Southern Arizona on the AZT: Desert Initiation

Southern Arizona day 1 031.jpg

In early November (2018) I took a bus to Patagonia, AZ. - an 18-hour trip including the layover in Phoenix - to get on the Arizona Trail. Patagonia was as close to the southern border trailhead as I could get to via bus, and the southbound trailhead was about a 4-mile walk from town. Thus began my second month as my perpetually-traveling-writer alter ego, Poetic Wanderer.

Coming from the more challenging CDT in New Mexico, the Arizona Trail seemed more generally well-marked. Confusion usually only occurs at the low points, the ravines or arroyos (commonly referred to as “the wash”, which is literally what such areas are, the results of sandy run-off) where you learn to keep an eye out for stone cairns in lieu of signs.

I met a few other hikers on my third day out, all of them about to complete their southbound thru-hikes at the border with Mexico. Encounters like these can remind you that you’re still embarked upon a human endeavor even though there’s countless hours of just you and the wilderness (I’ve thus far hiked solo…)

Ironically, most of the real drama on this stretch of the trail occurred as I left the trailhead to head back into town. I chose the wrong road - “Harshaw Creek” rather than “Harshaw Road” -, which turned out to be a loop that added six miles to my trek. Or would have. Once I realized the road was unfamiliar and found some signs that confirmed I was off track I faced myself towards Patagonia and stuck my thumb in the air. First time I’d hitch-hiked in years, but I got a ride on my second attempt with a great and gracious guy who was heading to the post office in town, scarcely a block away from the Stage Stop Inn where I was staying. Happy ending.


Written in Fire

{Recited over the dance of flames, the lyrics to a song featured in the third book of The Edge of the Known series. Brandon Chane gave the song the title “Damp Kindling”.}


It was all writ in


but the ashes

obscure the runes

and yet they nourish the

next life-cycle of

lilies over

the tombs


The air is

inspiration; but the

breath is

quickly spent

and can’t convey

the throat’s hoarse

cry, nor

what the singer meant


I’ve sought wisdom in

the flames

but now my pyre

burns too slow


Life, you’ve got to

open your arms

or else just

let me go

Humanity Wets Its Toes

Night assures her that
promises were kept between
mind and soul

Morning evaporates the
dew of the dream from the
seeker’s brow


But this is not
It is the shaping of
new worlds that must begin in
partial blindness

Fall into the well that
birthed you
The waters your wish-thoughts
expelled for a womb

No swimmer here a
stranger; no gate-crashing

But countless loves drowned,
submerged or breaking
surface with

And tickling fish bring
stray senses back to
a finite world between the

More amphibious women
and men

More volunteer deep-sea

Roads down to the
water’s edge begin