Carrot rubs my back to wake me.
“What time is it?” I whisper into the dark
“Five” she responds. “I couldn’t sleep so i figured we could get a head start.”
This is a good idea. I’ve slept nervously all night and intermittently woke to wonder about my ankle. I might need to hitch out at the highway 7 miles from our camp, if it’s bad. I might hurt it worse. Or maybe it’ll be fine? My ankle is shitty, I sprain it a lot and sometimes it’s, like, chill. There’s really no way for me to know how it’ll be until I get walking.
I sit up and immediately have to shit. This is great news! My ability to poop on trail has been abysmal so far and I am stoked to dig my cat hole for my entirely normal poop and hand sanitize within an inch of my life before breakfast. We eat in the tent, oatmeal and freeze dried blueberries and peanut butter for me, two hard boiled eggs packed out from town and a protein bar for Carrot. Our bodies need such different things, it’s almost comical. When I eat protein for breakfast I stumble through the morning, sick to my stomach until I’ve digested. When she goes ham on the carbs, she hikes in an unfocused fog. It’s a helpful reminder, in this world that pushes one diet or another as the best one to follow. Everyone is different, we all need what we need.
We pack up, and immediately there’s a very rocky and steep ascent. We climb slowly up moss covered boulders, me struggling to navigate as I climb. Carrot is patient, stopping every once in awhile to point out a best way up, offering encouragement as I pour fear sweat worrying abound bending my ankle this way or that.
Beyond a few tiny pings, I feel fine though, almost confusingly so. We pass the highway, my last chance to bail for awhile and I shake my head.
“I don’t need to go” I tell Carrot. “I can totally walk.”
Today we have a ribbon of obvious tread for a moment, and most of it is marked with gratuitous basket cairns. I appreciate the cairns extremely, as the added task of being fastidious with my ankle on technical terrain definitely takes away from my ability to do other things such as navigate or, say, hold an actual conversation. I listen to the podcast about the Heaven’s Gate cult, and again, though I am decidedly not into Jesus or UFOs, I totally understand how people get sucked into cults. We’re all searching, man. The promise of meaning is very appealing.
Carrot and I meet for lunch at a silty stock pond and take off our shoes to retape hot spots before they become blisters and air out our feet. I have hiker hunger at last! Hiker hunger makes everything taste amazing, makes eating just about the most fun. I’ve packed really good food for this section, tons of variety and new stuff and healthy stuff and stuff just for fun. Here is what I eat:
One package gluten free gram crackers
A bar that is like a Bobo’s bar, but is not a Bobo’s bar, it’s a lemon coconut flavor and it’s mostly made of almond butter as far as I can tell. It’s medium fine, you can get it at REI and it’s called a bivy bar
Asian rice cracker snack mix
Some other rice crackers, these ones more like triscuits
Gluten free pretzels
Sweetened coconut chips
I guess some water in there too, regrettably from the cow pond.
Drinking from a cow pound is truly an experience of suspending every single one of your gross out sensibilities. The water is thick brown like chocolate milk and I’m pretty sure it contains at least a little cow shit, but probably more like a lot. Filtered or no, the water is gnarly! But we drink it anyway, because I have it on good authority that we have to drink water, or we’ll, like, parish or whatever.
After lunch is a series of roads: paved roads, dirt roads, rocky Jeep roads. We follow them all, at first together, and then separately. There’s a stretch of cross country after another cow pound that confuses me greatly, makes my brain swell up inside my head from overuse. I backtrack to a paved road that I can see connects to where I want to be and I am grumpy with myself for the time wasted trying to figure out how the fuck to get from here to there. Navigation is just following a line right?! Should be easy!
Carrot is waiting for me and breaks me from my self flagellation. I eat a bar, she eats some chips. We pee while chatting, wiping with our respective pee rags and head out again. We’re going to hike five more miles, and then we’re going to camp before the rain that’s been threatening all day explodes.
The wind picks up while we walk dirt roads over rolling hills. It whips my braids around, forces my to stop and put on layers, chaps my exposed flesh. I am raw all over and my little inside candle loses its flame. I am tired, wind. You win!
Eventually, we find our campsite. It is nestled between gnarled trees, just a little bit rocky (as opposed to extremely so) and it is tucked away from the wind. Carrot pitches the tent and we cook our dinners from inside our quilts, the sky growing thick and humid. As soon as we finish eating, the clouds break and rain falls, dumping sheets of water in thick torrent.
Inside our tiny shelter, we are warm and safe. We are so lucky.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest.