Saturday, February 21, 2015

Preparations for the Arizona Trail

Less than two weeks until the Arizona Trail.  Planning and preparations have been different in certain ways but unfortunately similar in other ways compared to last year when I was getting ready for my first long distance hike on the PCT. 

First the differences… 
Instead of asking if I can I bring my hammock, I ask what parts of the trail go through mountains and which are at lower elevations.  Whether I bring a hammock is not up for debate anymore.  I anticipate sleeping on the ground some nights, but I am confident I’ll find some hang sites too.

I don’t spend any time trying to figure out what towns to stop in.  ALL OF THEM.  The questions become  “what time does the diner open for breakfast” and “which restaurants have burgers, ice cream, and fast wifi.”  Priorities are clearly defined.

Minimal time is spent on gear.  Everything that I carried last year on the PCT suited me well, that I see no reason to change.  I do replace things that are worn out  — water containers and water filter.  Gossamer Gear provided me with a new pack when I went to Moab (since I am a Trail Ambassador) and it is shiny and doesn’t smell bad.  Everything else does though.
Exciting new gear-- no holes or funky smells!
I focused my planning efforts much more on water and navigation.  Reading about water on the Arizona Trail scares me.  My friend from the PCT Brian “Arizona” tells me stories about his trip on the AZT and how hard it is to find water.  How the water sources can be dry or thick with scum and how he hiked for miles without any water.   I realize how easy I had it on the PCT.  Navigation was easier too — the PCT was well-marked, Halfmile’s paper maps were super, and I had three different, excellent apps for navigation (Guthook’s Halfmile’s PCT, and eTrails).  On the Arizona Trail, there are no dedicated apps (though this is going to change soon).  Instead, I loaded the GPS tracts on my iphone and downloaded the maps around the trail manually using Gaia GPS.  I’m so relieved I’ll be hiking with Jan.  Two brains will be so helpful for navigating this trail.
GPS tracks for the Arizona Trail and cryptic waypoint labels loaded onto Gaia GPS on my iphone.
Now the similarities…
My training isn’t much different from last year, except that I didn’t have to build up my pack weight since I never stopped carrying my full pack after I got off the PCT.  I go hiking pretty much everyday, carrying my backpack (with all my gear and tire chains to fill in for the weight of food) for 5-7 miles on rugged trails.  I did this more to relax and to be outdoors rather than serious training though.
Training hikes with full pack plus tire chains.
Another thing that has been the same as last year— yesterday while I was out on my daily hike, there was a lot more snow and ice than usual and I wore my microspikes to keep from slipping.  When I got home, I noticed an ache in my foot where the stress fracture happened back in June!  *MAJOR PANIC ENSUED.*  The worst part was that I could not figure out what I’d done wrong.  I’d even taken the tire chains out of my pack to take it easy on the ice.  I thought I’d been doing everything right— not increasing my pack weight or mileage, taking really good care of my body.  The pain wasn’t sharp sore, but it felt like *something.*  Which was enough to freak me out because it hasn’t felt like *anything* for 6 months.  I've done over 700 post-stress fracture miles on the foot with no problems at all.  Until yesterday. 
Ice storm.
I remember that last year, two weeks before I started the PCT, my knee got sore where it had an old overuse injury.  That was just a tendon, and ended up healing before I started the PCT.  But if this is another bone injury... well... that's not going to heal this quick.  You'd think I'd be able to tell what kind of injury I have, after all this!  But shoot I just don't know.  And I don't know WHY!  Maybe it's the combination of microspikes and trailrunners just doesn't work for my feet?  Maybe being totally stressed out makes me more prone to injury?  That’s what my friends suspect it is.  They see how overwhelmed and panicked I’ve been acting this week with the craziness of moving and getting ready for the trail.

I’m staying off the food for now.

Oh how some things never seem to change!


  1. Hello Joan,

    As you know, the foot is sometimes hard to figure out. Hopefully, all will be well in the morning :-)

    As for the water on the AZT, Hikerbox has recently done an analysis here:

    Hope you find it helpful!

    Canada Goose

    1. WOW that analysis of the water sources is reassuring and so very helpful! Thanks for sharing the link. Gives me a much better idea of how to interpret the various sources of information about water. Really appreciate that you took the time to comment!

  2. What kind of hoodie is that you are wearing? I like it because it looks like it pulls tight...mine doesn't.

    Hope the foot is just a fluke and it is all good in a few days!

    1. I live in this hoodie- it's a Melanzana micro grid fleece- I actually have two, because I wear them so often. I bring my blue one backpacking-- it's what I wore often on the PCT, and this one is suppose to be my "in town" hoodie except that now I just wear them both in the woods.

      I'm still hoping the foot is just a little injury and nothing major. I'm staying off it and trying not to get too upset.

  3. O Joan, I so understand how you must be feeling right now, I'm in the same situation. Sending you healing energy and good luck!!! Let's hope all works out. I'm sure it will ;c) Love, Cat

    1. Oh no, so your not all healed yet either? Sheesh dealing with injuries is tough, but hang in there and keep those positive thoughts flowing! Somehow, it WILL work out and we will get back out there eventually- hopefully sooner rather than later, but eventually for sure! :)

  4. I had a stress fracture of my left foot several years ago, and for the year following the injury, from time to time, I would get pain in that same spot. Every time, I would panic, and think that it wasn't healed; but then a day or two later, the pain would be completely gone. I think stress fractures are just odd in that way, and it takes a long time before you 100% forget about it.

    1. I'm glad to hear of your stress fracture experience. Thanks for commenting! This is the first time I've felt anything since last September, and I'm still in panic-mode. Haven't walked much since I felt it, and it doesn't hurt now, but I fear if I do walk, that I'll discover it has re-injured.

      Will trust you that someday, I will get beyond this.

  5. Joan, just got caught up on your journal, as always such wonderfully detailed writings! I'm so psyched for you for your AZT trip, let me know if a goodie box would be appreciated at any of your resupply stops :). Sending healing thoughts to your foot - get better fast fast fast fast fast!

    1. Hello there Pathfinder! Just passed through El Paso yesterday and saw signs for Guadalupe and it brought back so many wonderful memories of our trip there last year!

      Yes, I'm excited about the AZT but also have major nerves--does that ever go away?!?! I've been on this cross country road trip for the past 6 days in a row so I haven't gotten a chance to try the foot on the trail yet but it seems fine now, and will test it tomorrow or the next day.

      Oh wow a small goodie box would be awesome in Vail. ETA is 3/12: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail
      Vail, AZ 85641