Back On The Trail & Up A River! 2023 Edition!

  • Updated: March 11, 2023
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

Hey all! March 18th I'm official done in Orange County for the season and back on the move. And this summer is looking to be a doozy. There are going to be three main phases to the summer.

Phase 1: Arizona Trail + Utah

First up is something I've really wanted to do ever since my very first thru hike on the PCT, the Arizona Trail!

Winding it's way through 800 miles of spectacular desert terrain the Arizona Trail is one of the more well known trails outside of the big three and along with the Colorado Trail seems to get a good amount of foot traffic.

I will be starting on March 18th from the southern terminus at the Mexico border. I don't have a real solid plan as far as time to complete but I'm hoping to do it fast enough to get to add an additional 650 -ish miles hiking across Utah. Because why stop at just one state if I'm already out there?

There are three main routes across Utah I've come across. The Deseret Hiking Route, the 8 Wonders Trail and the Great Western Trail. My current plan is to mostly follow the Deseret but I'm prepping for all three and depending on snow and other conditions I'll make adjustments as needed.

I have to finish this phase by the end of May since I transition to...

Phase 2: Mississippi Source to Sea Paddle

Welcome to something a little different. Jen will be off school June 3rd and will drive out to Lake Itasca picking me up along the way. We have a used canoe waiting for us up there and our plan is to launch on June 5th with the goal of reaching the Gulf of Mexico by the time Jen has to go back to school on the 19th of August. At which point I'll sell the boat and head for...

Phase 3: Continental Divide Trail Redux Grand Lake to Mexico

Thanks to COVID followed by a really random and brutal norovirus infection I was sadly unable to finish the CDT last year. I ended up getting off the trail a bit south of Salida.

This year I'm planning to go back and start at Grand Lake continuing south. Why Grand Lake? I decided trying to start from the northern border again didn't make sense both due to how happy I was with everything until Colorado combined with the time commitment and the fact I have so many other plans. 

Grand Lake was around where I felt I had to start compromising my redline quasi-purist agenda due to illness and weather. Well, technically that was Winter Park but heading straight up Grays at the start of a hike sounded less than ideal so Grand Lake gives me a bit of a warmup runway. And I can do that Rocky Mountain National Park loop most people skipped.

My plan will be to continue redlining and reach the Mexican border before winter gets too serious.

And then...

I need to get back to Orange County by November some time in order to get things in order for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course for 2024. But Taters and I also have a long planned dive trip to Socorro at the end of December. 

And then...

Which leads us in to 2024. I'll be committed to the Wilderness Travel Course January through March as usual (and hopefully getting in some scuba diving in Laguna Beach between classes) and then I'm thinking of setting off on another big throw type trip: The American Discovery Trail.

The ADT is kind of unique since it goes east / west instead of the usual north / south. Also similar to the Eastern Continental Trail it's more a route connecting many trails and such together. I'm currently planning eastbound starting in San Fransisco and then taking the southern route in the middle since that goes quite close to where my parents live.

Beyond than we'll see. Finishing the ADT would be a massive accomplishment but I also have the 4,000 ish mile North Country Trail and the rest of the National Scenic Trail 11 beckoning me in the short term. And I promised Taters I'd do the Pacific Northwest Trail with her sometime soon. And then there are all the international trails I'd love to have the circumstances to be able to attempt...

So here's to lots and lots of adventures to come!

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  1. ADT is quite a challenge but frankly- most of it looks boring as 🤮. I’m a mountain man. Do the Annapurna circuit back to back with Everest Base Camp hike. You will be blown away and it’s actually very inexpensive 😄