6 March 2022
You might think that I’d learned my lesson.
Last year I attempted a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. But after 50 days, I decided to head home. I barely made it a third of the way, travelling just 800 miles and ending in the middle of California!
At the time, it was the right decision for me. Even though I had just had four of the most incredible hiking days of my life, I missed my wife. I was able to handle the physical demands of thru-hiking, but I could not manage the emotional demands. I returned home and felt content.
Yet here I am, longing to get back on trail. And not just for a weekend or two. Once again, I am motivated by the idea of thru-hiking. A journey with a defined beginning and a defined end. A goal that is physically and emotionally demanding. An experience of nearly-complete freedom to wander, to live simply, to put myself in the way of beauty every single day. The thru-hike bug has bitten me once again.
What to do?
One possibility would be to try for another thru-hike of the PCT. Even as I write this, the first few-hundred permit-holders are already heading north on the trail. Why not go and join them?
Well, looking back on my explanation of why I decided to attempt a thru-hike of the PCT last year, I was reminded that a key element for me is novelty. I like seeing new stuff! If I were to head north from Mexico today, the next couple of months would put me back in the same places at about the same time of year for the first two months. I worry that I would get bored and give up before I even reach where I left off last year.
So what’s the alternative?
Well, I could try for a southbound thru-hike of the PCT. Instead of Mexico to Canada, why not Canada to Mexico? I would see brand new bits of trail in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, and if I made it to the Sierra and Southern California I would pass through them in Fall instead of Spring.
I like this plan! In fact, I like it so much, that I already got a permit from the PCTA for a southbound hike. Woo hoo!
But here’s the problem. Most years it’s not safe to start at the Canadian border before late June. And I want to thru-hike NOW!
So again, what to do?
As it turns out, there is another thru-hike nearby that people rave about: the Arizona Trail. It goes from Mexico to Utah, passing through Saguaro and Grand Canyon National Parks and along the backbone of some of the most beautiful mountain ranges of the desert Southwest.
And it is just 800 miles. I already know I can achieve that distance (well, I did it that one time, anyway).
And the best time to start a northbound thru-hike attempt is in March. Yay!
So that’s where I will be in a week. Touching the southern terminus monument in Mexico, and then turning north to hike every day for about 6 to 7 weeks until I reach the northern terminus in Utah. You can follow along as I blog, recording my whereabouts each night and my iNaturalist observations each day.