We have a very strange night.
The zippers of the tent won’t zip all the way.
Three mosquitos buzz inside our tent and if the zippers won’t zip that means…we’ll die? A slow irritating death of zzzzzzz right by our ears, accompanied by many small inconvenient bites? Ew. No! Carrot frantically sews one half of the tent door with dental floss and then the other side won’t come to meet it. We lube the zippers. We clean them with a wet wipe. Eventually, we give up.
A cow’s scream pierces through the night. Imagine if you will, a cow saying MOOOOOO. now, in the same dopey voice, take the pitch up six octaves and imagine AHHHHH AHHHH AHHHHH ringing out through the pitch black of night again and again. A comrade joins the screamer, huffing and grunting and kicking rocks. We are afraid the cows will charge us, and so shaking, we exit the tent, clap our hands. Carrot yells “BACK OFF COWS” into the night. Eventually, they lapse into silence.
It rains. It rains a little at first and then, the rest of the night it pounds intense fists of water upon us, never ceasing. We rouse at six, long past the first light, and both of us have hardly slept. My body hurts everywhere, from my sinuses to my thumbs, which have both cracked and split. I am caked in mud and the entire world around me is very wet.
And still, it’s time to hike.
We pack slowly and are ready to go by 7:50. The rain has subsided and we have just eight miles to the trailhead where we’ll hitch to alpine. We have a little food, and we’re hoping the hitch is quick. I hate the idea of running out of food, just the thought of it. I’m already hungry and it makes me feel feral.
We hike down off our saddle and into a jungle. It looks nothing like Arizona here! It’s like Washington in October, like Kauai in August. It’s wet and lush and beautiful. There’s a small longing inside of me burning to appreciate the jungle, but every bit of my life force is just gone from deep fatigue and hunger and moisture and anxiety. I have no effort left to give even my enthusiasm, which feels dark, man. Where’d I go?
We gather water from picturesque creeks flowing into gentle spouts created by leaves and sticks. We climb down eroded trail, up no trail at all. Down rocks, up pine needle path. Down and up and down and up and down and up. I grow deeply winded on the uphill and deeply angry on the down. We’re just going to go back up again!!!!! Why descend!?
Food. I need food. I have only a pack of gluten free graham crackers in my hip belt and we’re climbing. It’s impossible to eat something so dry when climbing up a steep hill and so I wait until we go back down (because of course we will). By the time we make it, I am shaky. I trip over my feet. “I gotta eat but I can’t walk this fast while I do” I say. Carrot urges me ahead of her, asks me to set the pace. I’m stumbling as I eat and when I’m done I feel a little better. Don’t let your blood sugar get that low I tell myself. You know better.
And I do! But on this hike I have to eat more regularly then I would have guessed. It still surprises me just how much I need to eat. And how to eat enough while also worried about running out of food? That’s a riddle that I just can’t answer.
As we go up and down, the rain intensifies. The terrain levels up, turning to dog shit mud AKA the kind of mud that builds up and sticks to your shoes, making them grow heavy. I trip on a branch and despite myself, I hurl a scream and sob. Rain, exhaustion, constantly getting pinched and prodded and hurt and poked for almost five weeks. Not enough food, PMS, cold. This is my hiking edge. I’ve found it.
But we can’t stop. It’s raining hard, we’re less than two miles from our hitch spot, if we sit still we risk hypothermia. We each have one dinner left and we promise ourselves we’ll make them as soon as we get to the trailhead. I sob while I walk, refusing to stop going. Carrot is kind, but I am in a cave of despair, a wounded animal. I’m so angry. For our last two miles, I have tunnel vision.
We make it. At the trailhead we run to the vault toilet to shelter us. I make ramen and dried kale and I add spoonful after spoonful of peanut butter, low key disgusted to be eating next to a pit toilet. But still I eat. I eat my thick noodles silently. I make a cup of tea. Finally, we start what we assume will be hours and hours of attempting to hitch.
Instead, it takes just one hour, maybe not even that. We are picked up by a nice guy in a big truck, playing Christian radio on his stereo. He drives five hours to work Monday-Friday in a copper mine, which he likes just enough to make it worth it. He lives on the reservation, has all his life. He hardly talks at all, but seems deeply amused with us, very smily. It is a perfect hitch in every way, he drops us on a block with a lodge, a grocery store, a laundermat and a restaurant.
All we could ever need.
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest