Though it’s often relegated to the shadows of more famous bi-ways and thru-ways in the United States—think the Pacific Coast or Appalachian trails—The Arizona Trail is no proverbial walk in the park. Stretching 800 miles from Mexico to Utah, the AZT is a path of diverse terrain, with challenging weather conditions ranging from blazing hot to freezing cold and landscapes that look as if they’d been painted by the masters themselves.
Not long ago, filmmaker and Outdoor Evolution Founder Darwin Rakestraw set out to capture all that the AZT had to offer—mountains linking deserts, linking canyons, forests and communities. The result of Rakestraw’s efforts is a documentary film inspired by the history, geography, community and users of the trail. Titled "Through the Great Southwest," the film is his directorial debut and will makes its premiere at Flagstaff’s Orpheum Theater.
“I thought I’d make a standard documentary—here’s the trail, here’s the history, you know,” Rakestraw told the Arizona Daily Sun in a September interview. “It’s kind of tongue in cheek, but I keep telling everybody, ‘I went out to make a documentary and wound up making a love story—a romantic comedy, if you will.'
“People poured their heart out, telling how the trail really changed their life and intimately sharing their story. I met somebody who said the trail saved their marriage. I met somebody who was lost and didn’t know what to do with their career, and the trail took them down this whole different path. I’ve met people who’ve devoted their lives to the trail. I’m just the captain of the ship, guiding the story.”
The wildflowers on the Coconino Rim, aspen trees, the Grand Canyon, deer gingerly making their way around hikers and bikers each make an appearance in “Through the Great Southwest.” At the center of the film is not only the trail itself but the living things, human or plant, that interact with it.
“This trail is worth fighting for, it’s worth protecting,” one subject of the film says as images of trail maintenance workers, digging and raking dust and stone, pan across the screen.
In addition to a showing of "Through the Great Southwest," the Orpheum premiere will include a Q&A and meet and greet session with Darwin and American Trails Association President Matt Nelson as well as an exclusive Outdoor Evolution beer, brewed in collaboration with Arizona Wilderness Brewery. Proceeds from the event will benefit ATA and the organization’s continued efforts to maintain the Arizona Trail.
For more information, visit www.theoutdoorevolution.com/explore-by-foot/through-the-great-southwest. To purchase tickets, call the Orpheum at 556-1580 or visit www.orpheumflagstaff.com. The film will
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