Travel to Tucson, Arizona
Thursday, April 21, 2022 10:26 pm
Location: Tucson, Arizona

Today began my journey to the Continental Divide Trail. I flew from Maryland to Tucson, Arizona, and I’ll be spending the next couple of days here to attempt to acclimatize to the dry, hot desert conditions that are a feature of the region.

My wonderful partner, CareFree, is accompanying me on my travels to the start of the trail. Although she can’t hike the CDT with me (this time) due to work, she was able to come to the US for a couple of weeks to see me off. (After I start on the CDT, she’ll head to Phoenix to meet up with a friend and hike part of the Arizona Trail.)

We had an uneventful drive to the airport, and probably the shortest time from curb to gate I’ve ever had. A counter just outside the door to the airport collected our bags, so we didn’t have to wait in line to check in.

There was no line at all at airport security, so we breezed through there as well. After that, it was a short walk to the gate, and the total time from getting out of my car to sitting down to wait for boarding was about 20 minutes. Air travel would be so much less annoying if it were like that all the time.

We didn’t get seat assignments until we got to the gate, and we lucked out with a pair of exit row seats with a generous amount of leg room. Our first flight, from BWI to Atlanta full, but uneventful, though disembarking was a bit slow, and we didn’t have a whole lot of time to cross nearly the entire length of the airport before boarding started on our second leg to Tucson.


My seat was assigned sometime while we were in the air, giving me a window seat somewhere near the back of the plane. We had to go to the gate counter to get CareFree’s, and unfortunately, they couldn’t place her near me. At least, though, she got an aisle seat.

With the covid face mask requirements for air travel lifted last week, we were happy to see that most people in Baltimore were still wearing face masks. However, it was the reverse in Atlanta. While most airport workers were still wearing masks, few passengers were.

We had about 15 minutes before boarding, which let us get a quick lunch (which was quite necessary; they only fed us a small bag of pretzels on our first leg, and I suspected that’s all we were going to get on our second flight).

It’s a good thing we weren’t a rush getting off the plane in Tucson: I found that my seat was literally in the last row. However, the two seats next to me were reserved for crew use only, and for most of the flight, that meant I had the whole row to myself. And, being so far back meant that the wing was not taking up much of my field of view (unlike the flight to Atlanta, where I could barely see anything but the wing).

The flight to Tucson was also largely uneventful. The lush green forests of Georgia eventually gave way to green farmland over Alabama, before cloud cover hid the ground from view. Once the clouds cleared, somewhere over Texas, the green had been replaced with the brown of the desert.

Mountains Southeast of Tucson
Mountains Southeast of Tucson

The final descent into Tucson and the landing were a bit bumpy, and once we were on the ground, it got a bit stuffy on the plane, and a young girl (I guess maybe 6 years old) threw up while we were waiting to get off.

We didn’t have to wait long for our bags, and then we walked to our hotel, about 15 minutes from the airport. It was nice that there actually was a sidewalk leaving the airport, even if the only things nearby were hotels and off-site parking lots for the airport.

Tucson being Tucson, it was 90°F out. Fortunately, it was not humid, so while we made it to the hotel without sweating, I could feel the moisture leaving my body.

The Tucson airport is also used by the National Guard, and houses the largest Air National Guard fighter unit in the US. While we were taxiing to the gate, we saw several military aircraft, and while we were out walking to the airport (and later), we saw several more military aircraft and helicopters in the air, including four fighter jets flying in close formation.

Still on East Coast time, we opted for an “early” dinner, walking to a nearby Denny’s for food shortly after 4. Afterwards, we walked back to the airport, to pick up a rental car I’d reserved. (We will have the car for two days; we didn’t pick up the car immediately upon arriving at the airport, so that we’d have more time on Saturday with the car without getting charged for a third day.)

A Flowering Cactus
A Flowering Cactus

Our walk to the airport from Denny’s dehydrated us, so we took a short drive to a “nearby” Target to get soda, Gatorade, and some snacks for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we plan to stop at REI to pick up fuel canisters, which we couldn’t bring with us on the plane, and then start acclimating ourselves to the dry desert environment with a hike in the nearby Saguaro National Park.