I sleep for ten hours. It is not a chill sleep, one that you casually fall into and creep out of. This, instead, is a sleep like I died. The world’s most satisfying sleep. A sleep so good it feels like the only one I will ever need.
It’s frigid out. We’ve slept with the mesh zipped and the vestibules drawn and as soon as we unleash the chords and zippers icy air whooshes into the shelter. At home in Tucson it’s getting so hot that people cannot walk their dogs in the day, have to wake up before dawn or wait til the sun sinks low to go out, leash in hand. I am trying to appreciate this opportunity for cold, I know it is an Arizona rarity. Once we’re home, we’ll never be cold again! Better live it up.
Morning chores commence and I hightail it to the pit toilets, with a stereotypical thru hiker urgent shit. Why are thru hiker shits always so urgent? The massive amount of food, the walking all day? The fact that I’m usually well hydrated ?! I truly couldn’t tell you but I can promise that we’re ALL like this after awhile, shooting poops out so fast we can’t believe it’s over.
Anyway, the pit toilets are locked. My urgent shit remains urgent, there are other campers all around and only skinny ponderosa sad tree cover. I find one bushy conifer, begin to dig my cat hole and….stick my trowel into someone else’s fresh shit.
I figure it out. I poop. Carrot poops. We all poop! Then we pack our things, and set out in all of our layers. Pants, socks, gaiters, short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, puffy, rain jacket, knit cap, and gloves. I can see my breath and I hike as fast as I can to warm up, losing Carrot when she stops to change.
The sun rises at last and everything is golden. Ponderosas turn to aspen trees as I climb and I am delirious this morning, with the steep climb and a good book (Where the Crawdads Sing). I climb 1000 feet and there are snow patches. I climb another 500 and I can’t believe myself, here on this mountain. I just feel so good!!!
Eight miles in, I wait under a tree for Carrot, stuffing salt and pepper kettle chips into my mouth, fist after fist in quick succession. I hear her poles clicking up the path and I am so excited. My love! Up here on the mountain with me! A dream.
We walk together to lunch. We’re making incredible time today, on this very forgiving climb and we pass the time talking about the collapse of civilization and also dogs. An ATV passes by and the back is full of huskies.
“CAN WE PET YOUR DOGS?!” we ask, almost screaming. Oh god it’s been so long since we’ve seen dogs. The woman driving says yes of course and we floof them and hug them and kiss them and then she drives away and Carrot says the huskies made her feel so good she could cry. She looks like she just might, too.
We take a leisurely lunch next to a pond fed by snow melt. We’re freezing in the shade and burning in the sun and so we toggle back and forth. I meditate for five minutes again, I’m trying to make this a thing I do. I think it really works, whatever that means. Eventually, we’re full and we’re sleepy and food drunk. Still, it’s time to go.
We’ve been climbing for forty miles and now we’re at 9500 feet elevation and the climb is done. We cut cross country through marsh lands and clumpy fraggle plants, bushes that look like they could shoot up and reveal whole bodies. Muppet bodies playing guitar.
Every water source is beautiful and perfect. We weave into the forest, break into an abandoned trailer that is perfectly maintained, totally set up for the owners to come back when the season is ripe. Should we sleep in here we wonder. It’s so warm and cozy, with many pillows and duck comforters and I so desperately want to say yes but I’m a fuckin rule follower, and so we close it up again and walk away.
I set up the shelter, Carrot gets the water. We make oily and beany noodles and as a last minute decision I put the last of my crumbled up salt and pepper chips into the slop inside my titanium pot.
It is truly the best thing I’ve ever tasted.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest