At 5:30 my eyes shoot open and I am ready to hiiiiiike!
The sun is rising as I read through the data book, imagining what we will walk on today. The trail will be easy! I speculate. We’re on the highline trail now, which is also the AZT for a moment. This means simple identifiable tread, tread where we can just go without having to think too much. The tread will get a little less easy when the Highline leaves the AZT, where less hikers go. How much less easy!? we wonder. The data book tells us a lot but unfortunately ease is subjective, so we won’t know the answer to that until we get there.
Our morning miles are transcendent for me. Crisp golden trees hover, shining while I walk. The trail unfolds simply, the sky is clear and totally blue. I am euphoric as I go, jamming snacks into my mouth gleefully as I check the GPS. I happily walk for hours, though I really only go a few miles. Well!
After lunch my beautiful forest gives way to a burn. We are hot and exposed, we’re climbing on hard lumpy soil made by cows and water and maybe earthquakes?! It’s so eroded, I’m not even sure. The rocks come back. The trail disappears and reappears and disappears again.
I cross a river carefully, the brambles on the bank tear at my flesh and make me bleed. I hike cross country up hills when the trail is so overgrown that there’s no point in trying to find it. I navigate myself East, surprised at how I can just do that now, how getting myself from here to there is so much simpler 13 days in.
Carrot is a mile short of our goal and asks me if I want to camp. It’s flat here, by a river. A mile further is a part of a climb, who knows how camping would go a mile further.
And besides, our feet hurt. The palms of mine feel bruised and Carrot is growing her pinky horn, you see— the part of one’s tiniest toe that blisters greatly before become gnarled, callused and bionic. It’s part of the process, but it’s also very painful.
We set up camp and I surprise myself by seeing that I’ve sent myself the white flavor of macaroni and cheese instead of the orange. I really didn’t see that one coming, I murmur while spooning peas and noodles and vegan Alfredo into my mouth. It’s good though! Nothing in the world can satisfy me like this giant oily pot of food can, and it turns out the color of the calories matters not at all.
And with that: I am warm, I am satisfied, and at last— I am asleep.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest