Glacier to Polebridge on the PNT

June 30-Amanda, Ava, and Aaron drove us all the way from Columbia Falls to Chief Mountain Trailhead. She took the Going to the Sun road which just opened three days ago. I rode in the back of the truck between the two kids enjoying the views. We are so fortunate that Amanda wanted to drive us to the trailhead. We really appreciate her kindness and I feel it is the start of wonderful trail magic on the PNT. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get to the trailhead where we took our time getting ready and playing with the kids. 

A bit before 11 we embarked on our thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. The first six miles were the final six miles of our CDT hike last year. The only difference is the season making the trail full of green and blooming flowers. We also crossed many streams on the footbridges where last year they were all dry. It was an easy start to the hike with mostly downhill as we slowly neared the mountains and the Belly River. We made it to the junction where we would begin hiking new sections in Glacier. We came to a suspension bridge and took an afternoon snack break listening to the water and songs of the birds. We must still have our trail legs since we can still walk 6.5 miles without a break.

I am back to my happy place again. Surrounded by mountains with snowy peaks and glaciers, a large variety of wild flowers, the sound of rushing water, and lush green grasses all around. I also saw two marmots playing in the grass and letting out their squeals. We both are excited for this hike and instead of exclaiming “to Canada!” as we did on the CDT. We can say “to the Ocean!” What a concept a trail that starts in Glacier and ending on the Pacific Ocean. Just one of the many reasons I wanted to hike this trail.

We had to cross the suspension bridge one at a time as I swayed about making it across quickly. We came to the junction of Gros Ventre Falls where three hikes offered to watch our packs so we could check out the waterfall. We later found out they are hiking the PNT as well. The waterfall was spectacular being deep blue from the glaciers and snow melt. 
We passed a variety of flowers that I could not identify, but we learned about bear grass. We took a water break near a stream enjoying our first filtered bottle of the trip. So much better then tap or bottle water! The three hikers passed us again and we realized we had met the woman for sure. In the Wind River Range, we crossed paths with a male and female thru hiker who had flip flopped. We chatted to her for a few minutes and it was the same woman, Mermaid. She is also hiking with Beacon again this year and Turtle has joined them as for ell on her first thru hike. Yes! We have already met three thru hikers on day one.
We passed by gorgeous blue lakes and the first one is named Cosley Lake. We came to Glenns Lake where we would be camping tonight. We walked along it for a bit before coming to the Glenn Lake Head campsite. In Glacier National Park, the campsites are set up in a specific way. There is a food prep and eating area, a bear hang, a privy spot, and a few campsites. We hung out at the food area as required. A deer came close to us and watched us for a while. Mermaid, Beacon, and Turtle joined us and chatted for a while. They are camping .5 miles father up the trail from us.
The mosquitos were pretty nasty during the day and they got very bad in the evening. We retreated to our tent that looked out at the lake and the huge mountains ahead of us. It is a beautiful spot! As I said in my last blog, I was unsure if I wanted to do another thru hike. My smile and spirit were high today and I couldn’t be happier. I’m not a desert girl, but rather a mountain woman! I live for the flowing water, lush green grasses and flowers, and mountain views. This is where I am meant to be. I am eager to explore this trail, but recognize how quickly time will go by. I will cherish every moment and continue to dream of future adventures and life goals. We fell asleep back in our two person tent for the first time in 5 weeks full of happiness.
July 1
The first time I woke up a deer was licking our tent. I first asked Paperweight if he was making a noise before I yelled at the deer to get away. We drifted back to sleep until 6 when he kindly woke me up and we got moving. We meet two fellows who arrived late last night and chatted during breakfast. A few hundred yards from our tent site I glanced to the water and saw something. It looked like a brown log floating, but suddenly it moved. A large moose head emerged from the lake as he came up for fresh air. The water pour off his antlers as he gazed at us before dipping back under to continue his breakfast. It was a magical sight to see and took my breath away. What a special way to start the day. 

We found ourselves attached by mosquitos and thrashing through overgrown plants. I decided on only hiker shorts and long legged underwear so it looks like my legs will be torn up as usual. The trail began a gradual climb up to the first pass named Stoney Indian Pass. 
We entered the land of waterfalls! We looked up towards our pass seeing patches of snows and multiple waterfalls. Everything I love about hiking can be summed up in this pass. We climbed gradually uphill towards the pass over water patches. We came to the first bridge that was a board across the water and I quickly walked across. We caught up to the other three hikers and moved ahead of them. We came to the next water crossing that did not have a log so we forded the cold glacier water. We then hit the patches of snow. Thanks to the San Juans and CDT I felt confident moving quickly over the snow. A few spots were over a stream, but we did not fall in luckily. It was fun hiking!
We came to the top of pass which rewarded us with a new view of what laid ahead. We considered taking a break, but we wanted to get done with the snow travel. The downhill was a bit more iffy as we ended up on a cliff having to backtrack. It was after 11 so the snow was getting soft. We skipped switchbacks since they were covered in snow and made our way down. A few more snowy patches over streams were easy to pass. We came down to the lake where it is so full that it covered part of the trail. Another water filled with snow melt water felt nice on the toes. There was one last sketchy pass and I was worried about falling into the lake. But we survived the pass so we took a long break staring back at the pass while drying out our feet.
The rest of the day was a breeze besides the pesky mosquitos and high weeds. We were only able to take one break at a stream due to a nice breeze. We pushed on to the Goat Haunt Shelters which was magical. The border patrol agent ran out asking where we came out. She told us to continue down the paved path to the shelters. We walked .25 miles along Waterton Lake which is spectacular. We found the shelters which are concert with three walls. It was a perfect place and it is also a spot where a boat arrives from Canada every few hours to the International Peace Park. 
We hung up our food then set up our semi freestanding tent on the concrete with large rocks. We made our way down to the sitting area and a man came running up to exclaiming “Sass.” It was One of Us a hiker that I met on the PCT. Today is the first day of his CDT thru hike. So it was a wonderful evening of sharing stories. We also met a father and son who will be in 10th grade this year also thru hiking this year. It was a lovely night of conversation with wonderful people. We did not go to bed until close to 10 even though it was still light out. Day two complete and I couldn’t be happier.
July 2
We were the last ones to wake up this morning. So I think I’ve done a great job getting Paperweight to sleep in. I got to use a flush toilet, charge my phone, and enjoy breakfast staring at Waterton Lake. One of Us enjoyed breakfast with us and more great conversation until we parted ways. 
We got back to trail a little later then we had planned, but it was a nice warmup. We walked through more tall brush and over another long suspension bridge. Everything is blooming and the scent of the forest is intense. It was a nice stroll as we neared the start of the climb to Brown Pass.
On the way uphill, we had to do some quick foot steps in loose mud due to a huge snow bank. If you slip, you fall into the snow melt lake. As we were ascending the switchbacks I noticed something large and brown way out in the distance. It moved slowly as we decided it was a bear, but so far away it was hard to tell. The climbing was gradual and before we knew it we reached Brown Pass. There was a small pile of snow at the top meaning just 5 quick steps over it. The view was nice, but yesterday’s was much better.
We took a quick break, but the downhill was steep and slow going. I walked across one of the fast flowing streams, but he just walked across it balancing on a dead log. We were both successful. The switchbacks were quick as we dipped lower and lower into the brush. Water is raging and waterfalls are all around. We took a break at a stream as the mosquitos harassed us. Then we were off to our campsite for the night.
We made it to the Bowman Lake Head campsite to find Mermaid and Turtle setting up. We all shared a spot tonight and Beacon joined us later on. I loved soaking my feet in the lake. I still feel strong with no aches yet. We enjoyed dinner at the designated cooking area with many other campers. It was another wonderful evening. We did not put on our rainfly so we were able to sleep under the stars. I love cuddling up next to my man while reading a book in the wild. I’m back to my happy place! 
July 3
I woke up at 5:30 as the sky was already light and Paperweight was snoring softly next to me. I drifted back to sleep until 6:30 when we both staggered out of the tent and quickly packed up before heading to the food prep area. Turtle and Beacon were headed out, but Mermaid and another hiker out for the weekend joined us for breakfast. We began hiking a bit before 8.
We have a little under 15 miles to the first trail town of Polebridge. The first half of the day was a nice walk along Bowman Lake. There were a few uphills and a couple puddles to jump over. We chatted most of the way enjoying mountain views and the songs of the birds. We did not take more then a quick water break. We came to the campground where we took almost an hour break looking at Bowman Lake. It was pleasant and peaceful. 
We began the second half of the day which was a gravel road towards the town of Polebridge. Cars came zipping by as dirt blew in our faces. We both zoned out to Podcasts again only taking a water break. We crossed out of Glacier National Park saying goodbye to the park for a few months. We continued walking over three miles an hour motivated by town. We made it there a bit after 1 and still feeling strong.
We picked up a soda, a bear claw, and got a free pastry for hiking in. Delicious! We then made it into the hostel which is magical. It is a gorgeous log home and the five of us are sharing the “family room.” We went back downtown to drink a beer and pick up our box. We spent most of the afternoon showering and lounging in the living room on couches and rocking chairs.
My friend Amanda, her husband Adam, and their two children Ava and Aaron drove in to Polebridge from Columbia Falls to treat us with dinner. Adam grilled up some burgers for us as I played with the kids. We enjoyed delicious burgers, macaroni salad, cold beer, and sharing stories. So grateful for their kindness! Life is wonderful! We wandered back to the hostel played a quick game of Skipbo then retreated to our comfy bed. 
July 4
We woke up to a strange sound thinking it was a mouse in our food. It was the hostel owner’s cat, Oliver, and he was playing with my backpack’s straps. So I spent half an hour giving him some loving! Mermaid, Beacon, Paperweight, and I walked the .2 miles to the Mercantile for breakfast. I savored a cold Coca Cola, a bacon, hash browns, egg burrito, a bag of chips, and their famous bear claw! The four of us spent a long time chatting and waiting for the 4th of July celebrations to begin. 

The Fourth of July in Polebridge is a big deal. Only about 40 residents live in this town year round, but the summers are busy. It is a gateway into Glacier National Park and a small town still unpaved with just a Mercantile and a restaurant/saloon. They had a fun parade full of laughter. I really enjoyed myself and the creativity of the floats and outfits. A plane flew overhead as well during the parade and the best part is the parade comes back so you can watch it twice.
We then returned to the hostel. I counted 17 PNT hikers at the hostel tonight and am surprised at such a large number this year. It is wonderful to meet new people as the last few trails we only saw a few other thru hikers. Later in the evening a group of us ate dinner at the Saloon before the last walk back to the hostel. Mermaid, Paperweight and I sat by the North Fork River and saw an otter swimming upstream. Then we camped out in the front yard for the night. Another 4th of July spent in town and this is one I’ll never forget.


Exploring National Parks and van life

The past month has been spent exploring our National Parks. I have seen so many beautiful, unique, and historical sites in such a short stretch of time. We spent many days driving around national parks taking in the scenic overlooks then doing a few miles. On some days we choose just to hike doing 8-14 a day with a daypack. It was an easy life as we went back to our van with a mattress and other camping luxuries.
Van life still is not as fine tuned as my hiking lifestyle. I loose things all the time in the van. There is never a good place to put a dirty dish pot and we always have too much trash. It is easy to fill up gallons of water at the parks then filtering. We also had the task of finding a campsite each night. Some nights the site would be clear and the evening was easy. Other times you drive farther and farther down a road to find no campsites. 

We could lounge in zero gravity chairs and drink cold beers in the afternoon. Then when the bugs got bad it was inside the van to play cards, read, or play on the phone. I have loved the freedom of having a car again. But the long lines at the parks, expensive gas prices, dozens of people on some of the hikes, and constant uncertainty of where you will be sleeping each night had us both craving a thru hike. But van life is a special and rewarding way to live. The only item we bought to live this lifestyle was a folding metal frame. We saved $100s of dollars on hotels while also spending a lot of gas. Thru hiking will be nicer to the budget. 

Soon we will be beginning the Pacific Northwest Trail. Hiking from Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean for 1,200 miles. I am eager to be back in the mountains for days on end. I am thrilled to hike in Washington state again! I loved it in 2015 on the PCT and doubt my opinion of it can change for the worse. I love the idea of walking along the Ocean for 40 plus miles. This trail is going to be difficult going East to West traversing many mountain ranges. It will take 10 or so weeks to complete. I have personal goals as always for each hike and look forward to new revelations. Mostly, I am eager for new views, exploring small towns, and meeting others that share the join. Happy Trails!

I will post National Park reviews about our hikes this Fall and Winter. Here is a sneak peek of some of our best photos.

To Utah! AZT complete!

May 20-

It was a chilly night and morning making me want to stay in my sleeping bag all day. Before 6, we were packing up and making our way out of the campground. We had breakfast and charged our things at the laundry/ shower area. It was chilly in the shade, but the bathrooms were warm. We began the .7 walk out of the campground back to the trailhead where we finished our climb up from the Canyon floor yesterday.
My right calf was so tight and tender that the downhill was so painful. I took a few Advil and pushed on. We entered a part of the trail in Grand Canyon National Park that no ones hikes. There were lots of fallen trees and obstacles to jump. As I was cursing, I saw him sitting on the road that runs parallel to the trail. We had a snack break together deciding to walk the road which still had many down trees, but less than the trail.

As we were putting on our packs, a thru hiker was walking down the road. Elinore hiked with us the rest of the day and shared wonderful stories of her life and adventures. She is a fellow badass woman hiker with over 15,000 miles of hiking after this trip and she even paddled the Mississippi River last year and winter hiked the AT. It was so nice to meet her and share stories. I look forward to staying in touch. She has a plane ticket home so we walked more then we planned to stay with her.

We held our first horned toad today. She also taught us some information about the various trees. It was nice having a new hiker to get to know. We all climbed a fire tower looking back at the North Rim. We hiked part of the East Rim which looked back on the canyons. This is a beautiful section of trail as you go from dense forest to a viewpoint. Most of the day we were on old roads so we could all walk alongside each other and chat. We found a wildlife tank with many friendly deer. We walked a few more miles totaling 24.1 trail miles for the day. Elinore and I talked until 10pm from our tents to each other as Paperweight snored.

May 21

Elinore was heading out as we were just beginning to pack up. We were both sore from the long day yesterday and the past few days. We finally got moving a bit before 8. We had a few little ups and down throughout the day, but nothing more then 400 foot climb. We entered a huge burn section for many miles. We got more water from a wildlife tank which was essential. There are lots of deer in Northern Arizona. We both zoned out to Podcasts for most of the day. 

We ran into two Hayduke thru hikers going the opposite direction named Veggie and Karma. I would of loved to talk to them longer, but we each had to keep moving. We took a lunch break at a muddy cow pond that was difficult to scoop from. I had lots of little bugs floating in my bottle. Luckily, the Sawyer filtered them all out and I also used a piece of tent repair netting to remove more debris. 

We were both were exhausted today, but still managed to hike 21 miles. We entered cow land and searched for a campsite finding one alongside the old road. We cooked a warm meal then relaxed in our tents for a while trying to keep our eyes open. We fell asleep 31.6 miles from the Utah border!

May 22

We were 4.7 miles from Jacob Inn which was our breakfast destination. We were on trail much earlier then yesterday since we were motivated by breakfast. It was still chilly since we were above 8,000 feet. We walked along a dirt road and few times along a trail. It was a beautiful area of large ponderosa trees. We made it to the trailhead and up to Highway 89. We began walking and I started to pout when I realized it was uphill and 2.5 miles not 2 away. Lots of cars passed us, but after .7 miles two women and their dog in a camper van stopped for us. Thank you Miren and Aimee for the ride.They were on their way to the North Rim and even knew what a “Triple Crowner” is.

So a bit before 9 we were seating and ready to order breakfast. Tough morning! I’m currently lounging in a leather chair typing this as many tourists wander around. I guess I’m a tourist too! We got a ride back to the trail from an AT thru hiker and his lady who was happy to give back. We may have convinced them to hike the AZT. After the highway crossing, there was a section of standing dead trees. We split up with a plan to meet at one of the dirt road crossing.

We reached out to the AZTA (Arizona Trail Association) before we started our thru hike and offered to help anyway we could. They sent us a list of GPS coordinates that may be a valuable water source. Today we were on a mission to check out four of them. Our adventure took off down a dirt road that hasn’t been traveled in a while to a huge tank with dripping cold water. We investigated a strange umbrella shaped catching system that had water, but not the best quality. The third was through a fence with two large tanks holding clear water. But my favorite was the last water source. We were both pretty exhausted so I went by myself. I bushwhacked a bit in the sagebrush until I found a well worn old cow trail. I came to a deep clear cement tank full of water. This source will help split up a long water carry for hikers. If you have enjoyed reading my blog and would like to donate to a cause close to me consider a tax deductible donation at I am grateful for this organization and all of the others that maintain, build, and support hikers. 

Our day was full of delicious food, walking, and searching for water sources. We are back in the desert surrounded by cactus and sagebrush for our last night on the Arizona Trail. We ate quickly and lounged in our tent which will be packed up for a few weeks as we transition to van life. This has been quite the trail and a tough adventure for sure. I have had ups and downs emotionally and physically, but as always have stuck with it. Our relationship has grown stronger and we have shared memories that will last a lifetime. 

May 23

We woke up bright and early ready to complete our thru hike of the Arizona Trail. We had 11 trail miles to the Utah Border. This is the first time I have only hiked thru one state. This is the first time I’ve considered quitting multiple times within the first few weeks. I am not meant for the heat and high 80s and 90s really slow me down. If it wasn’t for my loving partner I would of thought of bailing to the mountains.

The Arizona Trail is diverse, beautiful, and full of wildlife. It is also a challenging trail both mentally and physically. The lack of flowing water sources means lots of cow troughs especially early on. The trail is also fairly new so many people in town are unaware of the trail, but the AZTA has worked very hard to inform the trail communities. I was hoping to meet lots of new hikers, but we started later then most other thru hikers. It would of been a lonely trail without Paperweight. I enjoyed our stays in town especially cold showers and AC.

I fell in love with Saguaro National Park and the Grand Canyon!! It is a pleasure to walk through the two national parks. I would like to explore them both some more in the future. I do love the desert beauty especially in the morning and evenings as the birds are singing. The blooming flowers and variety of grasses brought great color to the desert reminding me how alive the desert really is.
I do not love the heat! I realized after more reflection that my heart will always be in the mountains. I struggled mentally and physically this year with thoughts that rarely cross my mind. I also had more foot pain and aches then my other much longer hikes. I debated many hours if thru hiking is still a passion of mine or if I have completed all the trails. I realized I no longer need to prove to myself that I am capable of a long hike as that fact is certain. It comes down to hiking trails that speak to my soul. I value the AZT for the valuable lessons it taught me, but I am not considering a desert hike again for many years. (My boyfriend wants to hike the Hayduke Trail next year… he might be on his own). 

The last few miles were beautiful as I was in awe of the rock formations ahead of me. Hello, Utah! The trail drops downhill for miles getting closer and closer to Utah. My smile was large and we discussed our favorite towns, parts, and what was unexpected as we always do at an end of a hike. It was a pleasant drop to the heat and desert floor. We moved over 3 miles an hour and suddenly we reached a picnic table with a few beers. We each picked one up and walked towards the end of the trail. We made it! 809 miles complete in a little under two months. Nothing compares to that feeling of completing your first thru hike, but this one felt great. I survived my own self doubt, the heat, the snakes and scorpions, and managed not to have any serious injuries. I drank my Yuengling Lager beer knowing our trip was not quite over.
After leaving the Stateline Campground, we began a short mile walk towards the Wire Pass Trailhead. A car stopped asking what we were doing and apologized for having too much stuff in their vehicle. By the time we made it to the next parking lot, we only had a minute to check out the information at the lot before we were offered a ride. Two gentleman I’m assuming father and son offered us a ride in the back of their pickup truck along the bumpy road to the highway. I’d guess the father was in his late 80s. The view was spectacular as we bounced along staring up at the rock formations. Our driver passed a few slow cars and we slid along in the back. This was my first ride in the back of a truck on this trip and it couldn’t of been on a better section. He dropped us off and said he hoped it wasn’t too bumpy as he apologized that he wasn’t heading into Page.

We walked up to Highway 89 that would lead into Page where our van has been stored for the past two months. It only took a few cars before one stopped. A man and woman vacationing from Canada scooped us up and drove us into town. They live near the Arctic Circle where it was in the negatives when they left home. She is originally from Afghanistan and this is her first time exploring Utah. They were both wonderful and a perfect ride to finish our trip. They dropped us right off at the locked gate that would lead to our stored van. We made it! After a huge Chinese buffet, we will be living van life for the next few weeks before heading to Glacier National Park to begin a thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. 

The Grand Canyon

May 17-We were 4.5 miles to the junction of Mather Campground this morning. We set an alarm for the first time in a while and got moving before 6am into the Grand Canyon National Park. The trail is a bike trail meaning paved road and quick walking. Right before we got to the campground we encountered a herd of elk. There were at least eight of them and they had little care about us hikers or cars that passed by. We waited for the campground to open and reserved a night at the hike in/ bike in site. The car part of the campground was already full for the day. We set up our tent quickly and put most of our things inside of it so we would just have a day pack.

With our day packs on we headed down to the shuttle pick up point. We made our plans for the Grand Canyon back in Flagstaff. This is my first visit to this national park. I have been looking forward to this day for many years long before I began thru hiking. I never envisioned my first visit would be after walking from the Mexican border into the park. But this has been a recurring theme the past three years for me! We took the shuttle first to the backcountry office to get a permit to camp in the canyon. The rangers were very accommodating allowing us to camp at the stock site since the sites are booked way in advance this time of the year. With our morning chores done and it not yet 9 we took the shuttle to Hermits Rest.

The weather forecast had an afternoon rain and thunderstorm possible so we were on a mission. We could of taken the shuttle to visit all of the locations along the western side of the park getting off at each stop to enjoy the view. We decided it would be more enjoyable to walk along the rim for a few miles before riding the bus to the stops that are farther spread out. This allowed us to be in between the bus loads of people and have a few viewpoints to ourselves.

The views certainly did not disappoint. I was in awe and couldn’t take my eyes away from the Grand Canyon. The colors, rock formations, the crazy switchbacked trails, the birds flying about, the Colorado River down below us, and the size of the Canyon had me mesmerized. We walked along the rim for about 3.5 miles with our days packs so I felt like I was floating. We then rode along the shuttle to the last few stops getting off each time. It was a fun way to see the Western part of the South Rim.

We took the shuttle back to our starting point and walked towards the dining hall for lunch. We sat inside at a table near the outlets to charge our devices and enjoyed a warm meal. I always enjoy doing a little people watching in town and at National Parks it is even more entertaining. We relaxed here for about an hour before filling up on water to venture back to the rim.

We began hiking eastbound on the rim trail from where we got off the shuttle. The sky was dark, but the weather would hold out for a bit longer. It was wonderful to have this time to walk together along the paved trail. We stopped at a visitor center, the historic Hopi House, and stopped to read all the signs along the way. Lots of people were rushing about some feeding chipmunks sour patch kids, kids and adults climbing off the side of the rim onto rocks, and many unhappy kids being dragged along the rim trail. We were content with light packs and views. We could see the Kaibab Trail as we headed father East as I got more excited to hike down to the bottom tomorrow. 

The farther from the center of the park the less people were on the trail. We walked until the sky looked gloomy and waited for a shuttle to pick us up. Right before the shuttle pulled in it began to rain and we quickly jumped on. We would come back to this exact spot in the morning and walk a mile more along the rim trail to the South Kaibab Trailhead to continue on the Arizona Trail. The actual trail does not come to the rim until that point. We hiked many more miles then the AZT and I couldn’t of missed this section. So we made our own route that connected our footsteps and walked most of the Rim Trail on our town day!

We had to get off at an earlier stop then the campground so our footsteps would connect. We stopped by the store to charge our phones and eat a pizza for dinner. Not a tough day, but we had put in over 12 miles. We spent a while here before walking the last bit to the campground. He called his mom and I retreated to lounge in the tent. As I was relaxing, the storm of the day finally rolled in. It was an intense thunder storm with downpours. Water was pooling outside of the tent and the wind was whipping. He was under an awning by the laundry as I laid inside listening as it passed overhead. We really lucked out that it happened late in the day.
I must recommend a trip to the Grand Canyon for anyone who has never been. I can tell you about a few free campsites right outside of the park and give lots of advice of how to spend a day there. In our one day, I felt very satisfied with our visit and how much of the south Rim that we had the opportunity to explore. I have a feeling I will be back someday and look forward to sharing this destination with family and friends.
May 18
We woke up bright and early as we packed up quickly. It was chilly this morning as I put on my jacket and hat. We took the shuttle towards the cafeteria. It was cold so we took the long ride around the park just wasting time and staying warm. It also allowed us to see a few other shuttle spots we hadn’t seen before. We enjoyed one more meal while charging our phones. It was still a bit chilly as we made the long journey by shuttle back to our stopping point yesterday. Before we got off the bus, we took off our warm layers and prepared to warm up. We had a leisurely stroll on pavement towards the trailhead. There was no one else on the rim trail this morning. We made it to the South Kaibab Trailhead and ran into a crowd of people. We quickly filled up our bottles and got ready to descend to the canyon floor.

We have 4,770 feet to descend to the Colorado River. We are both picking up a maildrop at the North Rim so our packs are light besides a few liters of water. The trail starts with quick switchbacks heading downhill. Today was a day where my smile never faded and I loved every minute of this section quickly saying we will be back someday. We did pass by lots of people and met a few early risers climbing out before the heat of the day. You have to step off to the side meaning someone is standing on the ridge of the trail. We chatted and took so many pictures along the way as we stopped at a few waypoints for the “perfect picture.”

Two groups of mules were heading uphill so we had to step off the trail. The first group had tourists with binoculars and cameras. The second were two employees with the mules packing out the garbage from the ranch at the bottom to return later today with more supplies. If you book way in advance and have a good chunk of money to spend, you can stay at the Phantom Ranch which is at the bottom of the canyon along the river. The mules are used to help stock the business.

We stopped for a short break at the first bathroom since we were both super hydrated before moving along. Watching hikers climbing out the canyon exhausted had me a bit worried for tomorrow. The farther down we climbed the warmer it became, but today is actually one of the cooler days of this week. We truly have been lucky with this trail. You can see the trail far ahead of you as you twist and turn. We were making great time and decided to have a snack break with a grand view.

After the break, we started hiking again to come to an edge that overlooked the Colorado River. Flowers are still blooming and the sky was clear. Did I say I loved this section? Maybe because it was all downhill as well. We twisted and turned around some large rocks before getting the view of the tunnel and the bridge over the river. People were rafting and swimming in the river. The only hard part of this downhill was finding a place to duck off the trail to pee without people seeing you. Lots of other hikers unlike most of the Arizona Trail. 

We came to the tunnel which is carved into a rock before entering the suspension bridge over the Colorado. The Colorado River is at 2,421 feet and today we did not feel too warm. If it was warmer, I am sure I would of went for a dip, but there was no need. We passed by Bright Angel Campsite. These spots are in a gorgeous location and I said this is where we should camp when we hike it again someday. People were lounging by the river with the large canyon walls surrounding them. 

We made it to the famous Phantom Ranch where we both bought a bagel and cream cheese. It was nice to have some filtered water as well. We relaxed in the shade constantly yelling at a hungry chipmunk who lives outside the ranch. It was entertaining watching people show up exhausted and ready to get to their room. I learned you can purchase a “duffle” and have a mule to carry up your gear from the canyon for a high price. I might try to get a job hiking up packs for people. Hey, I’ll even carry their water too. We relaxed for a bit then quickly got moving on a gradual uphill.

The weather was still nice and lots of runners going Rim to rim in a day zoomed by us. We had fun walking along flowing water and staring up at the massive canyon walls. We gradually climbed up 1,638 feet to Cottonwood Campground. We passed all of the sites until we found the last one labeled “stock only.” It was a large site with a picnic table and food storage containers just like all of the other spots. We set up quickly as dark clouds were threatening. I cooked a huge portion of broccoli cheddar soup as it began to sprinkle. I sat at the table with my umbrella as he relaxed inside of the tent. The drizzle didn’t last too long, but I still climbed into the tent to relax. We were rewarded with a colorful sunset to finish off our beautiful day of hiking. Only love!

May 19

We were the first ones to leave the campsite this morning as the sun hadn’t yet peeked over the rim. We are 7.1 miles to the top of the North Rim and have to climb 4,171 feet to get there. My legs are a little sore this morning from all downhill yesterday. We moved quickly to start the day and slowly begin to be ascent towards the top of the rim.

By the time we made it to the pump house which is a water source and bathroom along the trail we were running into lots of other hikers. We had to wait in line to us the bathroom before more uphill. I let Paperweight go ahead of me as I took it slow and steady. The trail slowly winds uphill on the edge. I can only imagine all the work it took to build this trail. Large yucca trees were blooming along the way. My legs were feeling the burn all the way.

We were making great time and took a break after a foot bridge. As we smacked, we watched a NPS helicopter land on the side of the canyon dropping off two workers. This winter a large rock slide damaged the water pipe lines. We watched workers and the helicopter going back and forth between two spots. Now that is one intense job. We also thanked workers making the trail larger and repairing worn sections.

We came to the Supai Tunnel next which was fun to walk through before continuing up the switchbacks. I took lots of quick breaks and talked to various people along the way. The views back into the canyon were unreal and we took in the view one last time before busting it to the top. We were done before 11 and happily walking towards the facilities of the North Rim.

I was exhausted after this section and we did our typical town chores. We got a stunning campsite near the ridge of the North Rim, showered, did laundry, picked up our mail drops, feasted on a large pizza, and sat in large wooden chairs overlooking the Grand Canyon. What a day! We finished it up by sitting on a bench drinking beers and watching the sun set over the canyon. I loved this section and am so happy to share this experience with my hiking partner turned love of my life. I look forward to us visiting again someday!

Flagstaff to Tusayan

May 13-After a great night of sleep, we walked downstairs to find Tim cooking pancakes. I am so thankful for all the generosity Melody and Tim has shown us. I look forward to staying in touch with them and crossing paths again. She generously drove us back up the dirt road to where we left off yesterday allowing us to connect all of our footprints. 

Today is a Saturday and there is a bike race on the Arizona Trail today. When Melody dropped us off, we walked fast without any breaks hoping to get off that section of the race in time. Day riders passed us, but we make the turn off the route just in time not getting caught up in the race. I randomly checked my phone to realize I gave my mom the wrong address for the next mail drop. So we took a long break trying to get it all figured out. Thanks to my mom and Adam’s mother for figuring out the address and sending us a box to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. 

The hiking was fairly easy today and all we had to worry about were the mountain bikers flying down the trail. We climbed uphill towards the junction to the highest peak in Arizona, Mt. Humphries. We saw lots of day hikers, runners, and mountain bikers. We both agreed this is a great town to live in if you like the outdoors. There was still some now left on the mountain tops, but the ski lift wasn’t running this time of year.

We had a nice long break at a pond filtering lots of water and snacking as usual. We both got chilly at this elevation and it felt wonderful. We have a long water carry with possible caches along the way, but we never rely on them. We came to a large group of aspen trees which always remind us of Colorado. We also got to walk through our first pile of snow. It wasn’t much and we could of went around it easily, but we jumped in for fun! Flashback to cold feet in Maine this winter walking along the snowmobile trail. The rest of the evening miles zoomed by. We left a trail and joined dirt roads for many miles zoning out to our Podcasts. We then found the first water cache to leave it for other hikers since we had 4 liters a piece still. The trail joined a trail that ran parallel to the dirt road. We found a semi flat spot next to the barbed fence with a view of the highpoint. We hiked a grand total of 23.2 miles today. We felt strong and refreshed after all of our time in Flagstaff. It will give us a boost to make it to the Utah Border.

May 14- 

We have seen dozens of deer since leaving Flagstaff and this morning a group of them stared at us from the distance. We cruised along this morning as it was a bit chilly. The trail joined a dirt road for many miles and a man on a motorcycle from Oregon flew by. We took a break next to an empty water cache in the sun. The comments included that there was beer here a few weeks ago. Too late this time! The sun was hot and we tried to hide from it under small trees with little luck. After over an hour of resting, I left first walking the dirt road ahead of staring at farm land and cows grazing. I love my large sun hat that I have been using this year as it really helps keep me cooler and protect my fair skin. He caught up to me and walked together chatting as usual. It’s nice to share this hike with someone as we never have a silent moment together.

We came to a water tank on private land though they allow you to fill up there. We took turns climbing the ladder and scooping our cold, clear water. As we were filtering away, a male hiker walked past us waving from the trail. He didn’t stop to say hello and we would never see him again. We drank a full liter and carried out 3.5 liters each. On the walk out, we passed a few huge bulls near the trail. Lots of flowering cactus, sage, and juniper trees lately. We took a break in the shade before walking together. We walked up on two Javelinas eating alongside the ride. We got very close to them before they noticed us. They are funny little creatures and were sniffing like crazy. They had ratty long hair on their bodies and ran quickly after a photo opt. 

We continued in the Babbitt Ranch Passage for the rest of the day walking the dirt road until we hit 24.3 miles finding a campsite. We both cooked a warm meal and watched the sky explode. I love sunsets and back home I rarely get to enjoy them like I do on trail. The temperature drops quickly at this higher elevation so into the tent we went.

May 15-

We have mastered our Nemo Blaze tent quickly packing it up in the morning. We pack up then eat a quick breakfast together in the sun before starting our day. The water source had a few comments saying it was dry and last year it said there was water. We got to the spot to see that the water hole was dry, but we explored a bit father to find the well. We climbed up and over from the dry water hole finding a well with a lever that we pushed for clear cold water. We are always careful filtering every source, but we probably didn’t need to with this one. Yet we filtered anyway and snacked away before packing out a few liters. 

I walked ahead of us listening to various podcasts. We entered the Kaibab National Forest and back to a trail again. The trail has been much more rocky then I thought it would really tearing up my shoes. By the end of the day, we feet tend to be pretty tender. They also get stiff after 20 minutes or more of a break. So I struggle to get started again going slow before I can pick up the speed. We quickly entered the Coconino Rim Passage and spent most of the afternoon in ponderosa land. We took a nice break at Russell Tank before coming to a trailhead with trash cans and a pit toilet. I took advantage of them both.

We enjoyed a huge lake and surprising saw three horses on the other side of a fence. We assumed they were wild horses since no one was around, but we aren’t too sure. It was getting chilly and the sky was dark. It started to spit rain and we gave each other the look. To put on the pack cover or not? The drips got bigger and we both stopped to cover our packs. We also grabbed our umbrellas. The wind picked up and rain came quicker. It turned to hail for a short amount of time as well. We both stayed nice and dry under our umbrella. I highly recommend them. If I was to thru hike the AT again, I would certainly carry one.

We dipped down to a lower elevation that wasn’t too breezy so we decided to call it a day at 23.4 miles. It was still chilly and I was as efficient as ever. I set up quickly, cooked, did other chores, ate, and then crawled into the tent five minutes before he was ready to join me. I snuggled up in my sleeping bag as the wind started to pick up again. Luckily, he joined me and the tent warmed up even more. 

May 16-

Another chilly morning as we walked quickly to our first destinations we made it to the Grand View watch tower that we had to climb. From the top, you have the first view of the Grand Canyon. I have been looking forward to this section of trail since we began. I’ve never been here and have seen pictures all of my life. The view from the tower was great and had me even more eager to explore. We ate food here, threw away trash, and used the privy before walking the trail again. 

All morning and afternoon dozens of helicopters zoomed overhead one behind the other. Lots of tours are happening and it was an unwelcoming sound when walking through the forest. I turned on my podcast, but the noise still rang through. It was very easy hiking at a quick pace. We saw our first pronghorn on the trail this afternoon which made me very happy! They are so unique and fast. They are still on top list of animals. We had a shoe off lunch break like usual as we made our town game plan. We needed to charge our phone a bit, do a little Grand Canyon research, and grab an early dinner in the town of Tusayan.
We were motivated as we left our lunch break with about 6 miles to town. We walked together discussing plans for this winter, next year, and down the road. I’ve never planned this far ahead and it’s still a bit strange to be in a healthy relationship that is progressing as one should. We both have so many dreams of the future. If we can do half the things we dream of, we will have a beautiful, fulfilling, and unique life so sure. 
We came to the junction to town and crossed through a campground. We were back to the smell of gasoline and sounds of traffic. We decided to go to Wendy’s since they have wifi and we quickly found the only outlet in the restaurant. I wrote a few postcards, watching some news on the tv that made me cringe, and relaxed. We did not fit in with our dirty packs and the loads of clean tourists including the occasionally bus load. It was relaxing to be in the air conditioned building, wash my hands with sound, and flush a toilet again. The luxuries we all take advantage of daily. We debated walking into the park tonight and paying for a campsite, but we wouldn’t know if there were spots available in the hike/bike in sites. So he grabbed a few beers and we slowly made our way out of town. The trail crosses under the highway and joins a paved bike path. We snagged a spot around 4:30 along a ride and bike path looking back on the highway. We were .3 from the entrance of the National Park. Lots of cars came by and many camped nearby saving the fee you would have to pay in the park. We listened to music, he drank, and I lounged instead of blogging like usual. We had hiked 22.9 miles for the day and tomorrow we enter the Grand Canyon!

Morman Lake to Flagstaff

May 8-We could of stayed in our cozy cabin until 11, but we have to get hiking. It was chilly in the cabin last night as the heat didn’t work right so we were all bundled up. He made coffee and warmed up a burrito as I was comfortable in the warm bed. He pulled open the curtains behind the bed to see a large coyote staring at us. He took a moment before slowly running off into the woods. Not a bad way to start the day. We left our little retreat a bit after 8 and began hiking the Navajo Springs Trail back toward the AZT. It’s nice to see aspen trees and it reminds me of Colorado.

We connected back to the AZT and ran into Farmer again. The trail follows an old railroad bed for many miles and also crossed many dirt roads. Our first break was spent at a campground where we were able to throw away our snacks. Paperweight filled up a liter of water and then smelled it. It smelled awfully chlorinated and we decided to just filter the water from the flowing stream. It was still chilly even though I am wearing pants today. We had to get moving. We passed through the campground and a few beautiful log homes in the area. It was easy walking today. We took a few more breaks along the way, but the cool temperatures had us moving along.

We passed the largest lake we have seen so far and enjoyed watching ducks floating along. It is called Horse Lake Tank and there is also a nice view of Mt. Humphries, the tallest peak in Arizona. The trail had been following dirt roads for many miles at this point. Sometimes it would dip back to a trail for a few miles though. The most scenic part of the day was the ending as we were on the edge of a cliff looking down at Upper Mary Lake. We had drove along this lake a few weeks back when we dropped off our box at Morman Lake. You get a much better perspective from the ridge.

Our last mission was to grab some water from Prime Lake. He had to squat on a few pieces of wood to fill up the muddy water. We passed by the Lowell Observatory and NPOI. It houses a precise telescope. We then passed out of the fenced area and searched for a site. We found a spot near a huge rabbit with large ears after 25.2 miles. It was cold and we set up quickly before cooking dinner.

A warm meal was important tonight and we crawled into our dry tent. We chatted for a bit and then he fell asleep on me. Suddenly, a slow rain started and turned heavy. I drifted to sleep to the sound of rain on the top of the tent. I woke up to the roar of thunder as lightning flashes nearby lighting up the tent. This is the first wild night storm of this trip. I was able to sleep through the rest of the night as it continued to storm.

May 9- 
When we first woke up, it was a hard rain still so we drifted back to sleep for a bit. It was after 7 when we started to discuss our plan for leaving. The rain switched over to large snowflakes so we began packing. I had flashbacks to the CDT this morning. Our tent is much larger this year so we were both able to pack up our bags inside the tent before getting out into the weather. My fingers were numb by the time I packed up the stakes and tent. I had to get moving to warm up. I had on my rain jacket, gloves, fleece hat, and rain skirt. I also used my umbrella on and off this morning.

The trail was a muddy mess and my shoes collected at least three pounds of mud on each foot making each step difficult. It was a slippery mess for the first mile down to a gravel road. I made a quick stop at an overfilled port a potty. It was nasty, but better then digging a hole in the snow. The snow turned back into rain as I followed the gravel road back to the muddy trail. It was very slow going this morning. He caught up to me and we hiked the rest of the day together.

The trail was slippery and our footprints will be left behind until the next storm. We came to the junction where you have two options. You can hike the urban route which goes right through Flagstaff or stay to the East. I had contacted trail angels in Pine and due to the cold weather we decided to take the Urban Route today. We had about 4.2 miles to the point where we would be picked up. It rained on and off as we used our umbrellas. We passed a recent controlled burn section and walked quickly simply to stay warm. We passed a beautiful pond with ducks swimming to see a sign on the other side saying waste water contaminated. The poor ducks!

We made it to the Taco Bell where Melody scooped us up into her warm car. We had hiked about 11.2 miles total today. The rest of the day felt like a dream. Melody and Tim have been trail angels for two years now and know exactly what hikers need. She brought us into her lovely home and upstairs to their former master suite. It was better then a five star hotel. My favorite part is they have bath robes with the label “AZT guest” on them along with soft slippers. I took a warm shower enjoying a stunning stained glass piece in the shower then lounged in my bathrobe and slippers. She told us dinner would be ready at 6. We went from a cold morning hike in the snow to a warm bedroom with carpet. I was in heaven! They also have two beautiful dogs!

At 6, we headed downstairs. Tim had made a hearty soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread. We felt right at home! Melody had insisted we take at least one zero day so we went to bed in a warm cozy room as it was in the low 30s outside. We are so appreciative of their kindness! 
May 10-
When we awoke, we could smell coffee and breakfast downstairs! Tim made us another wonderful home cooked meal that we greatly appreciated! We spent some time updating blogs and photos before doing some shopping with Melody. We resupplied at Walmart then spent most of the afternoon just chatting with her. It was the perfect zero day including corn dogs and chips for lunch then a taco feast out of this world. Our taco Tuesday’s need some work to even compare to our Mexican dinner tonight. It was a wonderful day not to be hiking as it was one of the colder days of the month. Best trail angels I have encountered on any trail. I hope to someday give back to other hikers. Thank you both so much! 

May 11-
After one last breakfast feast, Melody dropped us off at Taco Bell. We had decided to do things a bit differently. We hiked South back the 4.1 miles to the junction. We then began hiking the other route towards Flagstaff. This area starts by walking past huge rock formations before a rocky uphill to a viewpoint. Large sweeping views took my breath away and the weather was warm today. We enjoyed walking along a ridge was constant views. We both felt so refreshed and strong. 

Melody packed us delicious turkey and cheese sandwiches which we ate a wildlife tank. It was a pleasant treat and a nice change! We enjoyed listened to a group of high school student’s conversation as they passed our break stop. The trail passed a few junctions and trailhead as we got closer to civilization! Up ahead I noticed a small animal and quickly realized that it was a bobcat. It ran along the trail a ways before dipping out of sight. We would follow its paw prints for many miles. The trail is near the railroad tracks and it is a very busy route. We passed under I-40 as well then dipped back into the woods. We took our last snack break with a view of Mt. Humphries. 

We continued along passing lots of dirt roads and finding lots of cars looking for a place to camp. We also found a huge community of tents so we decided to walk even farther. The sound of the interstate and railroad was a bit overwhelming. We made it to a point and decided to head away from the trail to find a safe campsite. We hiked a total of 19.6 miles and camped on an old deserted road looking down the interstate and railroad. We ate a small meal since we were still stuffed from all the homemade meals over the past few days. I fell asleep today to the sound of trains and traffic. 

May 12-

I did not sleep too great last night. But we woke up early and headed down the hill back to the trail. We walked quickly towards Picture Canyon. We walked past a beautiful water source that had a warning in our app that it was polluted by mining. We even passed that mining operation on our way to town! We did a short side trail to check out some petroglyphs in Picture Canyon. I love the history of this area. After our quick detour, we headed towards highway 89 at a quick pace. 

We did a short road walk to one of the bus stops. We waited for twenty minutes for the bus to arrive realizing they do not make change so we had to walk farther down the road to make change. We then jumped on the bus and made our way to REI. He had ordered discounted shoes that were supposed to be delivered there yesterday. Unfortunately, they still hadn’t arrived and couldn’t tell him when they would. We looked around with our packs on getting a few funny stares. We made our way to Walmart to resupply and I began texting Melody. She agreed to pick us up at Schultz Tank this afternoon then bring us back to her home.

I tried to rush him along, but he took his time surviving without coffee. We made our way back to the trail by a few bus spots. We then got to climbing. I was motivated to get to the tank, but he was just dragging. I zoned out to Podcasts for the afternoon. We climbed up from the road and slowly into the trees. We passed a large burn section continuing uphill for a few miles. We had about 7 miles from the road to the tank. 

Melody was at the trailhead to bring us back home with her. I didn’t realize she would have to drive such a bumpy, hilly, and crazy road. We really appreciated it! We had a lovely evening looking at her new gear, getting road trip advice from Tim, and eating another delicious dinner. Tim grilled us marinated steak and it was perfect! Best steak I’ve ever had! We also had a baked potato, veggies, and bread. Then we finished up the pumpkin pie before heading upstairs to the cozy bed. I had some bad chaffing so it was nice to shower again and lotion my body. I slept like a baby!

Pine to Morman Lake

May 3-I woke up several times this morning to simply roll over and fall back to sleep. He made coffee, ate breakfast, and watched television while I snored the hours away. When I finally woke up, I was well rested and feeling less sore than yesterday. I ate a warmed up sweet and sour chicken rice and veggie dish in bed relaxing. We checked out at 11 and walked the 25ish yards into That Brewery. 

We got two samplers of every beer that they currently have on tap including the Arizona Trail Ale which we enjoyed a few days ago. Zig Zag joined us at the table as he waited for the cabin to be cleaned and two days of rest. We both shared tater tots smothered in cheese and bacon then each had a burger. Two other thru hikers joined us as well as we all chatted for hours. For desert, we each had two scoops of ice cream with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Bern joined us as we were getting close to leave. He is doing his own adventure that will lead him up to Canada. He has hiked thousands of miles and would of been nice to hear more stories, but the trail was calling. 

Around 3, we walked the short distance back to the Pine Trailhead and began an uphill climb out of town. My body was “town soft” meaning it was slow going for a bit. My heel and calf are feeling better, but still a bit off as I climbed uphill. The terrain was a bit rocky and I just took my time not wanting to aggravate my foot. I joined Paperweight at a water source that flowed across the trail. We are in higher elevation now so water will not be as big as an issue. 

I tuned out to Podcasts as I walked thru the ponderosa forest. I found him at a huge campsite 8.7 miles from the trailhead at Weber Creek. We relaxed and ate on a huge fallen log under the huge trees with the sound of flowing water. It was a beautiful campsite and even an owl flew near by watching us for a minute before flying away. I loved our time in Pine, but we have miles to go. 

May 4-
We both managed to sleep in until 6, but we still were on trail by 6:45. My body was stiff this morning so it took a bit to warm up on the uphill. We met a group of hikers finishing up the Highline Trail which is about 60 miles. We had beautiful views of the Mogollon Rim. The morning miles were pleasant with a nice break at a piped spring. 

We left the Highline Trail following an old gravel road uphill. We took a lunch break under a few trees as a horned toad watched us eat. The trail followed this road until it dipped off onto a trail heading straight up to the top of the climb. It was a steep section that had my calves burning. At the top, there was a monument for the Battle of Big Dry Wash in 1882 that occurred a small distance away. A bit farther up the trail we came to the General Springs Cabin which is a historical site. 

The two of us walked together as the trail dipped into a canyon with some water flowing. It was a beautiful section. We hiked a grand total of 19.8 before setting up camp for the night. 
May 5-
Endless ponderosa forest again today. We simply walked most of the day with breaks along the way. On a forest road to a dirt trail with many fences to be opened and closed. We passed the 500 mile mark as well. We covered 19.1 miles fairly quickly and set up camp earlier then usual. 

May 6-
The entire day was spent on and off dirt roads as people on ATVs zipped by. It was easy walking in a forest with little views. We both zoned out to Podcasts most of the day. We did take a long break at a water source where I got chilly. It was also a very windy day and with little uphills I almost considered wearing pants again. Then it was back to woods walking for the rest of the day.

We crossed the paved road and realized he had cell service. We were able to book a cabin for more then half the usual rate since we would be arriving on a Sunday at Morman Lake. This boosted our morale as we cruised back into the woods following an old railroad bed. It was easy walking and lots of birds flying about this evening.

Before the gate, we saw a herd of animals. I thought they were just deer, but they were also a few huge elk mixed if. They couldn’t figure out how to jump the fence so they just walked along it as far away from us as possible. We camped after crossing a dirt road in the pine needles under a few ponderosa trees after 21.9 miles. 
May 7- 
It was chilly this morning and we only had a quick four miles to get into town. We relaxed in the tent a bit later knowing things don’t open until 8 at Morman Lake. It was chilly this morning as I wore my down jacket, hat, and gloves for a mile or so. We joined the Najavo Springs Trail towards Morman Lake. We were excited to see dozens of aspens trees on this trail. We stopped at the restaurant first excited to order a meal. But our day got much better quickly, when we told us they are only doing the breakfast buffet! Yes please! We had eggs, French toast, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, the best bacon I’ve ever ate, fresh fruit, muffins, and orange juice! We both got our $10 worth of food for sure. We then grabbed our mail drop that we had personally dropped off in March. Then a bit before 10, we visited the registration office. The girl let us check into our room super early and we paid $73 with tax for a full cabin when the regular rate is $170. The cabin was so cute and had everything you could need. We did our chores, shower, and laundry before heading back to the lunch buffet. It wasn’t as rewarding since it had been sitting a while and we were both already pretty full. We grabbed a six pack and some ice and retreated to our cabin for the rest of the day. I had no cell service and there was no working wifi so it was a relaxing day with little distractions! We watched our typical Impractical Jokers and Shark Tank before curling up in bed. The heat wasn’t working right so it was pretty chilly and he grabbed his quilt. Another tough day in the life of a thru hiker!

Thru. Pack Review

Review of my Thru. Pack

I never used a fanny pack during my first three thru hikes as I completed the triple crown. I stored things in my side pockets of my Osprey pack. My IPhone would not fully fit in the pocket so it would stick out a bit usually falling out every time I took off my pack. I stored my important documents, cash, credit cards, and such in the top of my backpack and would need to remove it every time I went into town. I would keep my sunscreen and snacks inside of my pack having to take my pack off to reach these items. 
I did not know any difference and got used to these inconveniences. This year on the Arizona Trail I am using a Thru. Pack. The creator of this pack is a fellow thru hiker that I met on the Pacific Crest Trail. He has designed a few different models of his packs and they make my life so much easier. I am currently using The Daydreamer model and one of the comfy straps. I can store my cell phone, GoPro, 3 oz sunscreen, snacks, wallet, lighter that is attached to a retracting cable so it never gets lost, snacks for the day, and still a bit of spare room. When I am in town, it is so easy to just strap on my Thru. pack or sling it across my shoulder and wander around town. My Thru. pack has changed the way I hike and organize my pack. I highly recommend checking out his website. You will be supporting a fellow thru hiker and small business owner. The pack is perfect for thru hiking, day hiking, sightseeing, or just wearing around town.

Payson to Pine

April 27-We have been doing solid miles each day and wanted to take a little “CDT vacation day.” Most days last year after New Mexico were long days and big miles. We have two months to complete this trail and will be hitting the half way point today. So we decided to hike a shorter day to spend the afternoon hours hanging out at camp. 

It was nice and chilly this morning as we cruised North. Everything is green and blooming in Arizona. We took a nice breakfast break where we ate sandwiches we packed out from Safeway. We passed two donkeys grazing in a field. Lots of water running today which meant I never carried more then a liter at a time. 

The trail began climbing up from the desert floor or the frying pan we call it. We crossed the same stream many times, walked up dry washes, and climbing up rock steps. We took one break at a stream watching a hummingbird bath and drink from the water multiple times. There have also been many huge butterflies with various colors flying about. We also came across a huge snake sunbathing right next to the trail. We couldn’t tell what type it was so he tapped near it with his hiking pole. The snake slithered into a hole deep in the ground. I would guess he was 2 1/2 feet long and he did not have a rattler. 

We entered the Mazatzal Wilderness area. We passed an old mining spot dug into the rocks. I peeked inside, but didn’t want to rain exploring as old tree branches were holding up some of the sides. We passed the 400 mile marker today and are more then half way done with the trail. 

Some of this area burned in 2012 so there are lots of big trees burnt, but that are still standing. We hiked a grand total of 13.1 miles climbing over 3,000 feet before we found a spot in a dry wash to set up our tents. We even took 3 decent breaks during the day and made it to camp before 3. Today was one of those lovely days where the hiking rewarded us with new views. We lounged around our campsite for a bit when I surprised him with an early year anniversary gift. Tomorrow is our one year, but tonight was appropriate for the gift. I handed him a baggy with six Jack Daniel whiskey nips to his surprise! So his relaxing evening got even better as we shared memories for a lifetime. “Actually, the best gift you could of given her was a lifetime of adventure!” – Lewis Carrol 

April 28-

Last night there was something wandering around our tent. We both heard it, but did not bother to look as we just fell back to sleep. We walked a fast mile to a water source to eat breakfast before beginning a climb towards a ridge line. 

For the first time since day one I was chilly when we climbed uphill. I had goosebumps all over my legs and even thought I was sweating I was chilled. I’ve been hiking in spandex shorts since they prevent chaffing and a think spandex long sleeve shirt. I really considered putting on my pants. The sky was eerie as many dark clouds were overhead. We would be climbing to over 7,000 feet today. The trail was beautifully switchbacked winding up towards the top. I came to log that looked like a place to tie up horses and took a short break. We walked together as the trail came to a pine forest. This is still a burn section from many years ago, but the forest is coming back to life. We took a short snack break before the last big climb to 7,100 feet in the Mazatzal Wilderness. The ridges do not have names, but this section was gorgeous! At the top, we had extraordinary views as expected and we could see where the trail went for miles.

We did not stay on the top of the ridge long since it was cold up there. We zoomed downhill from a treeless area back to a pine forest. We took a quick lunch break here. It reminded us of a typical CDT day when it was too cold to take long breaks. After a short uphill, we could see the trail for many miles and cruised downhill.

I ran into Southern and would meet his partner Data later at camp. It was nice to see thru hikers again and they are also triple crowners. All of us camped at Horse Camp Seep. We hiked a total of 19.1 miles at 6,114 feet elevation. It got chilly tonight and it felt nice to crawl into our tent. I had been asking for colder weather and clouds! I certainly got that today.

*Happy one year anniversary to my hiking partner, my Bub! I am so fortunate to have you in my life. In the past year, we spent 7 months living in the woods on a long distance trail together, 2 months in a long distance relationship as I was homesteading in the UP of Michigan with my family, and 3 months in a small town in Maine living indoors! You have never seen me in a dress or heels, we haven’t done any fancy dates or even a typical date night, we don’t need to blast our love on social media or buy gifts to show our love. We have a unique relationship and I wouldn’t want it any other way. In this past year, I have felt feelings I have never experienced before. There is so much love and affection that we share for each other. We know everything about each other and keep no secrets. There is never a moment of awkward silent after all these adventures. You have given me faith that true love is real and I may have found my life partner. The way you support and encourage me on trail is unbelievable. I am so lucky to have you in my life. I know you do not read my blog currently, but one day you might and I want to express my current feelings. Thank you for being you and loving me! ❤️

April 29-

This morning I started hiking with my fleece hat, gloves, and down jacket. I did not make it up the climb all the way before undressing. It was windy and cloudy during the morning hours. We had epic views all morning and the afternoon views were even better. We wanted to take our breaks in the sunshine today which is a change from a week ago. 

After 6 miles, I had a horrible pain in my ankle. It was swollen for sure and I walked 1.8 miles of the most excruciating pain of any trail. We took a break and he did an exam. Another perk of hiking with a physical therapist. It’s my damn posterior tibialis that was swollen and sore to the touch. After an hour break and two Advil, it was stiff, but felt better as I walked. We had a nice uphill that rewarded us with views for miles and the first sighting of Mt. Humphries which is the highpoint of Arizona. We are still around 135 miles by trail from that point so you can imagine how big this view way! I would of stared at it all day, but the downhill on rocky terrain needed my full attention. My pain slowly went away and I just need to keep an eye on it.

We took our last long break at a water source before one final uphill of the day. At the top of the hill, I could see LF Ranch about 2,000 feet below us. The downhill was so smooth and quick that it felt like I was flying. I waited for him at the bottom and we walked together the rest of the evening as I shared my Podcasts with him. 

We passed the entrance to LF Ranch and made our way down to the East Verde River. This is the largest river so far that the trail crosses. We could of tried to walk over the rocks, but I carry crocs for many reasons. I tore off my stinky shoes and slipped on my crocs. I was in the water so quickly and it felt wonderful. I could see the deep spots and got water up to my upper thigh. A free bath! It felt so cold and refreshing. I walked to the sand on the other side to drop my pack before wading out in the water. I hung out on a rock letting my legs and feet soak. It’s healing! When we get to the next town, it will have been 175 miles without a shower so I take what I can get. If it wasn’t almost 5 I would of gone swimming for sure. We dried out our feet and kept walking.

We headed down to Polk Spring surprised to see a few rose bushes. It is labeled as a great large campsite. We were disappointed to find a couple had took over the campsite. They are out for a few nights or longer as they had so much stuff. We chatted a minute, collected water, and decided to keep going since there were no other spots. We found nothing until we dipped off the trail to investigate a wash. We found a spot the tent would just fit without the rain fly and quickly set up. We met another couple thru hiking and will likely see them in Pine. We both cooked and relaxed before climbing into our home. Without the rain fly, we could see the stars and the sliver of the moon. It was a clear night and after 19 miles it was wonderful to stretch out in the tent.

April 30-

I was chilly this morning when I crawled out of the tent to do my lady chores. It is a woman thru hiker’s least favorite time of the month. I use a diva cup on trail and in real life for many reasons. On trail, it is much easier then packing out tampons. I just make sure to clean my hands before dumping and replacing the diva cup. I did my chore and jumped back into the tent and it was around 5:30. I tried hard to convince him to relax longer in the tent instead of packing up. I won! We slowly took our time eating inside the tent then packing up for the day. 

As we climbed out of the wash to the trail, the sun began to shine on us. We had a steep uphill on loose rocks to warm up. I was sweating within 5 minutes of taking off my jacket at camp. We reached the top of the mesa looking back on where we were yesterday. It was a gradual uphill mesa walk for many miles this morning. We stopped at a water trough to fill up and eat second breakfast. 

We both zoomed out to Podcasts as we cruised along the mesa for many morning miles. The trail was covered in igneous rocks that you had to maneuver around. I also managed to get some of those prickly grasses and some cactus thrones in my ankle. It was what I call mindless walking. There was a steep rocky uphill at one point, but overall just a day of solid walking. We joined dirt roads, crossed many barbed wire gates, walked a forest service road, and along the power lines. We slowly climbed uphill for 13ish miles to be back in the land of ponderosa trees and prickly pear cactus. The last mile was steep on rocks as my feet were pretty sore from all the rocks. 

We made it to Oak Spring where we planned to camp. We saw our first bear track of the trail near the water. We filled up and found a flat spot to set up camp after 18.1 miles of hiking. We are under 4 miles from the town of Pine! It was a relaxing evening spent together. 

May 1-
This is the first time that we woke up to the sun shining on our tent. We did not begin walking until 7:15 which was a nice treat. We were exactly 3.8 miles from the Pine Trailhead. It was nice and warm as the sun was shining down on us. We did dip down to a chilly wash before a steady uphill climb that allowed us to sweat a bit this morning. We still could not hear the sound of the highway which was a nice treat. Before we knew it, we were passing civilization and a forest of ponderosa pines. We walked quick and a bit before 9 we were at the trailhead. We both used the port a potty before walking towards the highway. We walked 87 and stopped at the Brewery in hopes to pick up my box, but the woman did not respond. 

So we walked farther into town towards all the good stuff. We stopped at the Early Bird Diner. We chatted with a few other hikers here as well. We hung out for a bit at the market before checking in early to our cabin. We stayed at the Pine Cabins for $90 a night. It was worth the price and included a jacuzzi bath. We showered after 175 miles which was lovely. We did laundry as well. I walked back out of town to pick up my box from one of my best friends, Kelly. I had given her a list of food ideas and she filled the box with everything I listed I believe. I’m so lucky to have such good friends!! Thanks again Kelly. The rest of the day was spent lounging around and a quick dinner at the Mexican restaurant. It’s margarita Monday so instead of $5 it only cost $1.79… damn. This might be a nice town to retire to and rent at the RV park is super cheap at $250 a lot, but you have to be over 55. Maybe someday. We soaked together in the tub watching comedy shows. We drank a few of the Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery. 5% of each purchase goes town the AZTA. We then submerged my sleeping pad in the tub and it took some time, but I found the leak that needed to be patched. So today was a lovely Nero into the town of Pine. Happy May!

May 2- 

Our bodies are accustomed to waking up at 5:30 everyday even in town. I was able to fall back to sleep for a little while. We grabbed a Mexican breakfast next door then packed up our bags. We spent an hour at the market then another hour or so at the Early Bird Diner where I had a humongous burger! We are just busy doing online chores today and getting the rest of the trail plans squared away. Life is good in Pine! We headed out of town to That Brewery cabin to lounge for the rest of the afternoon. My ankle is wrapped, elevated, a beer in hand, and lots of yummy snacks next to my love! ❤️

Superior to Payson

April 22-Around 7, I stepped onto the floor to feel no pain in my foot! The zero day was healing, relaxing, and just what the body needed. We slowly packed up and watched an episode of That 70’s Show until our ride came to get us. We contacted Julie who lives in town and drives hikers to and from the trail for a few dollars. There is lots of construction on the main road and we didn’t want to worry about hitching so we gave her $10 for the 6 mile ride. A bit after 8:20, we were jumping over the guardrail and heading back to the trail with a quick crawl under a barbed wire fence. We crossed under Highway 60 and began hiking North.

We walked 5.2 miles to a flowing stream which is a nice treat. The miles passed quickly as I was drenched in sweat. We ran into four trail maintainers including the regional steward for this section. None of these trails would be possible without volunteers! We thanked them and moved along to the next steam where we took our afternoon break. 

I left first pushing through prickly grass and prickly cactus thrones that want to attack you. The desert is tough and everything wants to attack. Not far from the water I heard a rattlesnake to my left. I tried to figure out where we has, but he seemed to be curled up in a bush. He was pissed and rattling louder so I moved up trail to wait for Paperweight. He must of slithered away since he never rattled at him. We walked together for a bit until the steep up hill began where I let him take the lead.

My foot was sore again after walking on loose rocks through various washes. I also constantly had to pull out the prickly grasses from my socks and shoes. This trail is difficult at times and the climb in the afternoon was a struggle for me. A 2,400 foot climb in under 4 miles as the sun shone bright. The grasses were very high and you couldn’t see the switchbacks right above you until you were on them. I slowly made it to the top of the saddle to find him waiting for me. The view from the top was fabulous. We could see the town of Superior in the distance, but the new mountain ranges took my breath away. We got a few nice pictures as the sun was setting.
The trail joins a road for a few miles and we had seen people in jeeps, dirt bikes, and ATVs zipping around. We walked a little ways before finding a huge campsite with multiple options to set up as it was nearing 7. Typical unpacking chores and then a warm dinner before we crawled into our home after 16.2 miles.
Today marks the three year anniversary of us both hiking out of Georgia on the Appalachian Trail and into North Carolina to the first campsite. We met each other at that campsite and would go on to hike about 1,360 miles together. Today also marks the year anniversary of our start of the Continental Divide Trail! We hiked together everyday on that trail. Today is also Earth Day! I am proud of the trails that I’ve been able to hike and the variety of our country. The trails have developed a stronger woman. I only hope that my great grandchildren can experience the same trails I love so much. Live a simple life, don’t take any moment for granted, and most importantly love deeply. 
April 23-
Last night, we fell asleep to the sound of leaves falling on our rain fly. It was chilly at 5,200 feet this morning and it felt great. We walked 1.7 miles on a dirt road to the Rogers Trough Trailhead. We took a morning breakfast break past the trailhead. We are entering the Superstition Wilderness of Tonto National Forest. The morning miles included a dip down to water and a nicely made trail that climbed to a flat spot. We walked though a forest of blooming manzanitas. All of the flowers are spectacular as well as the blooming cactuses. 

We crossed many flowing streams to our delight and walked through areas I’d describe as a green tunnel. It was easy walking to lunch where we sat under a huge tree and with the breeze we almost felt chilled. When we left our spot, I came across a herd of 5 deer with the fluffiness tails I’ve ever seen. We would see 3 more later in the afternoon as well. The trail climbed up on a rocky cliff side with views of greenery! The breeze and temperature was perfect as I didn’t need my umbrella for the heat of the day. We walked together and made a few life goals along the way to our next water source.

Right after our long afternoon break at the water, the walking speed slowed way down. It was so steep and rocky and required careful steps. I made it maybe 150 feet downhill before I slid and landed on my ass. I scraped up my leg and was in a position as if I had slid into home base. Once I fall, I tighten up and go much slower. I managed to slide again, but this time I was stopped by a huge rock that I stubbed my toe on before it tumbled off the trail. It took almost an hour to go 1.4 miles downhill! My knees ached so I was happy to go uphill even though it was just as steep as the last section. I zoned out to Podcasts and climbed back to the same elevation I had just dropped from. We enjoyed a nice ridge walk with sweeping views where we took a quick break.

We still wanted to do another 4 or 5 miles, but the trail was full of dips and a slow 2 mph pace at most. I was just exhausted and sore from the fall. I was happy when I caught up to him at one of the first campsites we had seen in miles. Part of the tent was staked on the trail and we knew no one would be out here hiking in the morning or tonight. The bugs were insane so I simply climbed into the tent and watched them try to get through the netting for over half an hour. Once the sun drops and it gets cooler the no see ums tend to disappear. So at that point I was able to set up the inside of the tent and eat a cold meal of PB&J on a tortilla with warm Gatorade of course! We hiked 18.1 miles today and I felt every one. I was exhausted, a bit defeated, and reminded of what a difficult trail the AZT is. 

April 24
As expected, we found two very nice campsites on our way downhill that would of avoided us setting up along the trail. The next steep uphill was easy this morning, but would of be a struggle at the end of the day yesterday. I cruised along ahead of him soaking in the new views and various mountain ranges. I waited for him at one of the barbed gates and we would walk the rest of the morning together.

As we dipped down, we saw Roosevelt Lake in the distance. It is a man made Lake that can be seen for many miles in both directions of the trail. We joined a rocky road where we talked for hours getting lower towards the lake to then climb back up the road. It seemed like such indirect routing especially as the heat of the day began after 10:30. We were both sweating and dreaming of swimming in the lake. 

Around noon, we were taking the side trail towards the water. It passed an old cemetery then cut through a mobile home park before crossing the highway. We went the visitor center first where we walked around inside learning a bit about the history. We then took cover from the sun under a flowering tree drinking 75 cent sodas from the vending machine. We also had some nice cold water from the faucet. We spent some time here before heading towards the marina. We walked along the dock towards the marina that had a small store. Our app said the hiker box had lots of food in it and we also wanted to see what the store had. Since it was a Monday, the store shelves were pretty empty and most items were way too overpriced. I bought two $2 ice creams and spent $2 on a coldish soda. She brought out the hiker bin to find many jars of half eaten peanut butter, trail mix, first aid supplies, and 6 fuel canisters some more full then others. I took one that was pretty full and a pasta side. I had wanted to buy another snack, but couldn’t justify the prices and nothing looked appetizing in the store. On the weekends, they have the bar open and at any time you can buy and cook your own hot dog or hamburger. We spent maybe an hour at the picnic table before heading back down to the lake with what we hoped was nice beach access. I am sure if we walked farther we would of found a better option. We ended up near the boat ramp finding garbage everywhere. Humans ruin the beauty in so many places. We did rinse off a bit in the water as I only cleaned my legs. We watched people out boating for a while before heading back to the visitor center to get more filtered water for the walk out of lake.

We reconnected back to the AZT as the heat of the day was mostly over. Again, we dipped up and down as the lake was our constant view. This trail eats shoes and we both are sliding around on loose rock lately. The trail joins Highway 188 and crossed a bridge near the dam. We then jumped the guardrail and began a climb up from the dam. The trail as steep, but with a little caffeine in me I was zooming. Up and up with full views of the large lake. We hiked as the sun began to set and joined a dirt road. We put on our headlamps and walked towards a campsite.
After 17.1 miles, we came to the curve in the road and dipped into a wash to set up. No rain fly needed tonight since it is still so warm out. I cooked a pasta side I picked up from the hiker box at the lake and it was pretty delicious! We relaxed in the sandy wash before calling it a day. 
April 25
It was a lovely morning to start hiking with sweeping views in all directions including a view of Roosevelt Lake most of the day. We entered Four Peaks Wilderness this morning. We ran into 8 trail builders who will spend 8 days working on this section of the AZT. This section of the trail was so nicely maintained. We were able to do the long climb up very easily and quickly. We took a nice lunch break on the trail as we stared at the four peaks. 

Within a 100 feet our nice trail changed to an overgrown forest. It would take us 3 hours to hike the next 5.1 miles. I don’t mind the crazy overgrown trees, but it’s tough because you can’t see where you are stepping. At one point, I saw hundreds of hornets in a wasp right next to the trail. 
I took a big fall on an easy downhill in this section. My foot slipped and before I knew it was down hard. I looked at my left knee to see a big gash and blood start to flow. I could see him about .2 miles ahead of me and I let out a huge screech. I got his attention telling him that I fell down and he was about to come back, but I told him to wait there. As I walked, my knee was aching as a few bits of blood dropped down my leg. Since we did not have much water to clean it out we decided to wrap it in his bandana. It didn’t hurt too bad, but all the overgrown bushes kept whacking my knee. 

We finally made it to the water where I tried to clean out my wound. It’s a good scrape with a decent size gash. Looks like I’ll be buying more bandaids in town. We were happy to find the trail much better maintained about a mile north of the water. We were able to go 3 miles an hour again.

The trail joins a gravel road for 12 miles. We walked side by side towards camp. We could see a wildfire in the distance that we later found out was in Tonto National Forest, but not close to us. 

After 20.6 miles, we found a huge campsite off the road under the ponderosa pines. It was protected enough from the wind so we set up. I cooked a warm meal which was amazing since I was a bit chilled at that point. It’s strange to be cold again, but I couldn’t be happier to be wearing my down jacket again. It was nice to lie down in the tent and stretch out. The tent is warm and cozy compared to the temperature outside. So chilly that we both are sleeping with our filters just to be safe.

April 26

It was the second coldest night after our first night. I slept very well cuddled up in my sleeping bag. Our morning hiking continued along the road totally 12 miles both days. We did not see a single car, but lots of great places to car camp with large fireplaces. We took a break at a stream that runs across the road. It will be dry in a few weeks I am sure. Road walks allow us to walk side by side and chat for hours. 

We finally dipped back to a trail that climbed for a bit before we headed downhill for miles. It was easy walking as we found ourselves at another scoop-able water source. We ate a few of our last items our food bag since we will resupply today. I left first and hiked 4.7 miles alone. Huge mountains laid ahead and hills surrounded me. I saw a large group of horseback riders on some trail. I also laughed at a spot with five cars in a ditch assuming it was a junk yard for the former owner. I made it to the fast flowing Sycamore Creek. It was such a pleasant and long break for us. In two miles, we would be at Highway 87 where his friend, Diamond, would be picking us up at 4. We spent about two hours here playing in the water, eating the rest of our food, hydrating, and making reservations for our next town stay in Pine.

We quickly walked the last two miles to get to the highway underpass. We walked under the highway to the other side to figure out how we would climb down from the highway tonight. A bit before 4 we climbed up from the trail to the road and jumped the guardrail. She rescued us from the side of the road and drove us the 32 miles into the town of Payson. It was my first time meeting her and any one who is willing to go out of their way to help hikers is a wonderful person. The three of us ate dinner at Mackey’s Restaurant. I had a 24 ounce Sierra Nevada, mozzeralla sticks, some onion strings, and a bacon, pepper jack, BBQ, onion string burger with fries! I was in a good coma! She insisted in buying our meal. Thank you so much for everything. We had a wonderful meal as the two of them caught up and we got to know each other. She then took us to Safeway where we bought all of our favorite foods for the next 4 1/2ish days to get into the town of Pine. As the sun was setting, she began driving us the 32 miles back to the side of the highway before she would return home to Phoenix. 

We said our farewells and turned on our headlamps. We had 1.2 miles to go to a wash where we hoped to camp. We climbed down to the trail and under the barbed wire fence before rejoining the trail. He commented at how fast I hike at night as we took maybe 20 minutes to get to our spot. There was a large site a bit before the wash where we set up without the rain fly. We were so stuffed and simply climbed into our home. We had hiked a total of 14.7 miles today including a trip into town and a few long breaks. It was another wonderful day!