Today we would like to honor America’s veterans for their service and personal sacrifice. We’d also like to encourage all veterans to use the Arizona Trail throughout the year for health and wellness, personal challenge, and to immerse yourself in Nature. The therapeutic effects of long-distance adventures on the AZT should not be underestimated.
The Arizona Trail Association supports veterans through our partnership with Warrior Expeditions, where we assist recently-returned combat veterans to “walk off the war” along the AZT. We also organize Veterans Trail Work Weekends throughout the year, bringing together Arizona’s veterans community to do rewarding work on public lands. The ATA also provides discounts for military veterans in all of our trail running events.
If you know a military veteran searching for a rewarding and challenging mission, please let them know about the Arizona Trail.
AZT in a Day
On October 12th, 2019 at least 759 people were out on the Arizona National Scenic Trail as part of AZT in a Day. There were 469 hikers, 215 runners, 62 mountain bikers, 11 equestrians, and 2 people who rolled through by wheelchair. At least 107 family and friends were there to provide shuttles, and 153 other people donated to the cause. This means at least 1,019 people participated in AZT in a Day both on and off the trail. If you were one of them, thank you and congratulations!
Together, we amassed 5,266 trail miles in 24 hours. That’s enough miles to cover the Arizona Trail’s 800-mile length over 6 times in a single day. While no rainy weather or reroutes affected the day, the Woodbury Fire scar proved difficult to traverse, and areas north of the Mogollon Rim had below freezing temps in the evening.
Based on the completion forms, social media posts and several phone calls, we can say with certainty that 97.5% of the 100 sections were completed. No, we didn’t cover all 800 miles in a single day but with your help we can reach our goal next year.
Mark your calendar for Saturday, October 10th, 2020 when AZT in a Day returns! More information will be announced next spring, and the free registration platform will go live in early summer.
Happy Jack Singletrack Complete
Last month, the Arizona Trail Association celebrated a major trail accomplishment when we finished the final mile of trail construction on the Happy Jack Singletrack Project. This monumental 18-mile endeavor replaced chunky dirt roads with sustainable singletrack between Highway 87 and Lake Mary Road. This beautiful segment of trail will soon become a destination, and you’re encouraged to enjoy it before winter blankets the Coconino National Forest in snow. Or grab your snowshoes and make it a winter destination.
The two-year project involved volunteers, staff, conservation corps, machine contractors, US Forest Service staff, and numerous donors and supporters. This is the largest trail construction effort since the AZT was completed in 2011, and supports our long-term goal to replace all road miles with trail. The Happy Jack Singletrack project was jump-started with funding from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) administered by Arizona State Parks & Trails. Significant funding from REI Co-op, Pioneer Title Agency and other partners helped us reach our goal almost one year ahead of schedule.
There’s still some more work to do to finish the entire project, including trailhead improvements, removal of old signs, and updating maps and information. But the hard work of building over 95,000 feet of new trail through the volcanic landscape is done! A gigantic THANK YOU to everyone who helped.
Next up is completing the Babbitt Ranch Singletrack in the summer of 2020. Other priority trail construction projects will be announced at the Annual Meeting on February 1 and printed within the 2019 Annual Report. Let’s continue the momentum and work together to enhance and improve the AZT.
Josh Perry Sets Fastest Known Time on the AZT
Most people who attempt a hasty thru-hike of the Arizona Trail plan on 40 to 50 days. That means you’re hiking 15 to 20 miles per day, with a few days of rest along the way. But there’s a rare breed of athlete out there who delights in pushing the limits of human endurance, sleep deprivation and resourcefulness by chasing the coveted FKT (Fastest Known Time) for long-distance trails. On October 30, Josh Perry established a new self-supported FKT for the AZT when he covered over 800 miles in 14 days, 12 hours, 21 minutes. That amounts to 55 miles per day without any significant rest.
Although you may not have heard of Josh Perry before, his ultra-accomplishments are very impressive. The 24-year-old from the United Kingdom has walked across Europe and Japan, and has completed the Continental Divide and Appalachian National Scenic Trails. He’s also survived a 5,000-mile bike trip across the Yukon, and just this year has covered more than 14,000 miles on foot. His Modus Operandi is to work for 7 months, then use the other 5 months to chase adventure.
Josh set the FKT for the Long Trail in Vermont in June, but that record fell to Jeff “Legend” Garmire shortly thereafter. After his AZT FKT earlier this year, Legend went after the Long Trail FKT. The AZT was already on Josh’s radar, and the thought of capturing an FKT from someone who had just taken his was too tempting to pass up. So he left the Utah border on October 16 with a goal of breaking 14 days.
He was blessed with mild weather the entire time, and averaged 55.2 miles per day. Josh’s base weight was a scant 6 pounds, and he carried little more than a pad, sleeping bag and ultra lightweight tarp. Despite developing a stress fracture of his tibia along the way, Josh maintained a solid pace every day. He mailed himself a total of 7 packages to gateway communities, which helped fuel his need to consume 8,000 calories per day. His favorite snack…sour gummy worms.
One of the things that surprised Josh most about the AZT was the trail’s biodiversity. After crossing the Colorado Plateau and its seemingly endless ponderosa pine forests, he enjoyed the ups and downs of the sky islands and all the views they afforded. Josh used chemical treatment to purify his water – but only for the first week. After that, he skipped filtration entirely since waterborne illnesses typically take a week to incubate and begin causing digestive issues. So to save time, he just drank what he found along the way.
Josh was shocked with the total number of water caches he found, and thinks that AZT Trail Angels are the best he’s ever encountered on any trail. One particularly memorable moment was when he stumbled into THAT Brewery in Pine, AZ just before closing time. “It felt like I was running into an aid station at an ultra,” he said. “They gave me food, beer, ice for my ankle, and were just incredible. Probably the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
October’s nighttime temperature swings were a challenge, but a complete lack of precipitation made for comfortable hiking. Josh averaged 5 hours of sleep per night, and figures he spent 1/3 of his time hiking during the dark hours. He planned in advance to tackle all of the hardest climbs in the dark so as not to get zapped by the sun. During the night he saw abundant wildlife, including javelina, skunks and a mountain lion.
Josh is grateful for the kindness of AZT users and the Arizona Trail Association for maintaining such a beautiful trail. He also thinks the trail can be accomplished a bit faster – probably under 14 days.
Colossal Vail 50/50 a Success
Congratulations to all runners and volunteers who helped make the sixth annual Colossal Vail 50/50 presented by Fleet Feet Sports-Tucson a success on Saturday, November 9th! Nearly 250 runners participated in the 50-mile, 55K and half-marathon distances along the Arizona Trail near the gateway community of Vail. In addition, almost 50 young runners participated in the free, family-friendly Path of the Ancestors Kids Fun Run on roads and trails within Colossal Cave Mountain Park.
For many runners, this was their first time attempting an ultra-distance finish, and well-stocked aid stations and friendly volunteers helped them accomplish their goal. Cadillac Mountain Bluegrass provided entertainment, where race organizers welcomed every finisher across the line with a unique award (engraved railroad spikes for the ultra runners). All proceeds benefit the Arizona Trail Association, and events like this are a great way to introduce active outdoor enthusiasts to the AZT and the ATA.
Some of the top times of the day were: Half-Marathon: Charlie Ware (1:28:56) & Anne Neuenschwander (1:56:59) 55K: Kevin Schofield (4:15:17) & Caroline Mosley (5:27:47) 50-Mile: Nathan Johnson (7:47:39) & Angela Greynolds (10:13:34)
Complete results are available online here.
Special thanks to Fleet Feet Sports-Tucson, Cirrus Visual Communication, DIY Castings/Craig Dabler Jeweler, Salomon, GU, Tailwind Nutrition, Darn Tough Socks, TMC Healthcare, THAT Brewery, Huppy Bar, Damion Alexander/Long Realty, and all of the other generous supporters!
The next event in the Arizona Trail Running Series is the Oracle Rumble presented by Summit Hut on Saturday, January 25, with 12K, Half-Marathon, 50K and 50-mile events. Even if you’re not a runner, volunteering at these trail running fiestas is a lot of fun and is a great way to give back to the ATA.