Monday 9 March 2020

On this day twenty years ago I set out on the Arizona Trail

First camp

On March 9, 2000, I left the Mexican border to hike some 800 miles through the state of Arizona to the border with Utah. I was excited and apprehensive. A desert walk was challenging. I knew from information from the excellent and helpful Arizona Trail Association that the winter had been dry and the always scarce water sources were less reliable than usual. I'd arrived in torrential rain though and spent a day picking up supplies wandering round Tucson in waterproofs as rain crashed off the gutter free buildings. Maybe there would be more water than I expected. There was. And snow.

At the border

The first day was tough, probably the hardest start to a long-distance walk I've ever done. The trail climbed steeply up for 4,880 feet with no water en route and nowhere flat to camp. I had a gallon of water in my pack and I needed it as it was very hot at first. Halfway up I encountered the first snow, which gradually became deeper and deeper until I was wading through a foot of it.
Looking back into Mexico

I looked back to dry brown lands stretching into Mexico. Ahead lay 9,466-foot Miller Peak, the highest in the Huachucas Mountains. The first water source was beyond the summit. On the map it said Bathtub Spring. I hadn't expected an actual bathtub though but there it was, sitting surreally in the snow. The water was frozen but a tiny trickle came out of the spout feeding into the bathtub.

Bathtub Spring
My first camp of a desert walk. In the snow. In trees - big magnificent ponderosa pines. As I was to learn the significant timberline here is the lower one, the point at which the desert starts to fade and trees start growing. The mountains aren't high enough to have an upper timberline and the summits are forested.

The walk had begun.

Photographic note: pictures taken with my first digital camera, a 2.3mp Ricoh RDC-5000. I also had two film cameras, an SLR and a compact, and shot over fifty rolls of film. I haven't scanned any of these yet though.


  1. Your photos bring back memories of my own AZT hike in 2017. A tough first day indeed. The bathtub is still there! I loved the AZT, especially the desert parts with saguaro cacti.

  2. Glad to hear the bathtub is still there! I loved the desert sections best but the whole trail is wonderful.