On March 4th, I took my first steps on the Great Western Loop. We started at the Picket Post Trailhead on the Arizona Trail, hiking NOBO towards the Grand Canyon. I’ve only ever seen the Grand Canyon in pictures. Looking forward to that, plus all of the other things I’ll get to see and experience for the first time on this trip, I was flooded with excitement.
It was a perfect day. Sunny and clear, with only a little wind. The whole week has been like that actually. The desert is alive following recent rains. I’ve been told that water in the desert is a hot commodity, but we see it all the time, in excess. In this first day, I allow my excitement for the whole trip to fuel me. In the days following it, I set my sights simply on the Grand Canyon, where we will leave the AZT. Using small goals to motivate myself will be more sustainable in the long run.
We take the miles slowly this first week. Overall, we need to average 25 miles per day to accomplish our trek. This week, we averaged only 12.3 miles, including today’s zero day in Payson. This is on purpose. Even though I’ve been out here crushing it for a month, everyone else is fresh. Starting slow will help prevent injury while they all get their trail legs under them. It benefits me too, because I’ll have an even bigger base to grow from when we do start laying down 30 mile days.
The shorter days are also going to help me get used to operating as part of a group, without the added pressure of making miles. I wish I could say that it were easy for me to blend into the crew, but I feel like I’m already struggling to balance my needs with the needs of the group. Before I came out here, I lived alone in my Subaru and worked all day. I didn’t have the challenge of thinking about coexisting with other people.
A couple days before we hit town, we stayed at a campground a few miles off trail that we had to hitch hike to. Our support van met up with us for the first time, and the plan was to drive back to the trail around 10 AM and do roughly 11 miles. Totally doable. Somewhere along the line, the plan changed to 19 miles but our departure from camp stayed the same.
I should have just hitched out earlier. With a group our size, we were naturally delayed. I didn’t start hiking until 11AM, and by that time the day was half over. While I hiked, the pressure to make the miles was strong enough that I neglected my routines. Like eating lunch and drinking enough water. I didn’t get to camp until 7:30 PM, after dark. I was hangry, dehydrated, and exhausted. Which, in hindsight, is probably just a sneak preview of what’s to come. It’s going to be a rough shift for me, and I’m sure it will take some time to get used to.
Being completely on trail the next day, it was easier to be independent of the group and manage my self care. Now I just need to adjust my mindset so I can do it while still being a part of a whole.
Next week, we should start pushing more miles. We’ll hit our first 100 mile mark, and get that much closer to the Grand Canyon!
Don’t forget, I’m using my hike to raise money for NAMI NH. If everyone who read this donated a dollar, well, it probably wouldn’t be that many dollars, but over the next 9 months? That adds up quick! Every dollar counts, and brings me closer to my goal. If you like my content and want to support it, consider donating to NAMI NH on the GoFundMe page linked in the footer.