Predictably, I wake up aching. Shooting pains, vibrating up my calves, zipping into my big toes. For most of this trip the terrain has been so challenging that I haven’t been able to hike the amount of miles that does this thing to my body, but here we are.
We’re on autopilot now. All of our morning chores are not fast, they’ll never be fast, but they are fast for us. We no longer negotiate who’s turn it is to set up or take down the tent, it’s a pattern and rhythm.
Long distance hiking is all strain, all walking on exposed ridges, and in our case, convoluted trail. We are cold. We are hot. We have fucked up blisters, our feet are 100% callus, and KT tape, and dirt. Our mouths taste bad from huffing as we climb. We get sunburned in the parts of our hair. We step on prickly pear or are grabbed by cat’s claw. But sometimes, we get one another water. Maybe we’re particularly exhausted and one or the other of us will do an tiny extra thing, and there– we find relief.
These are our unspoken rituals, the choreography of our everyday life. It comes from living in a tent with someone for 20 days. From parallel silence for many hours, breathing hard. It’s interesting, this cozy norm.
Today we’re going to Show Low. In my mind Show Low is the promised land because there is a Safeway. It’s been almost two weeks since we’ve been in a legit grocery store and I am imagining massive troughs of cold brew coffee and almond milk yogurt. I am greedy for wet foods of all variety!!!
I think about Show Low while I walk back on forth on switchbacks on almost flat land. Why are there switchbacks on flat land?! Carrot and I decide these trails must be made for cross country skiers, that it’s probably really fun to zip back and forth in the snow. For us walkers, though, it’s kind of weird. I keep losing the trail, then finding it, then losing it again. It turns out I am much better at navigating when I know we’ll be going cross country or bushwhacking. Losing this little trail, maintained by the city, frustrates me endlessly because I am not expecting it.
On a ridge, we get reception and we do some chores. Carrot finds a motel with laundry (literally the greatest thing imaginable as far as I’m concerned!!!!) that’s a close walk to the post office and the Safeway. I comb yelp reviews to find a Mexican restaurant with beans without lard. Should we shower and then eat?! Or eat and then shower?! I wish to do all at once, somebody please bring me a buffet to the tub.
Our water sources are truly something else today. Most notably, our best choice for lunch is a stock pond with thick green scuzz crusted about the edges. The water is milky brown, a color and thickness that demands that you acknowledge that the water is full of literal shit. We double filter our water and it’s magically clear, pop peppermint tea bags in it to disguise any leftover taste, and we drink up.
Rain lightly threatens as we walk dirt roads into town. It’s supposed to pour all day but it hasn’t! The closer we get to town the more I know it’s coming, I can smell it in the air. We hit the highway and stick our thumbs out for five, ten, fifteen minutes. A car pulls over, a young guy and a girl and the guy exits to try to clear space for us in the crowded back seat.
The guy is tall, and has his head shaved bald. He doesn’t look at us or smile. Show low is a conservative town, and as he moves back seat debris around I wonder if he will kill us for being gay. We’ve hitched a lot, I haven’t had that thought before. Maybe I am over reacting? He’s just a guy. I feel a little queasy and I try to catch Carrot’s eye. Is this safe? Do you feel okay?
Just up ahead, a truck pulls over. “Get in the dang car!” A woman with flowing grey hair hollers and I say something about her seeming to have more room and we take off. Maybe that guy was chill, maybe he wasn’t. In any case, we get to ride with Peggy, who drives a huge truck, carries a pistol, smiles a lot, and thinks we’re just great. I like Peggy. Peggy doesn’t scare me at all.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest