Our campground is very, very cold.
But inside my quilt I am warm. Carrot is sleeping lightly next to me, with her own quilt cinched around her face, just her mouth and nose sticking out so that she can breathe. Everything is very, very quiet and it’s 5:20 AM. Hard to want to start moving, really, but the more we get done in the morning, the more we get done period. It’s a fact.
I consult our elevation profile and our data book. Section 5 of the MRT has forty miles of sustained climbing. We choose our camp spots based on what’s reasonable for our pace and our fitness, what the day’s challenges are and where we’ll find water at the end of the day. Today we decide to hike 23 miles. I am exhausted from restless sleep but also kind of excited that 23 miles seems so doable lately. I am confident that I can do 23 miles! That’s nothing to some people, but it’s a lot to me.
The trail is rocky and made by horses. Horse tread is lumpy craggy molded mud, uneven surface spliced with deep crevice. Ankle breaker terrain for sure! My own left ankle is swaddled in KT tape, and hurts just a little bit with every sway and bend. I am really careful on horse terrain, which is to say that I am really slow.
Eventually, the horse tracks simply stop, giving way to smooth dirt. We ascend quickly through chihuahua pines and junipers, stop for lunch at a cow trough that just so happens to contain perfectly clear water.
Everything is fine, but still I’m just not feeling it. I’m caught in a negative feedback loop of why-am-I-so-slow, the-water-tastes-like-dirt, I’m-just-so-tired etc. Sheepish, I tell Carrot and she feels the same. Sometimes you feel like hiking, sometimes you just really don’t.
We decide to meditate with the last five minutes of our lunch, a thing we don’t normally do. When we’re done I feel resolved. Not good, exactly, but accepting. We’re here to take a nice walk in the woods, and we have to do it whether I want to or not. I should probably stop torturing myself.
I go on autopilot after lunch. We climb and climb and climb, stopping frequently for snacks or water or to pee. Carrot is good company on the climb, she talks about home and what home means and what she’s always wanted in a home. I am still so thrilled to be close to Carrot Quinn. She is a brilliant flower and she doesn’t share her thoughts of home with just anyone. It feels special, just for me.
We reach our campsite in the gloaming. I get our water while Carrot sets up the shelter and we cook our dinners in our respective titanium pots. Carrot is talking about the end of civilization and I grimly nod along, silent. We’re screwed! The only way to fix the harm humans have done is probably through total collapse! I agree with the things she is saying but unfortunately, I am now a husk. A husk whomst can only articulate thoughts about food:
“This bacon Mac and cheese is transcendent” I say, marveling at the vegan crunchy bits swirling round in my pot.
It’s so fucking good I could cry.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest