My sleeping bag is the warmest thing in the world. My sleeping bag is the most perfect place on earth. My sleeping bag is heaven.
Outside, it is 4:45AM and the world is frosty. Below freezing, I feel sure of it. I pull the chord on the hood around my sleeping bag, cinch it tight. Just a few more minutes, I think, closing my eyes. Just a few more minutes of rest.
By 5:05, we’re moving. Morning chores as the sun starts to rise and I try to think warm thoughts. We have a cold front now, a deep chill that threatens rain for the next ten days. We may as well get used to it.
We’re hiking at 6:30. A mile away there is a shitter and we’re both holding out for it. My butt cheeks are clenched and I hike fast. Once we arrive and poop, we agree it was transcendent.
We walk flat trail across open meadow for six miles and I cannot get enough. It’s so beautiful here, up in the mountains of Arizona. It feels like we’re in a secret place, even though we intermittently see boat launches and trash cans and privys. Hardly any people are here, though. The icy morning is ours.
We stop as we go to put on more and more layers. I add my raincoat over my puffy. I put my beanie over my day hat. We both put on our gloves. Usually, I’m peeling layers off within a mile or two of walking but the chill of today is persistent.
We eat our lunch thirteen miles in, lazily spreading peanut butter on Oreos, heating ramen with freeze dried peas and kale. Rain is threatening, the wind is whipping and so we pack up to go. Before we do, we make a special flag dance using our trash compactor bags as flags and we are exhausted from waving them around. We’re not used to using our arms, you see. We are just some lowly hikers.
We drop down toward Deer Creek and gently follow the river for a few miles. I LOVE not carrying water, having water everywhere we look. It’s peaceful and private down here, just us and the elk poop. If it were warm out, I’d have half a mind to go skinny dipping in the creek.
I twist my ankle again and cry exactly two tears. Turns out it’s fine. I put some more KT tape on it and it feels even better than fine, in fact.
The trail fades to nothing. We follow the water, hopping back and forth between the banks as one side or the other becomes too slow or narrow. We navigate under, over and around blowdowns caused by a great fire in the canyon that happened in 2011. There are knee high spiny bushes of indeterminate species and they grab at us like fake corpses on a haunted house floor. The terrain is slow going, but we do just that- go slowly. Eventually, we are done.
I am scared of tomorrow. Tomorrow we start fording the Black River, nine times within the first five miles, reportedly. The river may be too high to cross at all, and then we’ll have to find the alternate. We have to do the rest of this section with relative speed to make it to the post office in time before it closes for the weekend. There aren’t any services in our next town, so we may have to hitch 30ish miles away on a mostly unpopulated dirt road in order to charge our water purification systems, our external batteries, and our phones so we can finish. We’ve walked 21 miles today and I think of all of this just before I lay my head down to sleep.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest