The Payson, Arizona Super 8 is weird. The window doesn’t open, not because something is busted but, like, on purpose. We try to break the mechanism that keeps everything locked up but we can’t, eventually giving up and blasting the air conditioner instead.
We are feral forest canyon desert mountain creatures, we need fresh air.
The AC clicks on and off all night. It is very cold and very loud and then it goes silent and the room becomes very stuffy. All of my blankets fall to the ground or are wrapping Carrot like a burrito and I’m shivering.
We wake at six, I pick all of the blankets off of the floor and I swaddle myself. I drink cold brew from a disposable plastic cup, refilling it three times from the giant bottle I have purchased. I eat an almond milk based yogurt, slowly appreciating the inherent wetness of in-town food. I want to eat this breakfast ten more times but I also want to go back to the woods.
It’s Easter and we stop in Taco Bell on the way to the highway for our hitch. I recommend going to the Taco Bell in Payson, Arizona on Easter Sunday. There is every kind of person there, from people like us that don’t give a shit about the holiday to those in their Sunday finest. I order bean tostadas with no cheese, a thing I ate regularly when I was first vegan at age 14. There is no tip jar at this Taco Bell, which makes me sad. There should always be tip jars for service industry gigs, especially on Easter Sunday.
We eat and we speculate. Will we be waiting at the onramp all day ? It’s mild out, with a cool breeze, so at least we won’t be stranded in the heat if things take awhile. We bus our tables and head out. We have our thumbs out for less than ten minutes and we have a ride.
The kid is 20 (TWENTY!) and he’s coming back from a hunting trip. He likes to backpack, could hike all day, wants to hike the PCT. CARROT’S HIKED THE PCT TWICE, I blurt out because he’s starting to explain the PCT and I just can’t listen to a man try to tell Carrot what the PCT is. He is floored, eyes wide with excitement and we tell him he should hike it too, if he wants to. We also tell him not to worry about his career. I wonder if this is bad advice and I just can’t grasp a solid memory of anyone I know gaining anything from worrying about their career at age 20. We’re like this guy’s cool gay aunts, we tell it like it is.
At the trailhead, there are AZT hikers. Our route crosses over the AZT and it’s almost disorienting how different it is. We’ve grow used to being the only ones around for miles with the terrain being vague at best. There are…. signs?! That lead us along the trail?! And…. wide well maintained tread?! No real guess work necessary?!
I have a Taco Bell stomach ache as I climb, and I feel wildly lucky that I can ache on up the trail without having to juggle too much brainwork. The sky is clear and blue. The trail is FULL of water, water we knew about and also surprise little creeks, Easter gifts from the Earth.
I’m happy. I feel confidant and free as I pad up the trail, listening to my book and letting the miles poke by.
This tread is so much easier than what we’ve seen before. Can we finally go twenty miles a day? Longer? Finish this section early?? There’s possibility here, a real shot at moving quickly.
At least we think so.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest.