“This like the hardest pinky horn I’ve ever had”
Carrot thrusts her gnarled blister pinky toward me and I touch it. It’s true, it’s very hard.
I marvel at the horn and we make up a story. We decide that Carrot is a cougar, ripping enemy faces off with her very hard pinky horn. She is very scary in this story, and I am happy I am on the good side of her wrath.
Carrot says we’re getting stronger. I’m wondering if it’s true, if our bodies are doing the thing that happens with long distance hiking: developing the inexplicable ability to just walk from here to there, no matter how far Here to There is.
“You, know” Carrot says. “If we do two 23.5 mile days, we’ll be in Show Low tomorrow night.”
It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, and because our gear is what it is (which is to say because it’s ultralight) it seems obvious that we’re going to be soggy if we’re in it too long. Yes, we have our trash compactor bags to put our gear in inside of our packs. Yes, we have our tiny rain jackets. But it won’t be enough! It never is.
I am intrigued. Can my body go that far so many days in a row? I sort of think it can but I also remember an 11 mile day kicking my ass mere weeks ago. But now we’re weeks stronger? And the terrain has chilled?
I’m interested. Carrot and I are hiking by 6:22 AM, a new record for us, and we say we’ll check in at the 20 mile mark. If we feel good, we’ll hike 3.5 more miles to the next water source. If we don’t, we’ll camp at the horse trough we are to meet at.
We hike quietly as the sun rises, breaking silence to talk about the books we’re reading, what we’ll eat for lunch. We stop to wash our thigh chafe and our ass chafe. We walk through burns that feel scorching hot, even at 9AM. I look at my tan and wonder how much is legit and how much is dirt. Carrot glitters in the glow next to me. We press forward until lunch, where we eat great quantities of food, fist after fist. I’m trying to find the line where I eat enough, but don’t eat so much that I feel nauseous in the afternoon. Eventually, Carrot and I agree that one kind of has to eat too much to be eating enough. It’s the only way.
After lunch we hike on a “trail”, which is to say we hike in a vast field, sometimes with hills rising up between grass and rock and ponderosa husk. There are blown down trees, criss crossing one another in a scorched lattice. There are thorny bushes, tiny and secret prickly pears, sticks and rocks of every constitution. It’s difficult to know how to get this way or that, or to stay a simple course.
It’s kind of a mess, to be honest.
A couple of miles pass like this, until we exit the burn and hit a shady ponderosa glen. We have just seven miles until 23.5 we say, stuffing our mouths with salt and vinegar chip confetti and rice crackers. We are feeling good and maybe we can actually do this!!!
We hit our designated check in spot and we are cooked. I lay down, eyes closed and eat a bar. We debate staying: the horse trough water is gross, rust colored and tastes like iron. The water in four miles is said to be “good”, a rarity in this section and though I am very tired, I feel it with a kind of certainty. We should probably go.
And so we do. We walk four miles in the golden hour, right to a creek that I’d say works just fine as a water source, much better than the dull red of the last tank. We make our dinners with the very last of the suns rays, blow up our neoairs in the dark, and climb in.
As I lay down, zinging pains shoot up and down my body.
“Welcome to the cozy town” I say, “population: us.”
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest