On Saturday October 6, hikers, runners, mountain bikers and equestrians gathered on the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) to collectively complete the entire length of the 800-mile trail in a single day. The trail was divided into nearly 100 sections, ranging from 2.1 to 15.6 miles in length. Individuals had 24 hours to complete their portion of trail. Read more
We signed up to do a 6-mile hike from Sahuarita Road to Marsh Station Road, but we got ambitious and extended our hike plan to 10 miles. We were up before dawn, and we made the 30-minute drive to Vail to drop off a vehicle at Marsh Station Road. Then we headed south on Hwy 83 to our starting point on an unnamed dirt road and parked where it crossed the AZT. It was a chilly morning and we scurried to put sunscreen on the kids and get them out of their pajamas. It was 6:30, the sun had just risen, and we were on the trail!
We decided against taking the goldens (our 2 retrievers Harley and Maverick), but felt we could endure the long hike with the kids on our backs. Two nights before the hike we purchased a used Kelty kid carrier backpack from someone on Facebook, so we were looking forward to trying it out.
The weather was perfect for hiking, and we warmed up as soon as we started moving. The trail initially took us west through the Santa Rita foothills. Going in and out of shadows caused by ridges still blocking the sun, we passed through fields of prickly pear and tall, green ocotillo as the trail gradually climbed as we veered north.
We saw a young cow wandering by himself. He was tagged 22…my favorite number!
The views opened up and we could see Tucson in the distance. The first few miles of trail were pretty and very easy to hike. We made it to Sahuarita Road before 8, signed the register, checked out the trail head amenities, and continued on.
The trail then curved east where we crossed under Hwy 83. We passed one of the new bridges installed for mountain bikers using the trail. They allow riders to keep moving instead of having to dismount to open and pass through cattle gates.
At this point we had not seen any other people, but we soon crossed paths with a few solo riders and trail runners. By the time we got to the end, we counted 14 bikes and 3 trail runners. Five of the bikes passed by us without knowing we were there because we had ducked down into a wash to take a break in the shade.
Maddie wanted to walk for a little, so Morgan took the opportunity to ride on my back…but not before wanting to play peek-a-boo!
She didn’t hike for long, and thankfully so because we wanted to move fast since we were fully sun-exposed with no shade in sight. We continued north towards I-10 with both kids on our backs.
We passed through a tunnel to get to the other side of the interstate where it was nice and cool inside! We came out the other end only to discover we were inside a rattle snake not a tunnel!
We walked alongside Davidson Canyon, viewing it from above. We could see and hear trains passing through every 10 minutes or so. I grabbed a branch of the creosote bush and pulled off a handful of leaves. It smelled like rain.
By 11 o’clock we were 9 miles in and at the Gabe Zimmerman trail head. Gabe was one of the people who died in the Jan 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, and the spot where he would come to ride his mountain bike is now a memorial with a shaded picnic area. We chatted with a man and his blue healer, Cowboy, before cranking out the final mile.
The last part of the trail took us down into La Cienega Creek and Preserve. Normally a permit is needed to enter the area, but AZT users are not required. Maddie hiked the third of a mile to the creek.
Two rail lines cross through the creek. We were hoping to experience a train passing as we watched from underneath, but of course it didn’t come until we had climbed back out of the canyon.
We caught a glimpse of a castle-like home perched atop a hill with Rincon Peak in the background. A few minutes later, we were back at our first vehicle on Marsh Station Rd. It was 11:30 and we were ready to head home for lunch!
Miles hiked: 10
AZT miles logged: 10