A school dress, a 1200km journey and one determined woman – this could be a movie!

The words “I’ll be hiking from the Utah border to Mexico” stopped us in our tracks.

Each year, when we see the fabulous, crazy, bold things people do in their dresses, we’re honestly blown away by what you get up to. Jumping out of planes, storming mountain slopes and beaches en masse, exercising the distance from Sydney to Sierra, hiking and cycling the elevation of Mt Everest three times, solo hiking across Ireland – and so so much more. You’ve done some amazing stuff!

Google map of Arizona and bordering states, showing north to south trail line through centre of Arizona

And now Diane Morgan is about to hike the entire length of the state of Arizona – a bone-jarring 800 miles or wait for it: 1287.48 kilometres. And you can be certain that last 0.48km is going to count!

If you’re asking yourself why anyone would be crazy enough to take on such a grueling challenge, have a look at these photos:

Wide angle image of path through scrubby bush into snow covered mountainsPhoto by Guillermo Riquelme on Unsplash


Bridge over very green Colorado River into steep, rocky shoreline Photo by Laura Colquitt on Unsplash

Image of rugged Arizona landscape of red cliffs and green valley Photo by Laura Colquitt on Unsplash

This trail covers some of the most stunning deserts, mountains, forests, canyons, and wilderness imaginable. But it’s clearly not something you’d undertake without a LOT of planning.

So we got in touch with Diane to ask how she came to take on such a massive adventure, how she is preparing for it and of course – how she chose to Do It In A Dress.

Woman in school dress and sunglass with walking poles in front of large pine tree

Diane’s epic adventure

My challenge is to hike the 800 mile Arizona Trail from the Utah border to the Mexican border. I’m familiar with the trail because my husband was part of a group that rode it by horseback several years ago. Originally this was to be my retirement from teaching celebration, but I’ve decided to keep teaching special education.

Why One Girl?

I heard about One Girl through a friend around the time I read Half the Sky – a book about the needs of women and girls around the world. I highly recommend it. I decided One Girl would be the charity I’d support through my hike.

Also – I am an elementary school teacher, so I value education for everyone. I’ve also seen poverty first hand on trips to schools in the townships around Cape Town and I am aware of how much an education can impact a girl’s life.

Long distance image of 2 hikers on a mesa in ArizonaImage by Jeff Chabot on Unsplash

What is the Arizona Trail like?

The trail goes through all kinds of terrain and is very diverse. On the north rim of the Grand Canyon it’s heavily wooded and much cooler. When we step out of the Grand Canyon on the south rim, it will be almost exactly the 100th mile of the trail! Only 700 more to go!

Around the halfway mark, the trail drops off the Mogollon Rim and turns into desert. Hopefully, by then the weather will be cooler! The trail then goes up and over Mount Lemmon by Tucson and the last one hundred miles or so continues south of Tucson to the border.

Getting the timing right

I chose to start in October (actually 29 September), the weekend after our older daughter gets married, because the weather will be cooler and the aspen trees will be starting to change. I have to get through the north rim before it closes for the snow season on 15 October. Then I’ll finish in time to be at our friends’ wedding in Texas on 2 December.

On average I will need to hike about 17 miles (around 27.5km) per day – with a rest day once a week.

Diane’s incredible support crew

Middle aged man sitting on red deckchair in a shallow stream with pet dog standing beside himDiane’s husband Kevin and Waylon

My husband Kevin and dog Waylon will be my ground crew and pick me up at the end of each day to sleep in our fifth wheel trailer. His support is a huge part of my being able to attempt this challenge. There are some very remote, rough spots where we’ll have to backpack for two to five days and my husband will go with me on those spots for safety and moral support.

Two middle-aged women with arms around shoulders smiling at camera with hilly county behindDiane and her sister checking out the trail end.

Friends and family are going to visit and hike parts of the trail with me. And my older son Jesse and my younger daughter Mikayla and friends Chad and Hunter will be joining me to hike the Grand Canyon.  I am excited to share this with them!

My friends have been very supportive in helping me to get in hiking form. It is impossible to hike enough miles (especially in Arizona 100+degree summers) and still hold down a full-time job, so I trust that I will get stronger as I go.

Two years in the planning

My husband and I have been planning this hike for two years. I bought the book about the trail and started hiking sections of it over that time.

Last summer we took a week to drive around the north half of the state, then another week for the southern half, tracking down locations for camping, roads, and pick up and drop off locations.

I practiced using my Arizona Trail App for finding my way, and hiked three 10 miles (16km) days in the cool pines on the north rim.  I have been hiking in the Kingman, Arizona area where I live and going to the gym to work out and get in shape.

Telling the world

My plan is to use Facebook to share information about One Girl and Do It In A Dress before I go.

Mother and daughter with dog in selfie in open countryDiane, daughter Mikayla, and Waylon training.

My daughter Mikayla is already helping me with fundraising and will be updating our Do It In A Dress fundraising page when I am out on the trail, by sharing pictures of me in my school dress and stories about our progress and adventures.

Hiking 27km a day, six days a week, for two months – covering over 1200 km of desert, canyons and forest. In a school dress.

That’s not just an extraordinary personal achievement, Diane will be raising money to change the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable girls.

It sounds like a movie script doesn’t it?

We can’t wait to follow Diane’s epic journey, see the photos and cheer her over the finish line in December!