How Phyllis Ralley got involved

It was 1989 when Arizona Highways published an article about the Arizona Trail. There was an amazing photo of the Crest Trail that just called my name!

I was about to hang up my mule’s bridle after seven years of organizing the “Frontier Shady Ladies Bumblebee to Williams All-Woman Charity Trail Ride.” Each year, during the last week of August we would trailer the horses to Bumblebee, Arizona north of Phoenix then hit the trail the next morning. Each year we had a different trail boss and rode a slightly different path through the Bradshaw Mountains, across Prescott Valley, down across the Verde River and up the rim to Williams. Riding about 180 miles we discovered the joy of waking up in the morning, with eagles overhead, and looking two mountain ranges over on the horizon and realizing we would be camping there tonight. The romance of a riding a long-trail cannot be matched. However, it got harder and harder each year to plan our route asking ranchers for permission to camp on their land and to ride through.

When I saw the article about the planned Arizona Trail across Arizona that was going to allow horses, I knew we had to have it. I called Dale Shewalter immediately to volunteer.

Dale and I had a long conversation and he admitted he did not yet have an organization to manage volunteers at the time. In 1993 that changed when Jan Hancock called me to help design and produce the program for the Arizona Trail Association’s First Annual Members’ Meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.

From that date I volunteered for graphic design work doing programs, flyers, brochures, banners and producing the Passage Maps. They were black and white maps like the Forest Service’s recreational opportunity guide maps for each of the 43 passages. I served several years on the Board of Directors, resigned to work for the Association as Membership Coordinator, for a few years. I helped ATA Executive Director Dave Hicks plan the Annual Members’ Rendezvous at Mormon Lake each fall.

Then took a job with the Bureau of Land Management, where I had been volunteering for over five years to put the line of the trail in the custom map system of the BLM. The BLM was then able to sell 1:24,000 topographic maps with the Arizona Trail on them to the public for a cost recovery fee of $10.

In recent years the ATA’s mapping has evolved and now you can get an app with the trail or download PDF’s from the website. A professional GIS contractor makes sure the data is up-to-date always.

Back on the ATA Board, I am working on the Trail Blazer project and helping with the NAU Archive collecting. As always I am dreaming of one day putting foot to stirrup and riding the trail on a mule. The romance of a riding a long-trail cannot be matched.