We wake up groggy.
It’s six AM. We are 2.5 miles away from the Blue post office. The Blue post office opens at nine. This morning, for the first time in a long while, there’s really no point in rushing.
And so we don’t. We meander through breakfast, take our time packing up. Our campsite is glorious and we take a few moments and appreciate it extra.
This morning just isn’t one for going fast.
Which is a good thing. I am exhausted. I am exhausted physically and mentally. I am finding it very hard to make myself go under the circumstances, even though we are walking a gentle dirt road, some of the easiest tread on the whole MRT.
We are three days from being done and I can feel every bit of the 450 miles aching through me. Some of it is in my joints, some scratches on my skin, and some deep in my muscles. There aren’t any words for it really. I’m just kind of…done.
The Blue post office is great. It’s tiny, fits no more than just Carrot and I in the whole dang thing. Mona, the postmaster knows Debbie and Aaron, our ride to the trailhead yesterday, and she was just waiting for us to arrive. She knows the Eastern end of the MRT well, rides it on horses. She tells us secrets of the land.
Once we’ve sorted all of our food (some into bags, some right back into the box to feed Mona’s chickens) we continue our road walk. I’d hoped the few hours of easy terrain would buoy me, but I am heavy and solemn, plodding along as I go. During lunch I shove salt and pepper kettle chips in my face and wonder what’s wrong with me. Maybe all the weird gluten I’m eating. Maybe not enough sleep last night. Maybe, again, I have PMS.
Our post lunch hike can be summed up in two words: a climb. We climb 2000 feet in 5 miles. Sometimes our climb is gentle forest, sometimes it’s exposed ridges. The trail, mercifully, is well maintained and I turn my brain off and just let my body do what it needs to do, so long as we still get the job done. I climb slowly. I climb taking a lot of breaks, sometimes with Carrot and sometimes without. I climb without paying a lick of attention to the scenery around me. I don’t have to feel good to climb up this hill I tell myself. And it’s true, I really don’t.
At the ten mile mark, I hit a saddle— and just like that, we’re going down. At first the trail is rocky and technical, but almost immediately it turns into a gentle pine needle covered downward slope. Storm clouds and deep thunder threaten, I stop and repack my gear into trash compactor bags before sealing it in my pack, and just as I cinch it closed, the sky opens up and thick rain pelts me. I’m two miles from camp and as soon as I’m wet I find it in me to pick up the pace for the rest of the way.
I never, ever hike faster than when I’m uncomfortable.
We were hoping to camp at mile 12.9 of section seven, but when I arrive there are five men and all of their horses in our spot. They have a rip roaring campfire before the sun has even gone down and loud country music playing. “I think that’s a lady!” one of them whisper yells as I pass and I want to gut him like a fish. Women hike, my dude. It isn’t so shocking.
Carrot is setting up the shelter, chatting merrily as she does, tolerating my sullen mood with nice jokes and compliments. I feel very close to Carrot, almost closer than we are in our regular at home lives, and I say so. She says she feels the same way, we agree that we’re so lucky to have hiked all this time together, to have become one another’s nature companions.
At last, my dark mood shifts. I feel warm and happy eating my transcendent pile of greasy noodles out here in the nature. Today, I didn’t feel like hiking, but probably tomorrow I will….right?
📍The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest