AZT 2023: Day 1: Wander Women & Mary Poppins Unite

March 3, 2023

4.9 miles +1,195 ft

Campsite Elevation: 6,700ft

8:17 pm. This may be a short entry, nevertheless my first night camping in my tent in 2023 would not be complete without writing. It is, afterall, such an integral part of my experience on the trail, and in life.

Last night I got home from work to the Wander Women having arrived at my home. What a welcome feeling to have them greet me and their joyful energy fill my space. We woke up at 5:30 am today, I made coffee which was so very necessary after only 5.5 hrs of sleep. It hit the spot and I didn’t feel tired anymore as the excitement of heading to the trail today took over any fatigue.

We spend much of the day driving the 6+ hours from Flagstaff down to the AZT at Montezuma Pass. We received over 2 ft of snow in Flagstaff in this last storm, so the landscape is blanketed in white all the way down to the 4,000ft elevation. Let me just tell you, the views from HW 17 into Sedona and the Verde Valley were stunning. I am sorry I don’t have any photos of it, as I was driving afterall. But believe me, it was a sight to behold!

Yesterday morning after the storm

Not only that, the Bradshaws are also bedazzled in a cloak of white. Along the drive and even as we make our way through Tucson, every mountain range over 4,000 ft is white on top. We are able to identify Mt. Lemmon and Mt. Mica from the freeway, two prominent mountains that AZT hikers have to climb over.

Just South of Tucson we stop for gas and are hoping to find a place to sit and eat for a little bit. Kristy gets on her phone and is searching for a restaurant. As we sit at the gaspump we chatter and spit out ideas like Mexican Food or Subway, when she says in earnest “It’s hard to find somethin’ when you’re just lookin’.” A very quotable quote indeed. We roll with laughter. Brilliant.

When we arrive at the Coronado National Memorial it is just around 3pm. We register my car to park at Montezuma Pass, purchase a small souvenir and use the restroom next to which we find our first trail magic! There is a small stash of hiker food lined up against the building containing: dog food, pop tarts, a jar of Skippy, a couple bars and drumroll…a giant bag of Peanut M & M’s! Such a score! Kristy snags the bag and we each supply ourselves with a handful. We figure between the three of us, we can make that bag disappear. And now we’re off to the Trail!

What a difference!
View from Montezuma Pass

In the parking lot at Montezuma Pass there is another hiker with a dog, their names are Oliver and Twist. They are getting ready for their Nobo hike too. We set off around 4pm down to the border to tag the silver Obelisk that sits just beyond the fenceline with the US on one side and Mexico on the other.

The air temp is right around 50F and it’s that perfect mix of warm sun and cool shade. Where the shadows lay, there still sits a tiny fragment of snow where the sun has not touched. We have been closely watching the weather forecast and know that Miller Peak received a fair dumping of fresh snow yesterday. That was on top of a couple feet of base snow too. We had been tossing around whether to hike the bike route alternate or hike up and over Miller Peak on the Offical AZT.

On our way down to the Monument
Signs of the AZT

As of this morning we had decided the bike alternate was the best and safest choice. Along the drive, however, Kristy’s trail connection, a hiker named Nick who went up today, has been texting her with updates on the trail conditions, which is so amazing. Now he is apparently a very experienced hiker and a little bit on the extreme side, though we know he can hold his own. He gives us a report of 11 miles of snow and 1-2 hours of postholing but he made it through unscathed. We have footprints to follow! Thus we decide to wear traction and take the mountain route and we are all excited for this adventure and challenge.

Standing at the monument we gaze into Mexico and feel the bubbles of excitement dancing around us. This is a very exciting embarkment for the girls, as they will be hiking the entire Arizona trail, weather gods willing that enough snow melts up North! For me, I have stood at this place once before, when I started my own AZT thru hike in 2019. It is good to be back. I have been re-reading my blog entries from that first week on the trail and feeling very nostalgic about it all. I am really excited to see these places again and witness them in a new season, a new time and through new eyes. It is always a welcome gift to return to a place you have been before and not only observe how it may have changed, but how I have changed too.

The new “me”
Negotiating the fence

I feel so blessed and excited, heading out on the trail with my friends for a week is so very welcomed in the height of Winter. It is finally time to return to the feral life and re-enforce my neural wiring so it’s frequency matches with that of the wild. I am so happy to emrace all that living outdoors 24 – 7 brings: the fresh air, the connection with the Earth and soil, the vegetation, the wind, the birds, the sky, the sunsets and sunrises, the stars and the moon. All of it. I am so ready for it all. I could start walking this trail today and walk until the end without blinking an eye or missing my life at home. And I love my life at home, but this is my real life. Life on the trail is as real as it gets.

Blessings from the Oak Tree
The “golden hour”

I guess I had more to write than I realized, ha! Well, we get back to the parking lot after tagging the border and quicklyl organize our gear while talking with Twist some more. His demeanor is super intense and he carries a glass piece and smokes wafts of mjj from it. His dog is energetic yet sweet. I give him one of my extra trekking poles for his tent as he already misplaced his on the drive out here. I wonder if we will see him again? It’s always like that on day one of a long trail. you just never know who you are going to meet, when you will meet again.

Annette signing the trail register at the start of their hike, whoo hooo!
Start of the trail leaving Montezuma Pass

We hike out and start climing the mountain until just around sunset when the great ball of fire is dipping beneath the desert horizon. There ain’t much camping here but we make do with what there is, trying to duck out from the frigid wind. Our spot turns out to be great and we witness the planets come out in a perfect line in the sky as night settles in like a blanket over the heavens.

On the ridge looking West
Lets camp here!
Not a bad first night’s sunset

We prepare hot meals and eat in silence as the sky turn cobalt then black. Finally, it is cold and time to tuck in. We have our work cut out for us tomorrow with all the snow so we are planning to start of at first light which means I will wake up at 0 dark 30 so I can enjoy my morning camp routine of coffee, witing, and getting dressed at a more leisurely pace.

All settled into camp

It is 40F inside my tent now and we expect temps to drop to the low 30’s tonight. The moon sits 3/4 full and high in the sky. The wind has died down and it has become a still night with the occasional sound of the wind gusting momentarily. It’s so wonderful to lay here and allow myself to imagine what adventure, surprises and beauty lie ahead. We have a perfect weather forecast for the week, and we heard from Nick it is absolutely beautiful up on that Mountain. I am so ready to do this!

My view before going to bed tonight

10 thoughts on “AZT 2023: Day 1: Wander Women & Mary Poppins Unite

  1. Rich narrative and gorgeous images for your AZT start. Your “Blessings from the Oak Tree” is especially meaningful. I’ve received similar ones before. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Too bad you couldn’t stay longer but it is what it is. Wander women is how I connected with you. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    1. Hi Rex! yes, thank you, Kristy and Annette keep saying I just need to win the lottery so I can keep hiking and don’t have to keep going back to work! haha…..I’m too young to retire and I love my job, but if I could hike full time I would!

  3. Enjoyed reading your blog, saw the wonder women you tube. Looks like a great adventure. Positive energy 🌞

    1. Hey! That is great, I was actually motivated to get these posts up sooner than later since several people commented on the Videos that they would enjoy reading the blog…glad it made a nice complement to the video 🙂

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