I wake up debating with myself. Carrot is determined to hike the miles we missed in the last section, the ones we had to skip in order to get to the ATM at the store before it closed, so that I’d have cash to purchase our motel room and deal with my foot. Her goal is to slack pack, IE get out early enough to hike the seven or eight miles without most of her gear and hitch back to our cabin by 11 to pack up and check out. I could go with her, or I could stay right here, in bed.
I consider this: bed is incredible. But also, a nice walk in the forest, early in the morning without a heavy pack is a marvelous thing. If I stay in the cabin I will almost certainly waste my time scrolling and staring slack jawed at my phone. I should probably just go, right? To really be able to say I’ve hiked the whole thing? Besides, it’s a beautiful day!
And so I do. We walk our miles in reverse and it’s all scenic forest roads, perfectly flat terrain, a glittering lake. We talk about my upcoming trip to southbound the PCT, we both have a lot of feelings about it, we brainstorm ways to make it more palatable to be apart for so long. How does one have a relationship from so far away? And when you’re a moving target? And what about how something in me knows I have to go do the thing, that it’s unhealthy to not follow a dream to keep stability. Or is it?! What is stability anyway?! We don’t know. Searching for answers, if you have any.
As a palate cleanser, we talk about the dogs, what they might be doing. We finish our miles, hit the highway, and hitch back— arriving at our cabin exactly 30 minutes before check out. Perfect.
We eat our lunch at the general store and make a plan for the day. 12 more miles today? 13? Maybe 14? We see a huge descent is on the horizon and we settle on going 13.7 miles further. This drops us right at a water tank, we can fill up enough now to avoid the cattle troughs. We can hike 13.7 miles by dusk.
We get a text a mile into our first section, from our housesitter. They found two large greedy bed bugs on our porch couch. They have bites all over their hands. They’re taking the couch to the curb. Understandably, they’re freaked.
Carrot and I are freaked too.
We call the city. They’ll take the couch away within a week. Our housesitter calls an exterminator to come assess, they’ll be there within a half an hour. If we walk for half an hour, we don’t know if we’ll have service. If the house sitter has to bail, we’ll have to bail too. It’s all very fraught, and all we can do is wait. We’re just on the edge of Forest Lakes, not even out of town yet and so we do the only reasonable thing: we go have fries and cokes.
My brain is moving too fast. We’re almost halfway through the route! I want to see it through! I think maybe I’m getting stronger? I’m definitely getting smarter, learning the rhythms of the Mogollon Rim. If we leave will we just burn all of our items, find a new dog sitter and come back? Is that unreasonable?!
It’s confusing how life keeps churning when you’re walking in the woods.
It turns out, inside our house has zero bed bugs. Zero?! I’m confused. I didn’t think that was how bed bugs worked. It turns out everything is fine after all, and so somehow, we still get to walk? My heart is pounding from the caramel coloring and caffeine. We get to walk!!!!!
We hike cross country for a handful of miles, maybe the most cross country we’ve had on trail yet. It’s chill! Low scrubby plants, a medium amount of rocks. Tall dead grass. We meander, moving up and down strips of land, aiming for Black Canyon Lake.
Eventually, we arrive to a giant party, we speculate a family reunion. There’s cornhole and zooming children and ribs on the bbq and ATV’s and men that yell “HIIIIII!!!!” when we pass. Everyone waves and I feel shy and weird with our backpacks against the RVs in the backdrop. We pitch our tent just out of their view, imagining ourselves invisible in the gloaming. After lentils and lake water filtration and tooth brushing, we settle in. We’re slightly under walked but we’re tired and full and happy and we don’t have fucking bed bugs!!!!
That will have to do.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest.