Photo provided by Rachael DeLano
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My (Postponed) Trail Story featuring Rabbit

Rabbit, a.k.a. Rachael DeLano, decided to put her plans to hike the Arizona Trail, West Highland Way in Scotland, Colorado Trail, and the Oregon section of the PCT on hold until further notice.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       04/10/2020
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
04/10/2020

My (Postponed) Arizona Trail Story

By: Rachael DeLano

A woman smiles as she sits on top of the Mount Katahdin sign.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano

I’ve hiked a lot of miles over the past four years. 

I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (2016), the Pacific Crest Trail (2017), and the Continental Divide Trail (2018). Last year, I section-hiked those same trails and completed the Hadrian’s Wall walk in the UK. This year, I envisioned myself standing at the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail on April 2nd.

While covering those miles, I have also made a lot of mistakes. If you have hiked a long-distance trail (or even a short one), you can probably relate. It’s easy to forget something you need, bring too much stuff, make a wrong turn, or misjudge the weather. 

A woman sitting on top of the PCT northern terminus.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano
A woman standing on the CDT terminus.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano

When it came time to hike the Arizona Trail (AZT) this year I realized there was one mistake I couldn’t make: starting the trail. When trail associations, the CDC, and other governing bodies released their guidelines— uniformly agreeing that it is best for everyone to remain in their current communities to stop the spread of Covid 19— I made the choice to postpone my hike.

I knew choosing to stay home was the safest, smartest, and most cautious choice for my own health and the health of the small communities I would have passed through. Communities that are often far away from medical care and have limited food/resupply access. 

A woman hiking on a mountain.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano

I feel good about the decision not to risk the health of others by putting my own desires first. However, that does not make giving up my hike—this goal, this dream— any easier. I suddenly feel like I have post-trail depression all over again, without the joy of the preceding hike.

To help deal with the sadness from postponing my hike, I have started to remind myself why I wanted to hike the AZT in the first place. The desire evolved from an idea to visit the Grand Canyon. I thought, “I would really love to see the Grand Canyon one day” and then quickly realized the AZT passes directly through the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t think of a better way to see Arizona as well as a natural wonder of the world than to walk through it starting from the Mexican border. By musing on the initial spark that lit this flame within me to hike the AZT, I stay focused on my goal. I simply remind myself that the plan hasn’t changed, but is merely postponed.

A woman sitting on a rock smiling.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano

I am comforted by the fact that, as cliche as it sounds, the trail isn’t going anywhere. The Grand Canyon formed around six million years ago. I can wait one more season to see it. In the meantime, I can still hike my local trails (while maintaining the recommended social distance), work out at home, and stay in touch with my trail friends and family. Nature continues to keep me grounded, while also inspiring me to dream of the adventures that lay ahead.  

A woman standing on a cliff on the Appalachian Trail.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano

Conveniently,  my time on the trail has prepared me for social distancing/quarantine in a lot of ways. It has taught me to rely on myself and plan ahead. Here are some ways the trail has prepared me:

  • Resupplying: planning out how much food I needed for a section in advance and getting it all in one trip. 
  • Missing people: learning to stay connected even when I couldn’t physically be with the people I love. 
  • Zero days: appreciating rest days where I didn’t need to stress or worry about anything except for eating and relaxing. 
  • Type 2 fun/Embrace the suck: not everything is fun, but sometimes I just had to go through it to get to the good stuff. 
  • Limited commodities: figuring out if I really needed something or just wanted it, and deciding if something is worth the weight (or in this case, the risk).
  • Toilet paper: rationing TP is second nature to a hiker. 
  • Trail Angels: relying on strangers when I needed it most. I choose to give a portion of my saved resupply funds to Feeding America (http://www.feedingamerica.org/) and be a virtual trail angel for those in need. 
A woman taking a selfie on the Colorado Trail.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano
A woman holding a Triple Crown award.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano

I had not publicly announced my full Summer plan on social media. I was also planning to hike the West Highland Way in Scotland with my best friend in May, followed by the Colorado Trail, and then the Oregon Section of the PCT. With so much uncertainty and so many unknown factors right now, all I can safely say is that everything is on hold until further notice. When things improve I know I will be on a trail again, even if it isn’t until fall or next year. 

At the end of the day, I am so grateful that I am healthy when so many people are not. I am also grateful for the hiking community and the support we can give each other. Hiking feeds my soul and brings me joy. I love every adventure I’ve been on and this isn’t going to stop me in the future. In the meantime, I am going to be a (virtual) trail angel, stay close to my community, and keep my feet moving until I can get on a trail again. 

A woman standing on a mountain.
Photo provided by Rachael DeLano

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Arizona Trail

The Arizona Trail stretches 800 miles across the state of Arizona from Mexico to Utah, passing through some of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes in the state.

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Grand Canyon, Arizona Trail
Photo courtesy of the Arizona Trail Association
Grand Canyon, Arizona Trail
Photo courtesy of the Arizona Trail Association

Arizona Trail

The Arizona Trail stretches 800 miles across the state of Arizona from Mexico to Utah, passing through some of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes in the state.

800 mi (1280 km)
$9.99 full guide
Learn more
Get our trail guide for this area!
About the Author
A woman wearing a denim jacket and a brown hat stands in a field of wildflowers.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people, places, and nature, which might explain why she has almost 47,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things related to social media and marketing and recently moved to Denver, CO from Flagstaff, AZ. You may find her frolicking around the trails and mountains of Colorado, or exploring the new city she gets to call home.