I sleep a Sleeping Beauty sleep, and when I wake up I am reborn.
I speculate that today will be a day full of wet feet. I have exactly one application of KT tape left for my ankle. I know it doesn’t stay well in water, but there’s no choice but to apply it now. I tape it and rub it hard, trying to secure it as much as possible.
I need you to last two more days I whisper. There’s gonna be a lot of water. I say this to myself fast, as if I am apologizing.
We set out early, picking our way through wide open forest separately. The trail is gloriously clear and then it is nothing. There is no scenery to orient to, no topographical change to guide us in the distance. I feel like I am going to die in the forest, walking around and around in circles forever. When I do make it back to the line that is the trail, it is reflected by absolutely nothing on the ground. This is the way of the MRT from beginning to end. An enigma, a mystery, a gesture, an idea.
I walk towards Carrot who is caw caw-ing for me in the distance and when I find her I sit down and grump my way through a granola bar. I am fucking irritated.
We continue cross country. We have lots of options today: the track Brett and Tree made, an alternate discovered by another hiker, a deviation Carrot is interested in exploring, a recommendation from the postmaster. Ultimately, we go with Brett and Tree’s line, we know it’s doable because a couple of other MRT hikers did it a couple of days ago, in the freezing rain no less. Carrot says if she doesn’t try it, she’ll always wonder.
We drop down into our first canyon of the day, Auger canyon. The canyon is wide and rocky, and dotted at first with shallow scuzzy pools and then with pools deeper and deeper, embedded in slick rock. It’s slow going and peaceful down there and very, very warm. We are considerably lower in elevation now (just 4500 feet when we’ve recently been anywhere from 7000-9000) and sweat drips down, braiding trails down my back.
As the pools get deeper and wider we debate whether or not we should try to avoid them. As a test, we climb up a canyon wall, then way down on an animal trail, to avoid the first one that looks deeper than is fun. I am sweaty and winded by the effort and it’s clear: avoiding wet feet is absolutely not worth it. Tacking on elevation gain and time to stay dry just isn’t in the cards.
We have our lunch at a pair of cabin ruins, one just a facade in the wash, sloughed away by the elements and one very obviously used and maintained. Inside we find mouse traps, a pantry fully stocked with canned food, dish soap, wet wipes, dishes. We eat lunch outside, lazily shoving chocolate and chips into our mouths and marveling at all the different ways people can have a home. Carrot and I have lived together for the past six months, and we’ve decided it’s not ideal anymore. We are both very much in search of a home now, and we think about what we might like often. I don’t want a cabin in the wash, but I’d love something like this right in Tucson. Maybe in the backyard of some friends.
“I hate all of this food” I say— and I really do, too. 35 days of this and all I want is a vegetable. Okay, okay- also maybe a donut.
After lunch, we find a cairn marking where our trail picks up again and cut cross country up and over into a new canyon, this one a confluence of Dutch Blue Creek and Ash Creek. This canyon winds narrowly, pools of water unavoidable but pleasant enough. We’re walking almost completely in water, now. My KT tape is in tatters, but I am crossing my fingers. My ankle is either fine or not fine, and I don’t have much choice about whether or not to walk on it either way.
Thunder crashes and lightening rings out. Carrot and I chat back and forth over the roar. Should we be scared? We don’t really know. We decide not to be, the rain is light and a flash flood seems almost impossible.
Still, I toggle back and forth between enjoying the drama of the thunder and lightening and letting it freak me out. I have never seen anything like this in person, these secret canyon walls with their pools and their algae and their slick rock. The ground beneath the water is slippery and I try to glide my feet up the creek, going with the instability instead of working against it. I love this canyon. I hate this canyon. It’s beautiful! It’s never going to end.
We hike for 12 hours. We go 12 miles. An entire day of one mile an hour terrain— something I haven’t experienced before.
Tomorrow is our last day on the MRT. After that I’m going to sleep forever and ever and ever.
The Mogollon Rim trail is on Yavapai, Western Apache, Hopi and Hohokum land. I am a grateful guest