When we wake, the rain is gone. We are in the cloudy damp ponderosa forest, sticky everywhere from condensation, but no rain comes. It’s supposed to be sunny for ten days.
I’m concerned about my foot. I sit up, slowly remove my sock and medical tape and I examine it. I touch it lightly, and once again a stream of puss comes out. I douse it in hand sanitizer to clean, a move I’ve pulled so many times that I’ve instead taken to calling it foot sanitizer. I tape it. I put my dirty sock back on. I get dressed and we set out to hike. What else can we do?
Today will be chill. Yes, there’s a big climb out of the forest and back onto the rim, a 1000 foot clunker up, up and up. But! Evidence suggests it will be easy enough navigation. Our data book reveals no difficult to find trail or bushwhacking. I have a feeling section three, the one we’re on now, is perhaps far easier than any of the others. I’ve almost never gotten lost! The rocks are hardly notable! We are to hike 21 miles today but they are *~chill miles~* and so! Who can complain.
The morning is perfect. The ass dragging that plagued me yesterday has disappeared and I chug along, smiling. It turns out Eat, Pray, Love gets all white savior-y at the end, which is a true bummer because I loved the book, up until I didn’t. My foot is bothering me, I keep stopping to dump the rock out of my shoe, and then discovering there is no rock. Or rather, the rock lives inside of me, in the callused palm of my footbed. It feels bruised, and if I step wrong, the pain is sharp. The day warms up and I feel the heat concentrate. I’m pretty sure the prickly pear I stepped on last week has left a piece of itself inside of me. Something wants to come out.
I visit water sources at the 54.5, 54.9 and 56.6 mile marks of this section of trail. They are all dry. Water has been abundant on the MRT, flowing freely from sources marked as possibly wet and also sources not in our data book at all. Our hike has been highlighted by surprise springs and tinajas. I am out of water now, but just a little bit thirsty. Soon I start my steep climb onto the rim, and once I’m at the top, there will be water a few miles after that. It’s definitely not the best circumstance, but also not the worst.
I climb. The climb is an ass kicker, a big exposed thing with my foot thrumming along for the ride. In the distance, I hear some hikers. Coming down the mountain, I in fact see a line of them, maybe 20 hikers in all? They’re all young men in forest service hard hats and steel toed boots and they pull aside one by one in an effort to let me pass.
“Do you…have any extra water?” I ask. I don’t even think about it before it flies out of my mouth, and I’m glad for that, because I’m shy and maybe would have chickened out.
They ALL have extra water. I pass two empty Gatorade bottles to the group and they take turns filling them up, chatting gregariously. These are nice boys, trail maintaining boys, eager to help boys. I tell them Carrot is behind me, that she’ll need water too and their enthusiasm swells. Ah, the beautiful desire to help!
I reach the top of my climb hydrated and Carrot arrives shortly thereafter. We sit and eat slowly, marveling at how light our packs are the day we are set to arrive in town. We share peanut butter on pretzels and chocolate and ramen. I tell Carrot I’m worried about my foot, that I want to hitch a little sooner so that I can get to the general store to get to the ATM to have money to get a motel.
Ah, the issue with my bank account. I have money in my savings you see, not a lot but enough. As I’ve used my card, I’ve assumed that money’s been pulled from my savings but it turns out there’s a special federal limit on how many times that’s allowed in a month. I’ve passed the limit. My checking account is about 800$ overdrawn. I’ve accrued 100$ in fees. I can’t transfer any money from my savings because of the limit. My only option is to get to an ATM, withdraw from my savings, then deposit the money back in, into my checking. There is one ATM in Forest Lakes, it is in the general store, which closes at 4. It’s 1:00PM now, the store is 9 miles away. I am angry at this, there’s no way we’ll make it in time if we hike the miles. Instead I’ll have to hitch.
At the trailhead no one picks us up. It’s 2:30 now and I am nervous. My sister books our room on her card in case we don’t make it to the ATM in time. I have never borrowed money from my sister before and I feel extremely grateful and ashamed in tandem. They feel like twin emotions.
Eventually, I ask someone smoking in the parking lot of the trailhead for a ride. I explain the situation: the store, my blister, the bank and she says of course she will give us a ride. She’s going the opposite way but she’s happy to drive us to Forest Lakes. I like her so much, this woman. She’s 22, she has two kids and braces. She grew up in Snowflake, AZ— a mostly Mormon town. Someday she hopes to move to Portland, OR. Her car has red leather interior and she has nails like Cardi B.
She drops us in front of the store and wishes us well. At the ATM, my transaction is denied. I call the bank, they approve my ability to make transactions. Turns out there’s no depositing ability on this ATM, though. I can take money from my savings but I can’t get it back into my checking before my autopayments go through, to stop the 25$ fees from happening every single time a new purchase, one that I made before I knew about my misfortune, goes through.
I’m crying. I have enough to live, but do I really have enough to live? Am I making foolish financial choices in the name of writing and adventure and my own stupid white lady Eat, Pray, Love situation? The woman on the phone, the one from the bank starts to cry too. I know it’s not your fault I say over and over again. I know it’s not your fault.
The woman talks to her manager and like magic, all of the charges are reversed. Because I have tried all of the ways I can to get that money over, the big boss made an executive decision that they can cut a check from my savings and put it in my checking. I cry. She cries. We all cry.
In our motel room, Carrot and I make an incredible meal, made entirely of items found in the dusty convenience store. We have instant refried beans, pre cooked garlic brown rice, pull top canned salsa, and guacamole on top of beds of greens. Everything tastes very very good and we moan into our titanium pots. So many people helped me today, I moan. And this food tastes so good.
At last, we shower. I hold the flashlight app up to the sore spot on my foot, we sterilize the needle with a mini lighter. We get to it. Carrot gently prods at the spot, tearing the callus a little bit, teasing back the skin. She releases the puss and— POW— I give a little squeeze and a prickly pear thorn pops right out, shooting like an arrow. It is truly the most satisfying moment I’ve had in a long, long time.
And at last, my foot is free.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest.