April 7, 2019
Miles hiked: 27
AZT Mile 39.5
Campsite Elevation 4,869 ft
I wake at 6:15 am to the sound of birds chirping and wind in the higher eschelons of the pine trees… whirring and whooshing. Ahhhh, I am home. I pitched my shelter last night in a forest of oak and pine. I slept on soft duff, my absolute favorite surface to sleep on. It was my first night in my new Zpacks Plexamid shelter. It’s a little different from my Hexamid (the Plexamid is the new version) that got stolen recently, but I think it’s going to work just fine!
When I wake it is already getting light out and I think to myself I want to start walking by 7am. I am achy all over and feel like my body doesn’t know what just happened. I haven’t felt this way in a long time from backpacking. I guess I am really not in hiking shape afterall.
Last night before going to bed, I looked over my maps and decided I want to try hiking 30 miles today because the terrain looks mellow and I am so excited to be out here.
We will see. We will see.
I sat quietly in meditation and prayer to start my day. I burned Palso Santo to hold the sacred space, offer gratitude and set my intentions for the day, connecting to the Source. It feels more like open curiousity right now, exploring, the mind of discovery, a curious tension with the unseen.
I am up and walking by 7:30 am and am surprised that there is so much natural water along the trail. What a pleasant sight. I wonder how much more of this I will see on this adventure? I better appreciate it while I have it, I think.
I arrive at Parker Canyon creek at 11:50 am, AZT mile 23.1, having covered the first 10 miles of the day. It’s hardly 30mpd pace but nevertheless I reward myself with coffee, some stretching, a snack and brief meditation. It is silent save for the birds, the gurgling creek, the buzzing bugs and a breeze. It’s a different kind of silence. The kind that nourishes. These are the sounds that you can never get without interference. Here there is no interference. I settle in to the meditation and the sounds of nature before I realize I’d been there for 40 minutes.
I better get going.
I have to think about water. The maps show my next water source is in eight miles and I set off deciding I will take another break then.
After a few miles into the eight mile stretch, I realize my body seems to have suddenly integrated or acquiesced to the will of my soul. And as such the time has flown by. Suddenly it was 3pm. Where did those last two hours go? I wonder.
As I had this realization I started thinking about how we use the phrase “your body is your temple” and that the soul merely resides in the body. The soul is not the body, our bodies are not our soul’s posession or identity. They share space together in this lifetime, and so when the soul wants the body to do something, they must cooperate and integrate in temporal time and space.
Sometimes this connection is magical and powerful. Sometimes it’s a total disconnect and it gets messy. I then began to feel very very grateful for my body and for the fact that my body (for the most part) will at least attempt to carry out what my soul wishes for. A blessing to be sure. I think of all this as I walk in amazement of what I am setting out to do yet again, which is walking for weeks on end, silently, reverently alone in the wilderness.
Shortly, I reached a junction where new trail has been built and there is a re-route, but it doesn’t say how far it goes, where it re-connects, or if there is any water along the way. The new trail tread is smooth like butter though and I go fast. Finally, when I am about to give up all hope of a water source and I’m feeling upset about this, I come across a giant tank/pond. I decide to stop and eat in the shade to alleviate my frustration. Food always helps, I think, as I realize I am probably hangry.
The water sources, I’ve come to learn, here on the AZT are called “tanks” but what that aually means is it is a big mucky pond where cattle drink and poop. These are some of our important, and when I say important, I mean reliably wet, water sources. Folks, this is not the Sierras!
I heartily ate my lunch: a tortilla with avocado and cheese with BBQ chips smashed inside, which tasted phenominal. I took the liberty of removing my shoes for a spell. Not too long, I told myself. Finally I mustered up the will to go get water from the mucky tank, careful not to scoop up any tadpoles or algae into my bottle. The water is surprisingly clear, but tepid. There is nothing refreshing about this water and it is 80 degrees in the shade. Get used to this, I tell myself.
Later in the afternon I met Tara and Adam from BC who are bikepacking the AZT! We leap frogged all afternoon and they joked that it’s actually faster to walk this trail compared to biking, as their progress was quite slow going. There are so many rocks and steep climbs they wind up pushing their bikes uphill, a lot.
The trail meandered on easy, less rocky terrain throughout the afternoon and into the evening. I am amazed still, how good my body feels even at 20 miles. It’s like she just recognized what I am asking her to do and she is stepping it up. My trail legs are stll alive!!
Because of feeling so good, I was starting to feel hopeful that I may actually be able to accomplish the miles I set out to do afterall. It is a tall order, indeed. My plan is to average 30 miles per day, and complete the entire 800 miles in under a month. I have no idea if I can do this, but I want to try. Because I feel so good today, I gain some hope. Hope is powerful. And sometimes you need to use a little imagination too, to dream big.
There is a lovely cool breeze this evening and the last three miles or so I walked across open planes of grass along ridges and rolling hills. I saw deer running through the grasses, blending in effortlessly. I watched the sunset behind some otherworldly shaped mountains and to the East the clouds turned cotton candy pink.
I saw 20 sets of glowing eyes faced at me as I night hiked- a group of cows probably wondering what the hell I was. I made it to the Down Under tank in the dark and grabbed slimy water because that was all I could see and find. I then carried on, only to find actual running, beautifully clear water a mere .1 mi later. Hmph. I didn’t hesitate to dump the nasty water in exchange for this water, zero guilt.
I found the perfect campsite in the dark. It wasn’t without the assistance from my unseen helpers, who led me to this spot within 10 minutes of my asking. You wouldn’t believe how much cow poop and rocks and thorny bushes there are out here, and I needed to find a spot free of these things in the dark. It is really special this spot. I am comfortable and mostly out of the wind and there is a beautiful old snarled tree nearby, protecting me. It is truly a magical experience to ask the Universe for what you need and have it delivered in perfect time. I am amazed how this works. I never worry about where I am going to sleep anymore, I just tune in, pay attention and let myself be guided.
The moon is the slimmest sliver of shining light cast aglow in an inky black sky. I’ve been watching it as it gets lower on the horizon, for the past couple hours. Soon it will be gone from my sight. The stars are glimmering with crystal clarity and over the past hour I have been admiring them from my tent, and gazing up at them while outside stretching. The stretching feels absolutely amazing, I know I need it.
It’s now 9:36 pm: I am so much warmer tonight compared to last night, maybe I won’t need my stove after all! I just finished eating my couscous and ramen, and I’ve been listening to music out here because I feel exposed and like there could easily be animals out here and I don’t want them sneaking up on me. It is so dark because of the new moon, and it is eerily silent.
I looked at the mileage on my little itinerary for tomorrow. I’ve planned another 26 with a town stop, so I know I have to not linger too long in town. I realize the only way I am going to pull off 35’s is to start earlier, finish later and take shorter breaks. Ugh. But it IS doable, I yhink. Alarm is set for 5am.