Since we were heading back from Utah, we decided to hit the Arizona Trail at the northern terminus at the Arizona/Utah border. The trail ends (or begins, depending on which way you are traveling) at Stateline Campground, just north of the border in Utah. Due to it's proximity to the very popular Wave hike in Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, as well as Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch, this is a busy place! To give you an idea how popular the Wave is, there's an online lottery as well as a daily in-person lottery at the visitor center in Kanab. We actually made the drive back to Kanab to try to win the lottery for permits to hike the Wave. On a cold, blustery day in mid-November, 80 people showed up for 10 spots. Sadly, we were not among the winners. It is possible to hike down the trail for a bit before permits are required, though, so we hiked down a wash into a slot canyon until we reached a ladder that we couldn't get Baron down. While exploring some of the trails in the area, we realized this is a place to which we need to return, next time planning ahead to obtain permits for The Wave and Paria Canyon.
Then we set out to complete our first passage of the AZT. We've done bits and pieces of the trail over the years on various trips and trail work events, but this was our first passage for this trip. Passage 43 is a short passage, just 11 miles long, and the southern trail head easy to get to, so we opted to tackle it in two in and out day hikes. From the border the trail climbs gradually from 5,000 ft to 6,600 ft. The first day was cold and windy, with rain and freezing temperatures forecast later in the day. Given the weather and time of year, we didn't anticipate seeing anyone, so Baron got to enjoy some rare off leash time. Other than chasing a couple of deer, he was a good boy and most of the time opted to walk between us, staying right behind whoever was in front. Overall, a very delightful day of hiking. The good trail made for easy walking. Hiking back and descending to the campground, the views of Utah and Vermillion Cliffs were incredible. I loved the contrast between the pine and pinon forests we were hiking through and the desert. We had escaped any serious Utah weather thus far, but that night were treated to rain, which promptly froze. Not really a big deal, but we're desert rats and not accustomed to being wet and cold.
The next day we drove to the southern trail head for this passage, starting our hike at 6,500 ft. This day was a bit easier since we did the big climb the day before. It was another delightful day of hiking with better weather. The sun was out and we walked through the pine and pinion, in and out of washes and little canyons. Again, we enjoyed the solitude, This was our first complete passage of the AZT - woohoo!