Spring-fall flip-flop

Pretty much packed up and ready to start hiking tomorrow. I just need to fetch some rye whiskey for my flask and then I will be fully equipped to head southbound on the Arizona Trail.

My plan is to fly into Page AZ, get a shuttle to Buckskin Gulch on the Utah border and then start walking south. By month’s end I should arrive at Sunflower AZ, where I ended my northbound hike last April, making for a complete walk of the AZT.

I didn’t really plan on doing a flip-flop. After finishing the southern half of the AZT in the spring my plan was to hike the Vermont Long Trail in the fall. I’ve never had much interest in hiking eastern trails – the AT sounds incredibly boring to me – but the VLT at the peak of the color change should be the right amount of eastern mountains at the right time.

But I forgot that my mother-in-law turned 80 in late September, and there would be a family celebration, which made the logistics of a fall color VLT hike problematic. So I did what hikers always do when faced with a new exigency – I formed a new plan: hike the rest of the AZT, which is totally doable in October (the new plan always involves more hiking). Going SOBO makes more sense in the fall, as the highest el’s and coldest terrain are in the north.

I should be asking why I do this. I have a pretty much perfect life at home with a beautiful wife who loves me and a sweet dog who will miss me.

My beautiful wife at Cape Breton NP

My sweet dog Bonny in the S San Juan Wilderness

But I know the answer. As soon as I set foot on that trail I’ll feel a sense that I am in the right place, the place I’m meant to be, even though I’ve never been there before.

We are all of us misfits in one way or another. Most of us hook up with a tribe, one whose rules and rituals we can learn. It’s how we define and assure ourselves a place in the world.

I seem to be too socially lazy to undertake such work. I’ll miss my family and my friends, but otherwise I will feel very comfortable just being a speck on the landscape.

I can’t claim that there is any particular virtue or higher value in this. I don’t appear to have acquired any special wisdom along the way. I just like to walk.