The Thru-Riding Life

by Gillian Larson | posted: April 13, 2017
Shyla and Takoda survey the AZT

So here we are on the trail again . . . and I have to say that it feels completely natural to be living out of my truck and trailer, cooking dehydrated food, and sleeping under the stars. Just seems like what I was meant to be doing.

This adventure actually began two days ago, when I drove from my home in Topanga to a horse camp just outside of Tombstone, Arizona. I left on Monday, April 10th, and drove 10 hours to the place from which I would launch myself and my horses on our next thru-ride journey. I gave the horses a day off on Tuesday to rest and recover from the long road trip, while I packed up the panniers and weighed and measured food for the next two days of riding. Then on Wednesday we set off for our first day on the AZT. I will be riding from southern Arizona to Utah over the next seven weeks or so, but even though I am going south to north overall, my actual travel direction will be southbound on the trail. Confused? Yeah, I thought so. But that's the way I manage to be self-supporting on the trail, so that no one has to accompany me along the way, yet I have access to food and water and the ability to re-supply my horses and keep them healthy and safe. I need help getting the two trucks and trailers in position at the beginning, and I also need another driver at the end to get the second rig back home, but in-between I am able to do it all on my own. I drive one truck to a trailhead and ride south with the horses to the other truck, then drive north past the first truck to another trailhead and ride back southbound to the first truck again, and then keep repeating in a "leap-frog" type pattern to complete the trail. It sounds a lot more complicated than it really is . . . once both trucks are in position, I'm good to go. That's why I started today at a trailhead outside of Patagonia, AZ, about 50 trail miles north of the actual monument that marks the southern terminus of the AZT. I will ride south from here, camping overnight on the trail south of Parker Canyon Lake. Then I will meet my mother near Montezuma Pass, about 2 miles from the border of Mexico, where the trail actually begins. She's meeting me there to bring the second truck and trailer, and I will drop her at the airport in Tucson on the following day so she can get back home. After that, I'll be on my own until the end of the ride, sometime around Memorial Day, when she will fly out to join me again. We plan to ride together through the Grand Canyon, and then we will each drive a rig back home to Topanga.

horned lizard on the AZT

This brilliantly colored horned lizard was one of the amazing moments of my first day on the trail. But other parts proved to be a lot more challenging, including the difficulty of finding water for our first night's camp (we finally succeeded, and the AZT organization's water report was a big help in telling us where to look!). We also came across a lot of obstacles, not all of them natural. This narrow gate might be fine for hikers, but there was no way Takoda could fit through that opening with the panniers on his back!

#tuckersaddles #2017AZT

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