The plan (which as we’ve learned means nothing) was to head out from Jacob Lake, then find a scenic spot to camp several miles before the Stateline Campground to get some final views before completing the Arizona Trail.
I woke up and was excited to see sunlight coming in through the window. All the weather looked like it had at last cleared just in time for my last full day on the trail. I got my things together and headed down to the lobby to turn in my key where I saw the two hunters I met last night having breakfast. I walked over to say goodbye to them, but after a bit of conversing, they offered to buy me breakfast. I’m certainly not one to pass up homemade pancakes so I happily accepted and talked some more with them. Once it was time to go, I ran into Steve Jackson again and his family and had a pleasant few words, then was on my way down Highway 89A at about 9am to rejoin the trail.
From the moment I left the inn to several miles into the trail, I noticed I was making excellent time, averaging three miles per hour, partly because I was very well fed and very well hydrated. It was probably also helped by the fact that the sun had now disappeared behind an overcast sky, causing the temperature to drop. I then started to feel a few rain drops, so I stopped to repack my bag to make sure it was all rainproof. Fortunately, the sprinkles didn’t amount to much.
The forest didn’t reveal too many views, but I soon dropped into a small rocky canyon before emerging into a large sagebrush filled meadow surrounded by bright green juniper trees.
The trail stuck to the east side of the meadow which only grew larger as I kept walking north. There had been an occasional sprinkle here and there, but nothing that got me worried, though there did appear to be a rather large thunderstorm over Kanab off in the western horizon. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but as the miles began to add up, it appeared to be getting closer, though still distant. I could even occasionally here the faint rumbling of its thunder coming from the dark shadows below the brightly lit tops of the clouds.
The trail wound back into the junipers where most views disappeared, so I couldn’t keep up with the storm, but I assumed we might intersect at some point. Off to the east though, the bottoms of the remaining cumulus clouds were reflecting the red sandstone down below.
I continued to push through the miles and eventually realized the distant thunder had completely subsided. The storm was breaking up, along with many of the remaining clouds in the sky. The sun was coming back out and it was actually beginning to get slightly warmer. I was wanting to find a place to stop and have dinner, but I also wanted to find a nice overlook where I might even be able to camp, so I decided I’d keep walking until I found one. That decision changed the fate of the day.
The sun was getting low on the horizon and it didn’t look like I was getting any closer to an overlook. I was tucked away in a juniper forest, blocked from any great vistas to the east. Every now and then giant sandstone cliffs and ridges could be seen through the treetops, but nothing to sit down for to stop and admire, so I pushed on, from late evening, and into the golden hour, but still nothing. The sun had now set and I was still going, knowing there was one last large overlook coming up.
Twilight was settling in and it was beginning to get dark. I had already begun looking for anywhere to camp now, but it was all either too rocky or too big of a slope. I was finally forced to take my headlamp out to see the trail ahead.
A bit down the trail, I finally did come upon a great view with stars beginning to twinkle above the Coyote Buttes, now just down below. I stopped here to get a couple of shots and also to eat some food and drink some water. With it looking like I might have to just head all the way down, I didn’t stick around too long. I kept going down the trail, keeping an eye out for a good campsite in the dark, but never saw one, so with more energy in my body, I made a quicker pace as the trail began its final descent toward the Utah border.
I made great time down one switchback after another, a bright meteor to the north cheering me on. The temperature got noticeably warmer, and not just because of my movement. I began to hear coyotes howling once again, seeming like so long ago since I last heard them. Signs began popping up along the trail, and then there I was, at the Stateline Campground, all alone under a fantastically starry sky. I signed the register for my celebration, no one there to witness it, then walked over to a campsite and decided to forego the tent and just cowboy camp. Everything else was too much work. It was my last day on the trail, and I had just done my first 30 mile day; 31.5 to be exact. It was time to rest now. One last meteor shot across the sky, and my day and my first thru-hike were done.