Coyote song woke me up at dawn. They were close, and based on their escalating yipping; they were hot on the heels of breakfast. I hope they did not chase anything in my direction where it might scream its final death cries.
Breakfast was a Honeybun and two handfuls of mixed nuts. My mind justified the unhealthy Honeybun by adding somewhat more healthy nuts. One offsets the other; it does, at least on the trail.
As I sat under my quilt looking across the hills, I smiled softly, recalling my gimpy first attempt at the AZT two years prior. It was good to be close to the finish, and I felt the satisfaction of reaching a goal and the mild sadness of another long hike ending.
As I munched on my nuts, I saw another hiker speedily half-walking, half-running down the trail below me. It was hard to see the hiker through the early morning gloom, but I think it was Silver Bullet. I watched her race down the trail and knew she was probably trying to catch Mango at the northern terminus so she could get a ride into town.
The ride to town was about 30 – 40 miles if you were going into Paige, AZ, and most hikers were headed that way since there were more options for transportation.
Packing up quickly, I headed off through the Ponderosas until I came to a reroute for a large Burn area. I knew many hikers were hiking through the regenerating area, but I generally try to abide by reasonable best practices, so I turned left on the dirt road and headed along the route that would take me around the Burn.
I reached Orderville Canyon about an hour into the walk and paused to read the information placards as I walked into the Canyon. This Canyon had been charred by the last wildfire that swept through this area. There was nothing but silent black trees and ground around me. Even the road was charred black in sections. The only thing moving was a few random tumbleweeds.
About a half-hour into my hike through the Canyon, I checked Farout and GAIA to see if there was water nearby and realized I should have taken a left at the beginning of Orderville Canyon. However, I was not going back, so making sure I stayed on the road, I continued to where the AZT intersected with the dirt road I was now on.
Nine miles later, after some fast hiking, I reached the AZT/Navajo Trail and turned back onto single track and off the dirt road. The trail was easy for the first couple of miles, but within an hour, I felt like I had returned to southern Arizona without the heat.
The dry terrain with its Chaparral, washes, and ravines was very similar to what I had hiked up until Pine, AZ. I even chatted with a few wary cows that had settled beside the trail. Ugh, I thought. I guess it was going to be poop water for dinner.
Rechecking my App, I saw a wildlife tank not far off the trail, and I stopped there for an early dinner. I did not have much further to go to reach Stateline Campground and the end of the Arizona Trail, so I ate quickly and hobbled on down the trail cursing my shoes softly under my breath.
I stood up on the mountain, looking down at the tiny campground. The southern terminus was between the rolling red hills and dark green Chaparral. I was about to complete the Arizona Trail, easily one of my favorite shorter long-distance trails at about 800 miles. I sighed deeply and began my descent toward the end.
Walking towards the stone monument, I saw another hiker standing by a truck. She had just finished her thru-hike, and her parents had come to pick her up. Her mom saw me, asked me if I was finishing, and then handed me an IPA with a big smile. I’m not a beer fan, but I am an anything carbonated and cold fan.
I chatted with the hiker and her family, and they even took my picture. I turned to put away some things in my pack, and as I turned back, they were pulling out. Asking for a ride had been next on my list, but I had not felt comfortable asking immediately, and they had seemed in a hurry.
She was a thru-hiker, and I know she knew I needed a ride, so they probably did not have enough room in their truck. I like to give most people the benefit.
The log was near the monument, and as I went down the list of people that had finished today, I was surprised to see so many I knew. Mango, Silver Bullet, Mission, and the Nailz Hoard had all finished earlier in the day. It would have been nice to see them before they left.
Stateline campground was small and full, so I walked up towards the back to see if I could find a small space to tuck in for the night. Passing a campsite with a van and tent, a couple called out to me and asked if I was finishing the trail. Smiling, I said yes, and they offered to let me set up on their site. I readily agreed and looked around.
The van had a couple staying in it, and the tent was large, so I climbed over a small wash behind their site and set up behind them. I was close enough to be part of their site but not to intrude or wake them up when I got up early in the morning.
Since I had chatted with everyone at the campsite a good bit when I arrived, I did not go back over after I set up camp. Instead, I climbed into my tarp tent and promptly fell asleep.
Sleep came quickly as my daily miles increased, and I drifted off to sleep. I felt the first tinge of sadness that the adventure was over. This was a beautiful trail, and hiking up through Utah would have been fantastic. I would be back to this part of the country again.