Las Ciénegas

It’s been years since I last blogged, and I’ve gone on plenty of adventures in the meantime. My latest adventure has prompted me to start up again, though. Was it a 2000-mile cycling tour across countries? An epic trek in an exotic locale? A 26-mile mountain bike ride close to home?

It was that last one.

I don’t know about you all, but I’m not venturing far from my bedroom much less abroad during this global pandemic. Luckily, I live in a gorgeous state with lovely weather (this time of year), and I’m taking the opportunity to explore closer to home.

For some time now, I have been intrigued by the Arizona Trail. The AZT was officially designated as a National Scenic Trail in 2009. It is 800 miles of rugged Arizona beauty stretching from the Mexico border to Utah. The trail is divided into 43 passages and features a great variety of scenery.

Photo Credit: Mike Zysman

To put things in perspective, the Arizona Trail is one of only 11 designated National Scenic Trails. The Appalachian Trail (2190 miles), Pacific Crest Trail (2650 miles), and Continental Divide Trail (3100 miles) are the triple crown of long-distance U.S. backpacking trails, and I’d love to someday hike one (or all) of them. The Arizona Trail is nothing to scoff at, though.

Of course, like any long distance trail, there are through hikers and section hikers. A through hiker tackles a trail from start to finish in a single season, whereas section hikers go about the task piecemeal. While I’d love to do a through hike, work and life responsibilities do not permit that currently. Instead, I’m considering the bit-by-bit approach.

I’ve been on parts of the Arizona Trail before in my many adventures around Arizona, but last weekend was the first time I completed an entire passage — Passage 7: Las Ciénegas, to be exact. Since I’m not going for a purist approach this time around, I did it by mountain bike.

Mike, Josh, and I drove south from Phoenix for about 2 hours and ended up at the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead (named for a victim of the 2011 Tucson shooting that also injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords). From there, we hopped on our bikes and started heading south. A few hours and 12.7 miles later, we reached the turnaround point at the spot where passage 6 turns into passage 7. The trail had good variety and pushed me as a not-particularly-skilled mountain biker. There were lots of loose rocks and a few rather steep sections. Our southbound leg was a bit more arduous than the return northbound leg, which was net downhill. I was relieved that the way back was much easier since I had my doubts about making it before nightfall when we stopped for lunch halfway.

Photo Credit: Mike Zysman

I’m going to have to credit my friend Danielle for finally getting my butt in gear. She inspired me to look deeper into the Arizona Trail. I’m still not sure how much of it I will accomplish this year, but I plan to knock off a significant chunk at least. In fact, Danielle and I will be tackling Passage 8 this weekend (this time by foot)!

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