Kathy Simko’s Arizona Trail Trek – Entry 1 – The Journey Begins

Hi there!  This is Kathy Simko and I am employed full-time by the Summit Hut.  I am usually fitting feet in the footwear department, but currently I am thru-hiking the Arizona Trail, which traverses Arizona 800 miles from the border of Mexico to the border of Utah, and my trail name is Utah Zuke.

I began this adventure on March 22, 2016.  I realize this blog post is tardy and I apologize.  This solo trek has been truly challenging and frankly, I’ve been too exhausted and/or too busy with meeting my basic needs – water, food and shelter.  However, I now believe I’ve got my legs under me and can begin sharing some of my stories and thoughts with you.

Utah Zuke on the Mexican border, 3-22-16

First though, I want to address the common question: “Why are you doing this?”  The one word answer is selfishness.  Let me explain…

1) I am truly happier on the trail.  I have backpacked a fair amount in Arizona and it has been a long term love affair.  The trips have never been long enough though; after three to five days, just when you’re getting into the swing of trail life, it’s time to go back to the city.  This has always given me the blues.  So, backpacking across amazing Arizona, through some of my favorite places, for about SIXTY days is immensely appealing to me.

2)  I had become bored and complacent with the “routine” of everyday life.  I work in customer service, and have for ten years straight, so I knew I needed an extended break from it.  I love helping people, but knew I needed to do something just for me.

I needed to be challenged cognitively and physically.  I needed some “unknown.”

I am not trying to raise awareness for anything.  I am not hiking for a cause.  I am not trying to fund a project.  Like I said, this is a selfish endeavor.

Camp One in the Huachuca Mountains, 3-22-16

About a year ago, I was backpacking with my dear friend, Jennifer Hnatov, in the Rincon Mountains and we discussed thru-hiking the AZT in Spring of 16, so the bug was in my ear.  Nothing really came of it until January 2016.  Then a perfect storm of planning came crashing down on me in the lunchroom at Summit Hut on January 8th.  I was eating lunch with my good friend and colleague, Nick Johnson, and out of the blue he asked, “When are you going to thru-hike the AZT?”  Immediately followed by, “I can take care of your dogs while you’re away.”  Nick had recently thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), so I was encouraged by his bode of confidence in my abilities.  Right then and there, I decided to do it and submitted my time-off request before clocking back in.  Within three days, Summit Hut granted me the time off.  Then I found the funding needed from a forgotten IRA.  It was time to plan and purchase a lot of Backpacker’s Pantry dehydrated meals!

Day Two – still very cold at elevation in the Huachuca Mountains, 3-23-16

Dave Baker, founder and previous owner/operator of the Summit Hut, is a friend of mine and crushed the AZT in 2008.  He was the first person I contacted to get an idea of the magnitude of a hike like this.  He and his best buddy, Dave Boyd, were extremely gracious and agreed to help me with not only planning, but resupplying me along the way as well.  As you will see, Dave & Dave not only helped me, they saved my trip and more…


Utah Zuke

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