As we are falling asleep, we hear horses. They’re clomping around and they’re chomping on grass, growing closer. There’s a lot of them, they are unafraid of us entirely and they’re….right next to our tent. An entire family of horses!!!
I get out of the shelter, stand up in the quiet night and look at the horses, squinting without my glasses. Some of them are close enough to touch. They are entirely unmoved by my approach, give zero shits if I am near. They squint right back at me, peering through the night. We are all completely still.
I clap my hands. You can almost hear the horses scream OhShitOhShitOhShit before they take off, galloping. I climb back into our shelter, spooked.
“This is totally why I’m vegan” I say to Carrot. “I’m terrified of animals.”
The horses come back. They eat the grass around us and Carrot googles. Will horses stomp us? Do horses kick humans while they’re laying down? Will a horse step on my tent?
Google says we should be okay, and then the horses get the zoomies. They’re zipping back and forth, up and down in parallel lines on each side of our tent and I think I’ll never sleep, what with these wild galloping creatures boxing us in. I say so out loud to Carrot and she suggests I try and close my eyes. Within minutes, I am breathing rhythmically, lulled by the gallops and the trots, and then I am asleep.
In the morning, we set out to walk in the sunshine, cross country. The cross country, again, is chill. I see where I am going based on the topo lines and track of my map, and I see how it translates to the ground. Is this terrain and navigation easier or am I stronger? Probably a little bit of both.
I hike alone and listen to Team Dresch. I think about coming of age, what it has meant to have a longstanding history of admiration for strong women. I’m going to see Team Dresch play this summer and I fantasize about the pit, a circle of aging riot grrls with too short bangs and cardigans and tattoos that say Revolution, Girl style now! thronging in chaotic, haven’t-gone-out-in-at least-six-months harmony. Nothing is perfect, but I am so happy to be queer, to have this queer world with me. in my headphones, on this trail. One of my very favorite things about myself is being gay, at least mostly gay, and I’m keeping that fact in my pocket, super close. I like the world that exists for me when I live completely outside of the need for male validation.
ATVers pass me. They have rifles in their holsters and confederate flag bandanas tied around their necks. They ask me if I am okay and I look away. I want to scream at them. Do you know what that flag around your neck means?! What it represents?!
I listen to a This American Life episode, one about a time that a small southern town lost just over 100 people in a matter of hours. ICE showed up to the meat packing plant, you see, targeted immigrants in the middle of their hard work day full of blood and guts and manual labor and rounded them up like dogs for arrest and deportation. In the episode, children of the immigrants speak about how scared they are, they are crying. They want their dads back home, then their dads are released on bail and they are glued to them. The dads want to go to the store, but the kids won’t leave their sides. The dads need to go to work, the kids panic. These kids have PTSD I think. I’m crying thinking about how easy it is for folks to be ripped apart. The US government is happy to tear families away from one another. Can you believe it?! At first I can’t and then I very much can. The trail I am currently on is the General Crook Trail. General Crook is a man whomst took great pride in rounding up native folks to either A) move them away from their actual land, to reservations that no one could survive upon or that were used as concentration camps or B) slaughtering indigenous folks altogether.* This isn’t a fucking game! This country has always done whatever it wants in the name of white supremacy and the longer I go not being able to believe it, the more my own white supremacy shows.
It hurts but it’s true.
Carrot and I meet for lunch. We consider doing our largest mileage day yet, just under 24 miles. Up until this point, there was no way it felt possible to go more than 20 miles, but today with my rage and my sadness and my almost three weeks of hiking cultivated strength, I think I can. My shoulder is singing little pangs of pain up my arm, and I take an Ibuprofen. Again, I turn my music up loud and I let myself think about uncomfortable truths. This combo fuels me for many, many miles and by the time I realize that I haven’t eaten since lunch, the sun is starting to sink.
I find Carrot. We discuss meals we like to make at home. One of particular note goes like this:
Carrot is very good at vegetables. She cooks carrots and cabbage and onions in a cast iron, shines them up with olive oil and salt and low heat. We make some rice noodles, we roast asparagus. We fry tempeh in a great deal of oil. We make a tahini dressing with tahini, lemon, garlic, olive oil and tamari. We serve all of this on a bed of greens and with a side of sauerkraut. Carrot makes the sauerkraut too, she uses a lot of dill. The whole thing is just fucking incredible.
We get to camp. We do not eat our special meal, but I do eat an entire box of vegan mac and cheese with dried kale and peas and when I’m done I dip my hippie Oreos in peanut butter. We pitch our tent in the peaceful ponderosa, and fall asleep with rifle shots flaring in the distance.
*I learned about General Crook from Carrot who read about him in Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. It sounds like this is an important read for all white folks, myself included.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest