This is the final post – check out Days 1-3 first!
April 18th, 15 miles, Superior
It took us 13 days to get to Superior, to complete the Arizona Trail 300. That is 11 days longer than the top racers take. Yes, I know, I know: we can’t compare ourselves to the racers. They train, they carry less…but it’s still an interesting comparison to make, especially for the average person considering taking on the AZT. It’s a really hard trail. Water was difficult some days but it was manageable. The resupplies were trickier than I expected with less variety and the towns don’t seem to have capitalized on the hikers and bikers coming through yet. Although I am so grateful that the AZT Association allows bikers on the trail (it’s the only Scenic National Trail that allows bikes), it was definitely built as a hiking trail first.
And so we woke up on that final, 13th day conflicted.
Our goal has been to thru-bike the AZT but, ultimately, the trail beat us. And, wow, did it ever kick our asses! It was intended to be a 40th birthday trip for Adam and we did have the conversation about whether or not he should stay on trail and how (or if) I could support him to finish. Ultimately, he chose to get off as well.
The final 15 miles was, once again, classic AZT! We pushed; we hauled; we walked. Water was scarce; we ran out; and the sun was in full force. Arriving at the trail head was, for me, a relief. With the sun at high noon, there was little shade to be found but we managed to squeak into a small wedge near the bathrooms and appreciated the still-cool cement. We had no real plan aside from getting into Superior, a few miles down the highway, and getting a cold drink.
Cold drink mission completed, we started figuring out what to do. There was a Greyhound the next day but they do not allow bikes. With tickets booked, we found and indulged in delicious margaritas at Porter’s Cafe and then an inexpensive motel. The next morning, Adam headed to Phoenix while I stayed behind with the gear.
It was a pretty anticlimactic end to a pretty intense trip, one that had me so incredibly grateful that I managed 13 days in the desert but also frustrated by my body holding me back. I know my lupus seriously impacted my abilities. It slowed me down and caused extreme fatigue. When the other symptoms started cropping up, I had to have a reality check with myself. I don’t actually know how far I can push my body anymore but I do not care to throw myself in another massive flare and be out for two (or more) years.
Despite being off trail, our trip was not completely over! We had booked the month off so decided to turn the remaining vacation into a mountain bike road trip, riding in: Payson, Flagstaff, Sedona, Moab, Fruita, Salt Lake City, and Boise! And, of course, checking out as many local breweries as possible! It was quite a luxurious feeling that first ride post-AZT when, upon completion, instead of sipping warm (hot!) water and munching on questionable cheese strings that were in our pack for a few days, we pulled out a bag of chips and a cold beer!
I know your big question: did I enjoy bikepacking? Was the AZT fun? Well, yes! Of course it was! To both questions. I would, however, recommend people start with a slightly less technical trail than the AZT as their first bikepacking trip.
I know I was frustrated but that frustration was directed at myself. Apparently, I still have work to do in readjusting my expectations, something I thought I had done but clearly had not. It was still amazing. The desert truly does deliver on sunsets and sunrises with uncompromising beauty – they are stunningly intense. I loved being able to be out and in the wilderness again, my happy place. It is always reinvigorating and rewarding for me.
And besides, our 15th anniversary is in 2020 – guess what we’ve started talking about doing? Yup: a 2-week bikepacking trip on the AZT starting in Superior!