Photo by Alexandra Pere

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

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

Veylupek, 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 brow, 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.” Veylupek said he understands that the lifestyle is not for everyone. 

Hiker Chuck Veylupek takes a break from the AZ Trail at the Patagonia Library. Photo by Devyn Edelstein

Veylupek is not really in a rush 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.”

“It’s a cheap vacation too, that’s another thing. Something like this, you know you could spend as much as three 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 a thousand dollars. Which is amazing when you consider 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 said 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 said. “Probably tonight [I will get back on the trail]. I am here to use wifi 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 said. “A lot of them will use our computers or they 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. The trail winds 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, said 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 said.