About One Week to My AZT Blast Off

The Trek (September 28, 2021) by David Smith

When you live in Phoenix, you escape what feels like endless summer by going to the mountains.  Generally that means going to AZT country, either the Mongollon Rim or Flagstaff.  A few days ago, we spent a few nights car camping near  Mormon Lake, and I had the opportunity to do some hiking in beautiful weather (high 75, low 45).  Some of that hiking was on the AZT near Mormon Mountain.

Just so you know, Mormon Lake is dry like many other rivers and lakes as a result of decades of drought and aggressive pumping of ground water to the point that the water table has dropped hundreds of feet in some parts of the state.

It was a great break from the heat and got me very stoked about my upcoming trip.

My AZT Gear List

It would be an understatement to say that I am very compulsive planner and that is about 10X for backpacking trips. My current base weight is 12.3 pounds although I know that I always throw a thing or two into my pack just before I leave. So I will include my LighterPack link here:


My non-negotiable luxury item is my JetBoil MiniMo. I actually own a Pocket Rocket 2 and a couple pieces of Toaks Titanium, a pot and a cup. However, my experience with the JetBoil is that it is highly efficient. To make a similar set-up with the Pocket Rocket, Toaks stuff, etc, I’m saving about 5 ounces but buying a lot more frustration. I love my MiniMo.

I’m heavy on ZPacks gear for this trip which is all new or newish for me. It was intended for my PCT hike that was canceled by surgery. I love the Duplex for Western backpacking. I used a different hiking pole tent on a 154 mike LASH on the AT last year and really did not like the condensation or the slippery sil nylon floor. I’d use my BA Tigerwall 2 on the next AT trip.  Nice well designed tent that stays dry inside. However, most of AZ is DRY in the Fall – think single digit or low teens humidity- so condensation will be a minor problem. For my pack, I’m using the ZPacks Arc Air which is new for me. I’ve used it a few times. The jury is still out, but I like the weight and think ZPacks makes great stuff.  If I end up hating it, I will swap it out for my well used Osprey Exos which is a great backpack at a great price.  It serves me well.

Cliff Dwellers Lodge

I’ll be spending the night before I start at Cliff Dwellers Lodge in Marble Canyon, AZ. It is about an hour away from Stateline Campground and the northern terminus of the AZT. Cliff Dwellers is like an old friend. It is comfortable and familiar. I’ve stayed there many times.  It ain’t the Ritz, but it is in a beautiful setting and the restaurant makes a good green chile burger and has about a perfect view from the patio. I could sit there all day and look at the hundreds of square miles of essentially empty plateau. It is stunningly beautiful.

It is just about a week until Day 1. Between now and then, I’m doing the polar opposite trip – Vegas.  I’ll be going to the Garbage and Alanis Morriset concert and marveling in the giant display of truly unique American culture that is the Las Vegas Strip.  Then, a few days later I’ll dive into the serenity of the Arizona Trail.

I can’t wait for either.


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