AZT - Day 52 - Stateline Campground at the Utah/Arizona Border - End of the Arizona Trail (Trail Mile 800.0)
I achieved a childhood dream. Ever since I was 7, I have wanted to do a thru-hike. Enraptured by sight of others doing it, inspired by the stories I heard, matched with own love for being in the outdoors. Today, I finished crossing the grand state of Arizona, my home this past decade, and completed a thru-hike.
The day began when we woke up in a dry tent and a warm morning. This was one of the few times of the entire trip. I went and took an excellent bowel movement in a grove of junipers scented of the high desert. After a lazy start, we began descending off this high Kaibab Plateau towards Utah. We met up with Tyson and Barrel, hiking with them both. The trail opened up with stunning view of the Vermillion Cliff plateau backside eroding to the equally glorious Coyote Buttes, the Paria Wilderness, and parts of the Cockscomb plus Navajo Mountain and the Grand Staircase. I could not think of a more epic set of beautiful views to finish a trail with.
The trail switchbacked back and forth slowly down the side of the a series of cliffs. Juniper gave way to sage and creosote until giant fields of high desert grass interspersed with radiant fireweed, mallows, poppies, and flowering cacti made up the surrounding ground. I walked slowly, drinking in the views, smelling every flower. I stopped to take photos, to revel in the fact that I could see House Rock Valley Road below where our pickup was and where I had been gravel grinding before. Everything needed savoring.
Nearing the end of the trail, we crossed a large field of sage and ascended a small hill where Darren suddenly was, riding his mountain bike up to us! It was completely surreal. He congratulated us, we hugged, told us how epic the mountain bike riding in the area was, and the three of continued down to the trailhead. Coming down from the hill was Stateline Campground and the well-maintained gentle path the AZT was here. A small gazebo with a group of finished thru-hikers greeted us, passing us the official finisher’s log of the Arizona Trail. We approached the terminus moment.
We took a series of photos, feeling in awe. The front of the moment commemorated its placement while the back was a poem from the David Shewalter, the teacher who dreamed up the Arizona Trail in the 80s and 90s. Darren hooked up his bike, we said goodbye to everyone, and we were whisked along. Being back in a motorized vehicle seemed surreal, as if making me question whether the trail had even happened. We passed by Wire Pass Trailhead where years ago Harrison and I had been dropped off to begin our pass of the Paria Canyon and the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. We rejoined a highway in Utah and went to Kanab where I promptly bought Gatorade and numerous Drumstick ice cream cones to eat. From there, Darren drove us to our secret adventure cabin south on the Kaibab Plateau/North Rim back in Arizona where we took a day to absorb the surroundings, eat good cooked food, share stories, and appreciate the community.