Heather Anderson: An Adventure on the Arizona Trail

by Heather Anderson, Guest Blogger
December 1, 2016

Although Arizona is only about 400 miles from Utah to Mexico there is a footpath–The Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT)–that manages to double that mileage while covering the same distance. The Arizona Trail is much less known than trails such as the Appalachian and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails, however, it is also far more remote, and far from flat. It covers incredible diversity and desert wilderness ranging from the Sky Islands to Sonoran Desert, the Mogollon Rim to the Grand Canyon and Kaibab Plateau.

When I first heard of the trail a few years ago, I didn’t have any plans to hike it in attempt to set a speed record on it, as I had the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. However, as the time drew near I felt compelled to do so, not only because I simply enjoy long days, but also because I was intrigued by the unique challenges that the AZT presents. So, on October 7th I left the Utah border with plans to try and hike the trail in a self-supported (thru-hiker style) manner, faster than anyone else had. I carried my full backpacking gear and also walked into and out of towns to resupply my food along the way.

One of the biggest challenges of the AZT stems from the fact that most of Arizona has no reliable surface water. There also aren’t many towns within just a few miles of trail. Therefore, I was limited in two areas that can help keep your pack lightweight. Combined with the lack of water (I carried a gallon almost every day) I was often carrying 30lbs. The heat was frequently in the triple digits and there were many other obstacles intrinsic to desert hiking. These were the new and different situations that I dealt with while still asking myself to cover 40+ miles each and every day. I was amazed at how strong my body was as it has continued to gain health after several years of injury and general weakness due to anemia and undiagnosed gluten intolerance. I credit a healthy diet, both on and off the trail, for getting me to a place where I am capable of asking so much of my body. Navitas Naturals has been a huge part of that.

The raw beauty of the desert has always captivated me. The soft palette, flaming sunsets, and stunning rock formations kept me awed and enthralled every step of the way. I often hiked for hours and hours in the night to avoid the crushing daytime heat. This gave me ample opportunity to see the many nocturnal and crepuscular animals of the desert. I saw coatimundi, tarantulas, mountain lions, elk, deer, rattlesnakes, nighthawks, javelinas, desert fox, bighorn sheep, and so much more.

I reached the Mexican Border 19 days after leaving Utah. This established a women’s thru-hiker style speed record and broke the overall (men’s) record by 2 days. It was truly an amazing adventure full of challenge, beauty, and wilderness. You can read a detailed report on my own, personal blog at Run Hike Live Love and follow my future adventures on Instagram @AnishHikes.

Arizona Trail Association website: http://www.aztrail.org


« Previous | Next »