Trail through Patagonia

By Devyn Edelstein/El Inde

Patagonia has a lot of visitors who walk a long way to spend a short time there.

Former professional cyclist Chuck Veylupek is one of them. He passed through Patagonia in February, eight days into a four-month, 800-mile trek on the Arizona Trail.

Veylupek, 51 years old, has a beard, grey hair, and the long, lean body of a professional athlete.

He took a break at the Patagonia Public Library to check in with family members and loved ones via email. He sat down, breathing heavily after shedding his backpack full of food, clothes, and other necessities, and took a huge sip of water. He wiped his bow, pushed back his graying hair and sighed.

Veylupek said he takes his time traveling from town to town.

“What really is going on is you are doing this long hike, in the case of the Arizona Trail, 800 miles, but you are really dividing it into town-to-town excursions, essentially,” he says.

Veylupek is not really in a rush to get to his destination, so he spends time exploring each town. “If you are traveling light, you are moving a little quicker to get to the next town. I am traveling heavy right now — plenty of food.”

Veylupek says he understands that the lifestyle is not for everyone.

“It’s a cheap vacation too, that’s another thing. Something like this, you know you could spend as much as 3 bucks a mile or as little as 75 cents a mile,” Veylupek says. “So, you know, all said the whole trip will cost me like $1,000. Which is amazing, when you consider (that it will take) four months.”

Hikers don’t spend too much money and time when they are in towns because at the end of the day, they want to keep hiking. But they are able to see the towns and share their thoughts with fellow hikers, who may want to explore the town as well.

Veylupek says he planned to stop in Vail and then Summerhaven, atop Mount Lemmon, to restock his supplies as he continued north.

“I just get my supplies and then get back on the trail and walk a mile or two,” he says. “Probably tonight (I will get back on the trail). I am here to use wi-fi and tell loved ones I am alive because they haven’t heard from me!”

Laura Wenzel, the director of the Patagonia Public Library, said she sees plenty of hikers. “Usually they are coming off the trail, and need to get on the internet,” Wenzel says. “A lot of them will use our computers or they should need a nice place to sort of rest up and get their wits about them, I guess.”

The Arizona Trail extends 800 miles across the state, beginning at the U.S.-Mexico border and ending in Utah, winding through many towns along the way. One of them is in Patagonia, where hikers can experience art, local restaurants, a Nature Conservancy site, and more.

Patagonia, 52 miles from the trail’s start at the Mexico border, is one of only three gateway communities where the trail goes right through town.

Matt Nelson, executive director of the Arizona Trail Association, says Patagonia is a great stop along the trail.

“I think most people in Patagonia are proud that the Arizona Trail passes through their town, and as we continue to improve it and share more information with people about what a great resource it is, then hopefully the community can benefit from it,” Nelson says.

Editor’s note: A version of this story will appear in the summer 2020 special issue of the Patagonia Regional Times.

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