Trip Report Pt3: Arizona National Scenic Trail

Bucketlist Itinerary

Despite Shannon's hope that I'd stay another night I try to exfiltrate myself out and back to town for breakfast. It's delayed slightly and I miss the special 5.99USD breakfast, I have to settle for 11.99USD breakfast. Once I convinced Shannon to drive me to the breakfast joint I was surprised to find Seabiscuit in there. I get a pancake, two eggs, hash browns, sausage, two biscuits and gravy and a slice of pie with vanilla ice cream. The plan is to hang out until ~1400h in town and then head out.


A bunch of other hikers are hanging around town and some familiar faces like Ungerwhere and Bailey show up. Bailey is sporting a pretty deep tan line from her sun hat and gets the trail name Chinstrap! Most of the hikers head over to the local brewery to chill out for the rest of the day. I get a burger, a small salad and an AZT beer! Ricky Bobby eventually shows up to join the rest of us. Around 1500h we finally break free from comfort and head back to trail. The trail was beautifully exposed red dirt which slowly and surely transformed into familiar pine forest. We were just below a rim which we would climb the following morning and ended up camping near a flowing spring after about ~12mi(19km) from town.

Landscape Historic Cabin

I wake at 0630h so I don't completely blow off Ricky Bobby and Seabiscuit but they end up taking a long time to pack up so I hike on ahead. The day is very pleasant elevation wise with only the short punchy climb up onto the Mogollon Rim. I pass a hiker named Night Crawler and spend midday hiking with a couple, Babushka and Piker. The day is a cruise with some muddy patches and some snow as well. I camp early around 1700h. Ricky Bobby and Seabiscuit pass mentioning that tomorrow they are doing a big day.


I wake early hoping to catch the guys ahead of me on their big day. The trail at this point becomes very boring compared to the last few weeks. It's nearly flat and meanders through pine forest which provides no grand views. To make matters even more frustrating the trail begins to deteriorate with large swathes of mud and snow spread throughout the day. As the sun is setting I finally catch Ricky Bobby and Seabiscuit and question them why they are doing such a big push. Ricky Bobby didn't get enough food in Pine and they are hoping to be in Flagstaff tomorrow. They completed a 41mi(66km) day and I completed a 44mi(71km) day as we hike the last mile together as a trio. We all camp together that night but I step away a little to spare them from my possible snoring.

As expected, waking in the morning my body is not happy with me. Usually doing over 35-38mi(56km-61km) results in severe muscle fatigue that I cannot recover from over night. We have something like 25mi(40km) to get into Flagstaff and it's a real struggle. The hiking is slow coming, the trail remains uninteresting but the bright side is that I stick beside the guys so I have a bit of a distraction via conversation.

Landscape Landscape

As the day progresses there are some moments where the views open up and you can see Humpreys Peak in the distance, the tallest point in the state of Arizona. Unfortunately the AZT doesn't go up the mountain and either way it's covered in a ton of snow at the moment. The hours pass and we see a handful of other hikers on their way to Flagstaff. Around 1400h we finally walk into the outskirts of Flagstaff and head for a Taco Bell.

We split a Motel 6 room three ways but Seabiscuit reveals that he's quitting trail tomorrow. His roommate back home just informed him he will be leaving so Seabiscuit has to go back to oversee the moving out process. A friend of Ricky Bobby picks us up to run some errands. We visit a brewery, I go to REI to grab new shoes, a new pole, a shirt, and some long johns and then we all head to Walmart for resupply.

Back at the Motel 6 we are given a room with no working air conditioning. Our solution is to leave the door open but we have a surprise visit from a local lady of the night. She comes to chat Ricky Bobby and I up while mentioning she just recently got out of jail and used to run strippers. We are too polite to tell her to scram and for the most part she's harmless. She makes a comment that Ricky Bobby looks like "white Bin Laden" and that I look like "Keanu Reeves but he stinks" while finishing off saying that she thinks she looks like "Jennifer Aniston" , yikes! Eventually Ricky Bobby tells her we are going to sleep and closes the door on her. We suffer the rest of the night with the door closed to avoid another encounter.

Today is my second zero day. I slept like a baby but the guys had a rough time. They couldn't handle the heat and woke up at midnight to go stand outside for a bit and apparently there were also dogs next door making noise. That's why I slept in my skivvies and always bring ear plugs on these trips. We head over to Denny's for breakfast, then to Culver's for lunch and say goodbye to Seabiscuit. Ricky Bobby and I head to Walmart for another snack run and the day is rounded out with a trip to McDonald's for dinner.

Defaced sign

Ricky Bobby and I leave at 0745h a hike out of Flagstaff along the FUTS. We spot a coyote slinking around 50ft(15m) off trail as we begin a shallow climb away from the city. The day is cold, cloudy and windy which is a sign of worse weather to come in the following days. As we reach elevation there are periodic mounds of snow along the trail and we do a lot of side stepping and switchback cutting to maintain a reasonable pace. On the other side of the climb we are spit out onto dirt roads and we catch some hikers at a water cache: Disco, Van Gogh and Wizard. The wind continues to rip all day and we set up along the flat landscape behind some juniper trees.

Aspen forest Landscape

The wind continues to blow over our campsite all night and Ricky Bobby's tent collapses halfway through the night. I'm lucky and only have my bug net set up so the wind mostly blows right over me without issue. We get up and leave to start hiking around 0615h. There is a small detour to climb Missouri Bill Hill that we decide to do, because how could you not with that name. The rest of the day is boring, flat, expansive and along dirt tracks. We cut some trail miles by taking some jeep roads and we catch up to Disco in the late afternoon as he's doing the same. The day ends uneventfully and the night is calm.

Dirt road

We getting moving around 0600h in anticipation of reaching the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Speeding off towards the town of Tusayan, which promises to have some fast food joints, we once again enter pine forests. There is a old abandoned fire tower that you can climb up on to get a sneak peak of the canyons way off in the distance. Later I manage to sneak up on and accidentally scare an elk in the morning while cutting through a switchback and we cut some winding trail by taking in a dirt road to town.

Peek at the Grand Canyon

Once in Tusayan we stop at the Wendy's which has inflated prices. From Tusayan the trail is paved to Grand Canyon Village and we meet another hiker, Hyde, along the way. Taking the free shuttles within the park we go to the an office to grab two backcountry permits. We are going to spend one night at the bottom of the canyon in Bright Angel Campground and another night on the North Rim Campground. The north rim is currently closed to all visitors unless you are an AZT thruhiker! Next we head to the hiker/biker campsite in town to set up. The wind is roaring and massive storm clouds are building on the northern edge of the canyon. Ricky Bobby says that there are 45mp/h(72km/h) wind gusts and snow to be expected before midday tomorrow.

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After diligently resupplying at the local general store and avoiding all the marked up and expensive snacks we decide to get a proper look at the Grand Canyon from the south rim. My vocabulary shrinks in the face of such sights and I'm just repeatedly muttering "Holy shit", "Wow" and "Jesus Christ" as we go from Mather Point to Hopi Point with the setting sun. It barely registers with me that I will be traversing the entire canyon over the next two days and fulfilling a decade long dream to touch the Colorado River.

Grand Canyon

We finish the day off eating dinner at the Yavapai Lodge with Hyde. Walking back to camp at night it's already frigid and we all quickly jump into our respective shelters.

As predicted the wind howls all night long and I am covered in a fine dusting of dirt and sand. Thankfully I manage to stay warm all night without any adjustment and my shelter stays pitched. In the early hours of the morning it begins to rain lightly and then it starts to snow. Around 0700h we get up and out of our warm bedding to grab breakfast. It stops snowing around 1000h and quickly begins melting as we pack up and hike out.

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The next hour as we first begin to climb down from the South Kaibab Trailhead is stunning. There are a number of tourists all around us as we go but that can't take away from the raw sights beyond. Eventually but surely the tourists fade as many don't venture more than a few miles down and we have the rest of the descent to ourselves. Unlike the morning, the weather now is perfect, mild and covering us with a clear blue sky.

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The Colorado River creeps ever nearer and we eventually reach Bright Angel Creek. We check out the area around Phantom Ranch and then do a short hike out towards Zoroaster Temple. Eventually returning to our campsite a bunch of other hikers catch up to us: Disco, Mush, Star Lord and Albatross. We chat into the fading light of the day and then fall asleep under a lean-to placed against the canyon walls.

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