Friday, October 06, 2006

The sombrero's in the ring

The past few weeks I've been jonesing for some mountains. I have not backpacked in almost two years, since a weekend trip in Olympic National Park just after a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike in 2004.

Since then, a whole slew of changes have occurred in my life -- school, teaching, and the double whammy of fatherhood and divorce.

But I still have the gear, the legs, the desire, and available credit.

This morning I plunked down $200 for a round trip flight to Tucson. My plan is to hike the Arizona Trail from the Mexican border at marker 102 in Coronado National Memorial as far north as I can in the time allowed. My flight leaves Dec. 14 and returns Jan. 13.

This decision is difficult for many reasons: (1) I feel bad spending this much time away from my son. He may start walking or say his first words in my absence. That would/will suck. Plus, I miss the boy dearly after only a day apart. (2) The trip, while cheap compared to most vacations (no motels and avoidance of civilization as much as possible), is still going to be deficit spending, which I hate to do. (3) I haven't backpacked alone in over four years, and have only done it once. This activity is something I strongly associate with Esther because we love to hike together, so it will be tough to do it post-divorce without her. (4) This also means I will probably spend Christmas and New Year's alone. I did this last year for the first time, to mixed results. Christmas alone was fine. It felt more true to the meaning of the holiday because I spent the day in quiet contemplation . But New Year's sucked, partly because it's my wedding anniversary too.

This decision is easy because: (1) I'm long overdue for adventure. (2) I need to get the hell out of DeKalb, especially over winter break. All that downtime without something to do or someone special to spend time with would send me into a deep, depressive funk. (3) Did I mention that I love mountains? (4) Did I mention that I love desert almost as much? (5) I will still get paid every couple weeks over break, so my finances won't be crippled from not working. I love not being an hourly employee. (6) I would probably spend more money at home because holiday obligations tend to demand that of a person.

I will use Dave Hicks' Arizona Trail ebook, available at: as a trail guide. There is an official guide available through Amazon, but one of the user comments says this book is out of date and Hicks' site is more helpful.

I also plan to get maps through the Arizona Trail Association and supplement them with USGS survey maps printed off

I may have to rent a car and cache water through particularly dry spots, but will avoid this extra expense if possible. I may also have to mail myself food, but will try to buy as I go, again to save extra expense.

My friend Dave Long has promised to give me one of his older GPS units for about a year now. I will press him for it, or buy one if he gave it away to someone else (which I doubt, Dave is good on his word). But I prefer to use a compass and maps because electronic things break.

And although I intend this to be mostly a solo journey, I am open to hike with anybody who wishes to join me for a few days. Because I am doing all the planning, it could be a good opportunity for a novice to get a taste of the backpacking life or to reunite with old trail friends. I hope Tucson resident McGruff, an old AT buddy who visited us on the PCT as well, has time during that month to join me for a stretch.

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