Our Very Own “Trail” – The Good Western Loop

Hello world! Man, these past few months have been a RIDE. I hope you’re all holding on as tight as you can. Me? Weeellll, I kind of lost track of this whole blogging thing. But not to worry! Better late than never right? These next two posts should have been uploaded way back in April, because that’s when they took place. I’m uploading them now, in July, for the simple reason stated above. To be entirely clear, I am NOT on the trail any more. I am HOME exercising every precaution for COVID-19 possible. I hope you all are doing the same. Now, let’s rewind a few months…

Back to the Show

Once we hit the Grand Canyon, we quickly exited the AZT and began our journey on what we have been calling the Morongo Connector. This is essentially a route that we created ourselves that is supposed to bring us to the PCT in California. We are now officially off any designated trail, following mostly old 4×4 roads. Honestly, it wasn’t the most spectacular hiking I’ve ever done. Dirt roads tend to get boring after a while, and this section of Arizona is FLAT. However, I do feel glad to have experienced a more wild side of Arizona.

Being “off trail” came with it’s own challenges. We didn’t have the Guthook app to hold our hands. There were no trail markers. Water was always hit or miss. Private property was something new to consider. Our team built gpx tracks of where we could hike and camp, and I used AllTrails to download them so I wasn’t completely in the dark.

Mapping ended up being a much larger challenge than anyone anticipated. We were often pulled off the “trail” and shuttled back to Flagstaff because the route needed to be changed due to a closure.

Rerouting the Trail

As you can probably imagine, this was incredibly stressful, time consuming, and frustrating. Driving back to Flagstaff for the umpteenth time, I started to feel anxiety swell up inside me. The last thing that I wanted was to be back in the same hotel, sitting on my ass, doing absolutely nothing while management tried to get their heads out of their asses long enough to get something done. Not only was I stuck in town, I also couldn’t leave the hotel because of COVID-19 concerns. It was mind numbingly boring. More times than once, I commended my friends back home in quarantine for being able to put up with such containment. I wanted to be hiking! I wanted the world to go back to normal!

Of course, it’s not that simple. The tasks that TPB management had to deal with were far beyond just building a route and setting us loose on it. The world showed no signs of going back to normal anytime soon. The PCT is very much closed at this point in time. So, we were faced with some difficult choices. The team started considering a re-route that would have us skip the PCT altogether. They started calling it the “Good Western Loop”.

Rerouting My Thoughts

This hike was rapidly becoming not what I had signed up for. At first, I was devastated. My companions had all hiked the PCT before, and had been hyping it up for me for the past month. It would be a dream come true to get to jump on that trail, meet all kinds of other hikers, and see the west coast on foot. Now, that dream was being taken away by COVID-19, something entirely out of my control.

Then I went back and read the list of firsts that I’ve been keeping in my phone (if you haven’t read it, you can see the first installment here). I realized that, despite the original plan for this hike changing so quickly, I still got to experience new and totally rad things. The longer I stayed out here, the more new and rad things I’d get to experience. In my brain, I went from “I’m hiking the Great Western Loop” to “I’m exploring the southwest.” I slowly embraced this change, and grew to love our eternally fluid situation.