One of the quiet success stories in the history of the Arizona Trail is the way that three distinct groups of outdoor enthusiasts came together and pooled their efforts to make the Trail the wonderful reality it is today. Those three main groups are hikers and backpackers, trail bikers and equestrians. Dave Hicks, Executive Director of the Arizona Trail Association, has told me that without this energetic collaboration, the Arizona Trail may never have come into existence.
During my walk of the Trail I came into contact with trail users from all these groups, and enjoyed hearing their perspectives on what the Trail meant to them. I ran into a man attempting an equestrian thru-trip and was very impressed when I learned how challenging it is to handle the problem of re-supply on long horse trips. Apparently, horses require a lot of water, food, and surprising to me, rest. I was told that a fit human thru-hiker generally requires far fewer rest days to complete the trip than horses do. Figuring out how to accommodate these needs, especially at remote and hard to reach trailheads can be a logistical nightmare. Another significant challenge for horses is navigating those sections of the Trail where deadfall from large forest fires can be stacked like giant pick-up-sticks, greatly impeding progress.
This fall there are plans afoot at Prescott College to traverse the Arizona Trail using horses and mules. Read about it here. This will be an interesting expedition to follow.