to traverse the snow-covered Whitefish Range. The trail was easy to follow until the snow came. The trail disappeared under the snow and there weren’t many tracks from previous hikers, indicating that I was one of the first hikers of the season. I constantly lost the trail in the snow but I had a general idea of where I needed to be. My method was to just bushwhack straight up and down mountains until a trail appeared. Fortunately, I always found the trail again…eventually. As frustrating as it was at times, it felt like a true adventure. Always having to be alert really makes you live in the moment.

  • Hitting summits and hiking through snow. 

After traversing through miles of snow up, down & around ridgelines, the trail started to drop down into a valley using not a trail, but an old mining road. This mining road hasn’t been used or maintained in a very long time. It felt like I was walking through history! The mining road led to a spot that was very close to the Canadian border – less than 20 feet away! I couldn’t help myself. I walked into Canada through the forest and walked back into America after a few brief moments. There was no wall, nor were there any border patrol. Just a clear cut of trees signifying the border. I had my fun and then continued down the mountain to reach a highway where I hitchhiked into the next trail town – Eureka, Montana.

 

  • Snuck into Canada because why not?

I met up with some other hikers (Seabass & Cheddar) at the highway and we all hitched into town together. A border patrol worker gave us a ride in the back of his truck – score! When we got into town, we ate together at a grocery store and split our ways. I got a hotel for the night and crashed out. At this point, I was mentally drained from the challenges thus far. I needed to recharge. The next morning I explored around Eureka. It was a nice town and although small, it was bigger than Polebridge. I had brunch, studied my maps, and headed back out to tackle the next mountain range – the Purcell Mountains.

Dirty B

Keep following along as I write about the best experience of my life – the Pacific Northwest Trail!

The Arizona Trail: Flagstaff to the Utah Border

  • Quick little side trip to Sedona. 

When I got to Flagstaff, I met with a guy named Will that heard of me on social media. After short introductions, we decided to drive to Sedona for a little side adventure. Sedona is beautiful! I’ve always heard good things but to see it in person was amazing. Will told me all about the geology in the local area. My knowledge on geology focuses on California so it was nice to learn something new. After a while, we drove back and he offered to let me crash at his place! He also made some breakfast the following morning – good ol’ bacon and eggs. Always hits the spot! I had some stuff to do in town so we said our goodbyes and off I went. 

After doing various chores around the town, I booked a night at a hostel. It was a nice one-room place to stay at. The morning after I enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at the hostel, picked up more food for the next week, and went back to the trail. 

  • Humphrey’s Peak – the tallest mountain in Arizona. 

After returning to the trail, the forest started to open up. This was followed by killer views of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s tallest mountain. Water near the base of the mountain was abundant due to all the snow melt from above. After I made my way around Humphrey’s Peak and continued north, the water turned into more of a luxury as the terrain became dry again. 

  • Cool lookin’ watchtower. 

The trail was relatively flat leading up to the Grand Canyon. This was a great opportunity for hiking heavy miles. There were some nice views as the trail weaved in and out of the forest but it was hard to focus – the Grand Canyon was so close! I was able to catch a sneak peek of it from atop of an 80-foot watchtower. I’ve been looking forward to making it to the Grand Canyon since day one of this trip. After careful planning, I finally made it to the Grand Canyon – on my birthday weekend! What a treat. I was as happy as a kid in a candy store. 

  • Playing guitar on a cliff on my birthday. 

Upon my arrival to the Grand Canyon, I ran into a couple trail friends – Breck and Waker! We all hung out at Mather Campground, close to the canyon. After catching up from the last time we saw each other, we all got our backcountry permits to camp overnight at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Shoutout to the Forest Service for pulling strings for us AZT hikers to obtain a permit with no complications. 

Breck and Waker soon left for the trail while I took the day off for my birthday. I couldn’t imagine a better way ring in my 25th year of life! I went to the edge of the south rim of the Grand Canyon and played guitar for what seemed like hours. People walking by would stop and admire the sounds coming from my guitar before continuing on with their day. I felt so alive, so free. After a while, I went back to the campground and got ready for the next day – the descent down the canyon. 

  • Great views inside the Grand Canyon. 

At last the time has come! I took the South Kaibab trail down to the Colorado River. There were a lot of hikers but being in the shape I’m in, I seemed to fly past everyone. To me it’s just another day in the life but I’m sure they were wondering what type of madman had the endurance to do this. When I got to the bottom, I enjoyed a nice lunch as I heard the roaring sound of the river flowing down the canyon. I then packed up and headed to my destination for the day – Cottonwood Campground. I made it there in the evening and played guitar until the sun went down. 

  • Hiking through a snowstorm. 

The following day, I started the ascent up the north rim using the North Kaibab Trail. I heard talk of a storm rolling in so I wanted to get out of the flash flood zone. Sure enough, the clouds rolled in and brought with them a light rain in the early parts of the morning. After making it up to the north rim, the rain got harder. I made it up just in time! But now another curveball was thrown – it started snowing! The north rim is near 9,000-feet in elevation. I met up with an older dude named Dave, who was also hiking the AZT. He didn’t have a GPS with him so we decided to hike together in the storm. The snow covered the trail entirely so GPS was critical to have. We hiked 12 miles together as 3 inches of snow was dumped on us. It was at this time where we found shelter from the storm – an old, abandoned cabin. We cleared out the inside and slept in here for the night. 

In the morning, there was a mixture of snow and rain in the air. This is a combination that I’m not a fan of. It’s cold enough to snow but we’re also getting wet from the rain. Dave and I decided to get to a highway and hitchhike to the nearby town Jacob Lake, where we got a hotel room to dry off for the rest of the day. It wasn’t part of the schedule but it was necessary. The following day, I hitchhiked back to where I left off and continued my journey. 

  • The days warmed up and the snow melted as the storm passed. 

The weather had turned back into what I’m very fond of – clear, warm and sunny. It was also at this time that I relaized how close I was to Utah. I was 58 miles away! This is normally a 3-day hike for me but I decided to get it done in just 2 days. Although it wasn’t easy, the border was beckoning for my arrival. During this time, I encountered the longest water carry of the whole trail – 30 miles of no water. It’s hard to carry enough water for 2 days in a time like this so the decision was made. I was hiking at least 30 miles that day. The terrain was relatively flat so this goal was very feasible. When I took a closer look at my maps, I noticed that Utah was 34 miles away. There’s no way I was leaving just 4 miles for the following day! I decided to get it all done. As I woke up to begin this last challenge, I was ready. My mind and body were feeling good. I recall feeling like an animal as I was hiking at a 4mph pace. This is an exceptional pace for a hiker. 

As a side note, there’s a funny thing about when I make a goal: it gets done. If you ever hear of a goal I’ve made in my head, consider it done. I love this personal trait about myself. 

  • One last walk in the forest before the finish line!

After 11.5 hours of hiking, I made it to the Arizona/Utah border! The feeling of accomplishment overwhelmed my body. This feeling is very addicting. I felt the same as I finished the PCT just 8 months ago. I sat at the border and reflected on this journey as all the memories began to flood my mind. Through thick and thin, the good times and the bad times, I made it! Although it had only been 47 days since the start of the trip, it’s felt like months to me. Everyday is literally a new day. The brain receives new information every second which makes the time go by very slow. I love it. 

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the Arizona Trail. The diverse scenery was not something I expected – it’s really a hidden gem! Thank you, Arizona, for the new challenges, the new experiences, and the new friendships. I’ll never forget this. 

And by the way, this is just part one for this year. There’s more adventures to come… 😉

Dirty B

Keep following along as myself, along with 14 others thru-hike different trails across the United States as part of the #thruhikesyndicate!

The Arizona Trail: Pine to Flagstaff

  • Hikers hanging out in a town. 

When I got to Pine, I hit up my trail friend 9-to-5. I knew he was already here because he’s got a fast pace. He informed me that he was also with another hiker, who I hadn’t seen in 200 miles – a hiker named Waker. We all agreed to meet up at a pizza place and being the hungry hikers we are, we each ordered an 8-slice, 12-inch pizza for ourselves. After devouring the pizzas in a matter of minutes, we proceeded to do what hikers do best in towns – loiter. We loiter for several reasons such as for wifi, to charge our electronics, or just to relax. Later, I made a reservation to stay at a nice, one-bedroom cabin for the night. It was small but I let 9-to-5 and Waker crash on the floor. It beats sleeping outside in the cold (even though we do that on a regular basis). We all exchanged stories for a while and called it a night. 9-to-5 and Waker left in the morning to go back to the trail while I took the day off in town. 

  • Stealth camping at its finest. 

After lounging around the cabin all morning, I checked out and got lunch at a place called the Early Bird Cafe. While I was finishing up, another one of my trail friends named Breck hit me up. We met up and talked for a bit while he ate. Afterwards, we both did various chores before meeting again to cook some dinner at a nearby grill. After eating and catching up for a while, it started getting dark. This was my que to leave so I could find a place to camp in town for free. Doing this is called stealth camping. When it’s dark, you scope out a spot where you think no one will see you and you camp there. Then you gotta wake up early to pack up and leave – it’s like you weren’t even there. This is a method I like to do from time to time to save money and it works great. In the morning I packed up, got more food, and went back to the trail. 

  • Trees a’many and water a’plenty. 

After getting back on trail, I noticed a dramatic change in scenery. There were far more trees around and water was very abundant. I had never imagined Arizona to have an environment like this. The views were great and the camping spots were plentiful. After hiking just shy of 10 miles, I came across Webber Creek, a beautiful spot that I couldn’t pass up. It was early in the day but I decided to stop here, set up camp, and play guitar by the creek.  

  • Explored an old cabin. 

Somewhere deep in the mountains, I came across an old cabin from the early 1900s. It was built by a man named Louis Fisher and was used for a while as a fire guard station. The door was unlocked so I explored inside. It was a simple one-bedroom cabin made of wood and looked like a perfect spot to live in the warmer months. 

  • Another encounter with fire in the mountains. 

While taking a lunch break somewhere generously south of Mormon Lake, AZ I noticed the vague smell of a forest fire. Shortly after, I saw faint amounts of smoke starting to come in. I shrugged it off, packed my bag, and went back to hiking. Moments later, the whole forest became hazy as smoke was blowing by in all directions. I knew I wasn’t dangerously close to the fire because the smoke would’ve been much thicker…but I knew I was nearby. I just needed to know if I should continue north or go back towards the south. I checked to see if I had any cell service. I had faint roaming service…score! I called my friend Troy and asked him to look it up for me. I had no internet, just calling capabilities. He couldn’t find anything so I shrugged it off again and continued hiking. Then the smoke got thicker in every direction. I stopped where I was and called 911 to see if it was anything I should worry about – better safe than sorry. They looked up my coordinates based off my phone call and said I was a few miles northeast of a 1,200-acre controlled burn. Cool. This means I was good to continue north. 

  • Mormon Lake, AZ – a nice, small town. 

The following day I made it into Mormon Lake after a 29-mile day of hiking. Since I got in at dusk, I pitched my tent in some woods near the town. I woke up and thought I’d feel a bit sore after a heavy day but nope! Thru-hiking long trails really gets the body in top-notch physical shape – that’s what it feels like, anyway. I then went to the local store to pick up a food package and to gorge on as much food as I could. With the amount of calories I burn everyday, I am always hungry. As I was getting stuff together, I ran into my trail friend Breck while at the store. After some conversation, we decided to head back to the trail together.

  • Cool lookin’ cloud formation. 

The days after leaving Pine have been getting cold. Pants and a down jacket have been the daily attire lately. Usually by the first mile of the day, the body starts to warm up. I didn’t think of Arizona as having a climate like this – forests, abundant water, & cold weather – but I packed warm clothing just in case.

  • Interesting geology goin’ on here. 

As Flagstaff got closer, the geology started to pop out of the forest. I can tell the Grand Canyon is getting close now! For those that don’t know, I’m a geologist and being exposed to new geological terrain is a really important part of these hiking trips. 

That’s it for now. I’ve approached Flagstaff and from the looks of it, this town seems nice! I’m excited to see what this town has in store.

600 miles down!

Dirty B

Keep following along as myself, along with 14 others thru-hike different trails across the United States as part of the #thruhikesyndicate!

The Arizona Trail: Kearny to Pine

Kearny was a nice little town. An old guy picked me up while trying to hitchhike from the trail. He was a nice guy. Upon arriving into town, I went to the post office to pick up 6 days of food and went to the local grocery store to pick up some small snacks. I then tried to hitchhike back to the trail with no luck. I heard talk that the local motel, General Kearny Inn, gives rides to hikers that wanna go back to the trail. I went over and asked about this. Sure enough, they gave me a ride back to the trail!

  • Sunsets with Saguaros

The trail was nice and easy for quite a few miles. Not much up, not much down. This was really nice. It also followed along the Gila River for a bit. After hiking through a dry environment during the last section, I couldn’t resist the urge to relax by the river for a while. 

  • Relaxin’ by the Gila River. 

After taking a break at the river, I began to ascend into the mountains. These mountains were still ‘desert mountains’ in the sense that they had no treecover for shade and water was still a relatively rare commodity. After a long ascent up a mountain, I made my way to a water source – one of those feces-infested cow tanks that I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post. 

  • Drinkin’ the finest of water. 

See that water? It’s yellow, muddy, and not appealing whatsoever. Would you drink it? Your answer is most likely along the lines of a stern “no” but when I got here, I was more than glad to drink this. I didn’t even give it a second thought. It’s funny what happens when a simple commodity like crisp, clear water becomes rare. I chugged a bunch of this water, after filtering of course. 

  • Picket Post Mountain in all its glory. 

After drinking all I could to replenish my body’s needs, I meandered down mountains and valleys until I saw Picket Post Mtn. I thought this was so cool and it came out of nowhere. It reminded me of a mini grand canyon! The trail went all the way around it, showcasing this natural beauty at all angles. After enjoying this newfound scenery, I made my way to a trailhead where I had arranged to have my cousin Konner pick me up so we could hang out for a bit. 

  • A high-tech massage chair. 

My cousin lives in Queen Creek, AZ kinda near Pheonix. We drove to his place which was about an hour drive from the trail. I had never been to his house so he gave me the grand tour. He made sure to mention his dad’s really awesome massage chair. This thing was high-tech. I loved it. After showing me around the house, we went out to get some authentic mexican food. I ordered a big plate of nachos and it hit the spot – usually does. The following day I took a zero (a day off) and I had the house to myself while everyone was at work. I lounged around all day and did close to nothing. It felt amazing. When Konner came back, we went out again and he showed me around the nearby college town. That was fun. 

  • Gettin’ dropped back off. 

After my day off, I wanted to get back to the trail to continue hiking. Since Konner had work, his parents gave me a ride. They bought me jack in the box along the way! I ordered a breakfast item with a decent amount of calories. After about an hour of driving, we made it back to where I left off on the trail. I said my goodbyes and on I went. Queen Creek was a nice stay. 

  • Doing laundry – the old fashioned way. 

I tend to take it easy on the days following a zero. Its like going back to work after the weekend. Gotta ease back into things, right? I found a small stream and relaxed here for a while. I washed my socks, ate lunch, and played guitar. It was relaxing.

  • Roosevelt Lake off in the distance. 

The trail was very scenic upon my return but there’s usually a catch – things began to get steep. For an experienced thru-hiker to call something steep, it’s really steep. I’m talkin’ Class 2 & 3 climbing at some points. What’s great about this is that it really gets your legs in shape.

  • Heat has brought out the rattlesnakes. 

It’s becoming warmer now which means the cold-blooded creatures are coming out. This includes rattlesnakes. I’ve seen more rattlesnakes in this section than I ever have before. Most are in the middle of the trail and I have almost stepped on them! Sometimes their camouflage is really good. I’m not nervous about most wildlife but I really wouldn’t like to get bit by one of these guys. When I’m hiking and I hear a rattle, its nerve-wrecking because I don’t know how close or in what direction they are, initially. 

  • A quick stop at Roosevelt Lake. 

After seeing Roosevelt Lake off in the distance for what seemed like forever, I had finally made my way down to this massive lake. I had to get more food from a post office so I immediately started to stick out the ol’ thumb when I got to the highway. Someone picked me up instantly – score! A guy and his wife picked me up and brought me over to the post office. Upon my arrival, a worker at the post office told me that my package was forwarded to a store nearby where the trail had initially spit me out on the highway. Bummer! I tried hitchhiking back with no luck. I waited an hour before another man and his wife offered to give me a ride. Sweet! Initially they said they could only take me halfway but after some small talk, the man decided to bring me all the way back – another score!

I made it to a store and got my package. I met up with another hiker, Breck, and we chatted for a bit. Then someone familiar came along – a guy I met while hiking the PCT last year! His name is 9-to-5 and he is hiking the AZT as well. What a small world! After catching up for a while, we all went back to the trail to begin the challenging section leading to Pine, AZ. 

  • Gorgeous views after steep climbs.

This section was absolutely beautiful. Arguably some of the best views in southwest America. As beautiful as they were, it was physically and mentally demanding to climb up and over these mountains day after day for almost a week straight. I hit a mental wall for about a half-day during the middle of this section. This was my first big obstacle of this trip so far, luckily! Motivation to make the next climb was nowhere to be found. That being said, I pressed on. I know these moments never last forever and sure enough, it didn’t. I made my way up the steep climb for the day and when I got to the top, something amazing happened. My body was all of a sudden filled with pure, euphoric happiness. A type of feeling I can’t explain accurately in words. It was just great! The same feeling fills my body again right now as I write this. 

In my opinion, these mental walls are a very important part of a thru-hike – and they are unavoidable. They happen to every hiker. It’s in these moments where you find your true strength. In all cases, the hiker becomes a stronger person after overcoming these times. 

  • Enjoying the sunrise after an early start. 

At this point, I was feeling great. My body and mind felt stronger than ever. I got an early start so I could reach Pine, AZ at a reasonable time – I was 20 miles away. The sunrise was absolutely stunning. I stopped hiking for a few minutes to enjoy this moment. These desert sunrises are incomparable. After watching the sun rise, I resumed my goal to get to Pine. The steep terrain at this point was a thing of the past as the trail was approaching Rim Country. This terrain allowed for nice, swift hiking. I was able to get into Pine by 1:30pm. 20 miles by this time is not bad!

That’s it for now. I’m excited for the rest of this trail and I’ve heard it just keeps getting more beautiful.

 Dirty B 

Keep following along as myself, along with 14 others thru-hike different trails across the United States as part of the #thruhikesyndicate!

The Arizona Trail: Tucson to Kearny 

  • A wildfire on a nearby mountain. 

Upon my arrival to Mt. Lemmon Hwy, the highway used to get a ride into Tucson, I noticed that there was a wildfire on a nearby mountain! I saw police cars on the highway below so I made my descent down the mountain to get info from them. When I got down to the road, I talked to a sheriff about the conditions of the wildfire. I was nervous that it would be affecting the trail, causing me to have to skip around the next section. Fortunately, he told me it was a small fire that was off the trail – for now. What a relief! 

  • Fun little ride in a Sheriff’s truck. 

Unfortunately, Mt. Lemmon Hwy was shut down due to this fire. This was not good because I had arranged for someone to pick me up from this highway so I could get down to Tucson to get more food and rest – I had run down to my last meal at this point. I told the sheriff my situation and he offered to drive me to the base of the mountain where my initial ride could pick me up. I took him up on that offer. It’s not everyday you get to ride in a sheriff’s truck (and not be in trouble). His truck was loaded! As I placed my gear in the back seat, I noticed a fully-loaded shotgun among other small weapons. Arizona doesn’t mess around! Note taken. I hopped in the front seat and off we went. After about 15 minutes of small talk, we were at the base of the mountain where I was dropped off. When the sheriff drove off, I realized I left my water filter in his truck. I was bummed but at least I was in a town where I could correct my mistake. Coulda been worse. It was at this time where I met my initial ride, Meghan, a girl who provided generous hospitality while in Tucson. 

  • Meghan – an aspiring Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. 

Meghan had heard on social media that I was thru-hiking the AZT and offered to take me in when I got to Tucson. She also told me she was planning on a thru-hike this year starting in mid-May, and wanted some pointers. Just like the ride with the sheriff, I took up the offer. When we met up, I told her I needed a new water filter so we drove to a placed called Summit Hut and got one. Afterwards we went to a burger place in downtown Tucson (Lindy’s) to eat and talk about her plans this year to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, a ~2,200 mile trail that spans from Georgia to Maine. I gave her all the advice I could to try and save her time and money on her long journey – advice coming from mistakes that I had made (and learned from) during my first thru-hike last year. In return, she paid for my dinner and let me crash at her place as opposed to spending money on a hotel. Talk about being generous! 

The following morning I called up a Trail Angel (someone who helps out the hikers in need) named Jon. He drove me around town so I could pick up 6 days of food and then drove me back to the trail. 

  • I hit a roadblock…literally. 

When Jon and I were trying to go back to the trail, we found that Mt. Lemmon Hwy was still closed from the fire. I went up to an officer to ask if I could go up since it still had not affected the AZT (or even the highway for that matter) but the officer refused to let me go up. I knew for a fact that the fire was not affecting the trail so there’s no way he was gonna stop me from getting back on. I took out my maps and tried to figure out an alternative route up. I found a dirt road that led back to the trail. Only bummer was that I had to re-hike 8 miles just to get to where I left off. Oh well, bonus miles right? Jon graciously agreed to take me up this dirt road. 

The generosity of people here in Arizona have amazed me so far. 

  • Saw the first snake of the trip. 

For the first half of the next day, I followed along a nice, fresh flowing river. There was a lot of wildlife out on this morning. I saw deer, various birds, squirrels, and even a snake! First snake I’ve seen this whole time, which I’m very surprised about. It looked like a rattlesnake at first (and maybe was) but I didn’t see a rattle.

  • The climb up Mt. Lemmon – very steep. 

 The second half of the day was a challenge. It consisted of hiking up Mt. Lemmon with an elevation gain around 4,000 ft in just 8 miles. As challenging as it was, the views near the top of the climb were a nice reward. It overlooked the surrounding mountains in all directions.

  • The 200 mile mark!

After the climb up Mt. Lemmon, the trail began to drop back down into the desert. It was during this decent where I hit the 200 mile mark! Someone made a ‘200’ out of rocks on the side of the trail so us hikers know when we’ve crossed it. What a great feeling! 

  • The Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, AZ. 

After dropping down the mountain, I came across a road that led into Oracle, AZ. There was talk about a lady named Marney who ran a motel business and was very friendly to the hikers. I called her up and told her I needed a ride from the trail to her motels – I was ready to take a day off. She met me at the trail and brought me back to her motels. She then told me the hikers get a special rate – $30/night. Thats cheap! These were nice rooms too. It included 2 beds, a fridge, microwave, tv, and bathroom/shower. I stayed here for 2 nights and took my first zero day of this trip. For those that don’t know, a zero day is a day with no hiking whatsoever. I hung out with Marney and another hiker at scattered times throughout the zero day. After sleeping in a bed, showering, doing laundry, and devouring all the food I could, I felt recharged. Time to head back out. 

    • Water caches – a literal lifesaver. 

    After leaving Oracle, the trail was really dry. There were no natural water sources from here all the way to Kearny, where the trail intersects with the Gila River. This is a 60+ mile stretch of dry desert terrain. People who support this trail are aware of this dry section and they see to it that the hikers get water. What they do is they drop off gallons of water at different trailheads along the way and check up on them from time to time to replenish the cache. Whether it be hot or cold when we get to it, water is water. Shoutout to all those who do this for us. You’re literally saving our lives. This includes Marney from the Chalet Village Motel. 

    • A garden of cacti. 

    As dry as this section was, it was very scenic. The amount of different cacti all around was really cool. I’ve never seen some of these before. The cherry on top during this section was that the temperature was still nice and warm! The hottest day got up to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Can’t ask for much better than that in the desert! 

    • Can you spot the tent?

    Another really cool part about the desert floor was the abundance of quality camping spots. I found a nice, sandy wash to camp in every night. The moon was also full during this time so I was able to enjoy the desert at night with the moon’s illumination. 

    • Found some chrysocolla!

    As I was approaching Kearny, I met another hiker named Breck. He’s an Arizona native and he mentioned that there is a lot of copper in this area. As a geologist I knew that because of this, I would encounter either turquoise, malachite, azurite, or chrysocolla very soon. Sure enough, I did! I stumbled upon some chrysocolla (the blue stuff) and collected some for my personal stash. 

    • The Gila River. 

    At last, I got to the Gila River which means I’ve also made it to a road that leads into Kearny. I went to collect water from the river. It was a bit muddy but the water was nice and cold. The trail will be going back up into the mountains from here so I’m sure the water situation is about to get better. 

    I took precautionary measures during this dry desert section because I didn’t know if the weather was gonna start heating up or not. The last two days leading to the Gila River consisted of hiking a 22 and 25.5-mile day – this is in contrast with my usual 17-mile days so far. 

    The day after I made it to the Gila River, the weather started to rise up to the mid-80s. Seems like I made the right decision. And best news yet, my body is still feeling good! 265 miles down. 

    Dirty B 

    Keep following along as myself, along with 14 others thru-hike different trails across the United States as part of the #thruhikesyndicate!

    The Arizona Trail: Patagonia to Tucson

    Patagonia, AZ was a nice little town. The word ‘little’ is to be taken literally. The town consisted of a small strip of buildings on the same road for about 500 ft. There were a couple places to eat, a couple places to shop, a library, and an old-style gas station. Nonetheless, this is luxury for a thru-hiker. We don’t need much to be happy. I enjoyed a nice breakfast burrito at their local coffee shop, conversed with some locals for a bit, went to the nearby library to send off some emails and charge my phone, and went to their marketplace to buy some small snacks for the trail. After spending about 4 hours in town, I decided to head back out to the trail. 

    • Half burned, half alive – a cool contrast. 

    Upon leaving the town, I found that the trail consisted of a 12-mile roadwalk along a dirt road before actually going back to a regular, rugged trail. Normally this bums me out (dirt roads are more compact and can hurt the feet more over time) but this roadwalk was really scenic and beautiful. I could see the surrounding mountains as I was walking through rolling hills that appeared golden as the sun was setting. 

    • Explored inside an old mining cave!

    The following day, I stumbed upon an old mining cave right off the side of the trail. I wasn’t planning on taking a break from hiking just yet but the geologist inside me wanted to explore that cave badly. Rest assured I put all my gear down, pulled out my headlamp, and explored that cave. It was cool inside, both literally and figuratively. The yellow rocks in the middle picture contain sulfur, which I’ve been told is a good indicator of gold being nearby. No gold though, as usual.  

    • Cows galore.  

    There were a ton of cattle right after Patagonia, AZ! Both female dairy cows and male bulls. They’re fun to walk next to because you just don’t know whether to feel threatened or not, especially with the bulls. They don’t seem aggressive but they are big. 

    • A nice view of the open desert ahead. 

     The views in this section have continued to impress. One minute you’re in a forest of trees, the next you have a wide open view of the desert and surrounding mountains. These wide open views are what it’s all about. I love it. 

    • Pure bliss. 

    Six months without a guitar was pretty rough last year so I bought a small, lightweight one for this trip. One of my favorite parts of the day out here is to setup camp, play guitar, and watch as the sun falls over the horizon. It’s extremely peaceful. 

    • Waiting for a ride into town. 

    After hiking 90 miles with no break, I needed to spend some time in a town to rest and resupply on food. I came across a highway that led into the town of Sonoita, AZ. A ride came along after about an hour of waiting. Not the typical time I’m used to waiting for hitches but I’m grateful one came eventually. 

    I’ve noticed that a majority of the locals near the AZT are not familiar with this trail, which makes it hard for someone to want to pick you up.

    • Top picture: Andre and Crystal, 2 people that showed great hospitality. 
    • Bottom picture: A medal of excellence given to me by Andre. 

    Upon arriving into Sonoita, AZ I found that the local hotel was priced at a high rate – $120/night! I tried to find other options. I asked a cashier in the local market if she knew any cheap places to stay. She pointed me to the direction of a man who worked at the local restaurant. I went to the restaurant and met a guy named Andre, a retired Green Baret veteran as well as another worker named Crystal. I told them about my adventures and they were so impressed that they gave me a free meal! How generous. We then conversed for a while and exchanged stories. Andre was taken back by my commitment for these long hikes. He came up to me and said, “Here. I want you to have this.” He presented me with a ‘medal of excellence’ that he says is awarded to soldiers that prove themselves worthy of receiving it. I was honored to receive this from him.

    • Camping in a barn for a night. 

    In regards to a place to stay, Andre directed me to a lady in town that runs a fairground. I called her and told her my situation. She said, “Sure come on down! I’ll let ya put up your tent for the night.” So off to the fairground I went. After exploring around a bit, I came across a horse stable. I love obscure camp spots so I camped there for the night and left for the trail the following morning. Sonoita, AZ was a good stay. 

    • Walking through the I-10 underpass southeast of Tucson, AZ. 

    Soon after leaving Sonoita, AZ, the trail began to drop down into the desert. This section can get very hot and potentially miserable to walk through. Fortunately I lucked out with having good weather. There was a lot of cloud cover and the temps stayed within the 65-80 degree range during the day. It even rained one night!

    • The infamous Saguaro Cactus. 

    Not long after arriving on the desert floor, I entered Saguaro National Park. I’ve seen the Saguaro Cactus before but never this many at once! These things are huge. Some that I saw got up to 20ft in height! Just like Joshua Trees in Southern California, these cacti only grow in certain parts of the world at certain elevations. These remind me of the cacti found in the classic wild west films, or even in modern western-themed video games such as Red Dead Redemption. Walking side by side with the Saguaros was really enjoyable. 

    • The ascent up Mica Mountain. 

    After waking up on the desert floor, I immediately started to ascend up Mica Mountain. Going from the desert floor to the top of this mountain consisted of an elevation gain in the realm of 6,000ft! Talk about a good workout. It was really cool to start the day in the desert and finish up on top of a mountain with alpine trees and patches of snow.

    • The view from the top of the climb. 

    After the long and tiring ascent, this is what was waiting on top. What a killer view! Probably the best view from the trail so far.

    164 miles down so far! This section of the Arizona Trail has been a good one. I’ll continue to post detailed experiences on this blog, probably on a weekly basis. 

    Dirty B

    Keep following along as myself, along with 14 others thru-hike different trails across the United States as part of the #thruhikesyndicate!