I wake up at 5:30AM, then 6:00AM, then 6:30. We are at our friend Caity’s house, up in her loft, sunrise filtering through the skylight. I should get up, but I don’t want to get up. Instead, we just rest.
Eventually it’s undeniable that we should probably hike. This next section, Sedona to Pine, is almost twice as long as the last, with an elevation profile that goes up and up and up before plunging deeply down, over and over again, for 87 miles. We’ve packed six days of food, more than I’ve ever packed before, and the sooner we get going, the sooner I can start cramming my bars down my throat, attempting to make the pack lighter.
Caity is asleep when we leave and so I thank her silently before we quietly close the door. We hitch to our trailhead, and by 9:15 AM, an ungodly late hour, we are hiking.
The trail is full of people at first, but as we climb, the crowds taper off significantly. 2 miles up the trail, we depart from our GPS track and instead take a power line cut, which is a little shorter and steeper. Our friend Drew runs this way with his dog Roscoe, he said it’d be more scenic then a section of trail that parallels the road and we figure YOLO. We like it just fine, that swift and steep cut through. While we’re on it, I think of Roscoe’s special heft, his shiny dog body zooming up the trail, his loyal cadence next to Drew’s.
Today we’ll climb. We’ll climb thousands of feet and we’ll climb for ten miles. There’s water often enough, but a lot of it is cow pond water, water filled with silt and shit, and so if we want to avoid that, we’ll have these climbs with our six days of food and long water carries from our sparse clean sources.
Hmmmm we say. Hmmmm.
I try to distract myself on the ascent. I feel stronger today, my appetite has returned and my nausea has gone away. I feel well rested, our two nights in Sedona filled me with sleep and fresh vegetables. My cuts and bruises have scabbed over. Two days off of my feet allowed my blisters to heal.
All this, and the climb is still hard.
Carrot and I split apart. Every half mile I stop and bend at the waist, sticking my ass out and leaning into my hiking poles. This serves the duel purpose of stretching my hamstrings (they’re screaming) and allowing me to get my head below my heart to catch my breath. I yell fuuuuuuuck a couple of times, to nowhere and nothing, and it is satisfying to hear my voice echo from Mesa to red rock.
I really don’t have the option to be the only person around all that often.
We finish our climb and lunch at a surprise water, it turns out a gloriously wet winter and spring has gifted us with so many surprise waters! All of my food tastes incredible and we make dumb jokes, mostly about how hard our dogs are partying while we suffer. The climb is over and I’m in a good mood.
We have some flat rocky miles. The flat part is incredible and the rocks dismay me, twisting my ankles this way and that. I listen to a podcast about Heavens Gate cult and I like, totally understand how people get sucked into that sort of thing. We ALL want something better don’t we? Something nicer than the status quo?
Carrot and I find one another at a silty stock pond and agree to hike six more miles. If we don’t do that, we have to dry camp, our packs sag heavily on our shoulders and we don’t want to carry more weight. I don’t even know if I COULD carry more weight ? The sun is low in the sky and we get walking.
Our descent is the BDSM of long distance hiking. The terrain is a surprise bushwhack, chaparral and cats claw jabbing at us, grabbing hold and clinging on to our bodies, our poles, our packs. We dub the MRT the Mega Real Trail, because these stabby jabbies aren’t fucking around even a little bit. They want to tear our fragile hiker asses up and we are defenseless against them, but also we sort of like it? In a weird way.
Hours pass. We are poked and prodded and bleeding. It is 6:00PM And we’ve gone 1.5 of six miles. We accept the fact that we may have to dry camp, skip cooking dinner and eat chips instead to save water, camp on a hill or some rocks instead of some perfect flat space. I ponder this, morose, but then suddenly! There are tinajas in the drainage below us! Shallow pools of rock filled with water!!! And a ridge just wide enough to cowboy camp on!
We’ll take it.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest.