Arizona is unique for being the only state having all four different desert ecoregions present in the United States. In the northwest is the Mohave, in the southeast is the Chihuahua, in the south central and western is the Sonoran, and now we were finally entering the fourth one in the north: the Great Basin. A land of the sagebrush sea, some of which we would begin moving through later this day.
We slept in the bed late and got to breakfast after watching a morning binge of a Harry Potter movie marathon. When we walked in Stubbs and Frisbee were there and amazed to see us! They had secured a permit to camp in the Canyon and has presumed we had also done the same. They were confused when we didn’t show up at camp that night (by the time they got to camp in the Grand Canyon, we were still hiking into that winter storm on top). They decided we must be behind them until they saw the Trail Register and our names. Frisbee was like, “How the heck did they pass us!?” We all laughed and caught up on events since we last hung out in Oracle, AZ. Another thru-hiker was sitting at the counter eating and joined in on the conversation.
His name was One Gallon and he was doing the Hayduke Trail. He acknowledged the snow but seemed seasoned and comfortable with it all. As we’re all talking, Frisbee leans over and asks me if I know who he is. I reply no and Frisbee starts swiping through his personal Instagram account until a photo comes up of three hikers. We look down at the phone and up. It turns out One Gallon is a legendary backpacker - one of only like 4 people who are Triple Triple Crowners, meaning he has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail three times EACH. We both were in awe. Amazed, we listened to his stories, his advice, and his wisdom. We all 5 take a photo together (I think I posted it yesterday instead) and each say our goodbyes. Frisbee and Stubbs are finishing today. One Gallon is heading out to Kanab Creek Wilderness and into the snow and desert. As I’m writing this, I happen upon this article about One Gallon: he is now the first hiker to finish the Triple Crown four times becoming the first ever Quadruple Triple Crowner. He went back out and did the PCT last summer as well.
Janna and I head back to the room where we pack up and head back out to the trail.
Tonight will be our last night on the Arizona Trail.
As we hike down to the highway and meet back up with the AZT, we run into Tyson and Barrel. We first and last met Tyson when he had dinner in the woods with Janna, Bilbo, and I just south of Tusayan. We join the two for a bit, hiking through the woods and just soaking it up. The AZT began descending over the miles. The dirt became drier, the heat hotter, and the vegetation became juniper and sage. We were leaving the extensive conifers behind for one last plunge into the desert.
Giant sagebrush meadows ringed with junipers became our day. At once, the expansive views of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument opened before us. The steps of Utah. Canyon country.
We finished up today’s 18 miles by camping in a vast sweep of junipers. We got our last water source from a manhole cover next to a wildlife tank. Tyson’s wife was driving their #vanlife vehicle to meet him and the whole group of a us made a giant campfire and ate tons of food under the stars. Only 10 miles left. A fitting community for this last night on the AZT.