April 18, 2019
Miles hiked: 29
AZT mile: 243.7
Campsite Elevation: 3,517 ft
It was such a wet morning! Ironically, I’d left my long sleeve hiking shirt out on top of my tent to “dry” out from sweat. The thing was soaked this morning. There was so much condensation, it was dripping inside my tent too. My tent, when all packed up, weighed an extra pound in water and sticky sand weight. Note to self, try not to sleep in washes.
5:00 am came way too early and I fell back asleep after the alarm. Nevertheless I was walking by 6:20 am, albeit in my pajamas, but I was walking. The wash where I slept was so damp and hadn’t seen the light of day yet, but as soon as I climbed up the hill, the sun was shining fiercely. How is the sun so harsh already? I dropped my sunglasses down over my eyes. Who wears sunglasses at 6:30am? I can’t do it, I decided, and flipped them back up on top of my head. It’s too damn early for sunglasses.
I climbed more and at the top of that hill I was burning up. I feverishly stripped down naked on the top half of my body and that felt really damn good. Now 7:00 am, I had so much sweat dripping down my back. It’s gonna be a frickin’ hot day, I thought with a tone of dread. This feels like Arizona, the Arizona I’d imagined. Hot. Fierce. Unforgiving.
I was so glad I tanked up on water from the caches last night, because I basically started my day with three liters of fresh, bottled water. That was huge. I planned to stop at Cowhead tank for more water, and take my second breakfast and dry out my tent. What kind of a name is Cowhead tank anyway?
On the way down the hill, I met another thru-hiker named Milkman, hailing from Virginia. He seemed really nice, and was approaching this hike at leisure, doing about 15 miles a day so far. I regretted to tell him I was aiming to do 30 miles today, and tomorrow, so unfortunately I most likely wouldn’t see him again. Why do I do this to myself? I think as we part ways. It seems to be who I am. I want to push. I want to see what I can do. The thing is, I am pushing myself to do this section fairly fast, for abolutely no reason other than to see if I can do it. That and the vague excuse that this Sunday is Easter, and I want to spend the day with my family…..who does not even celebrate Easter….Does that make any sense? Does it need to make sense?
He told me there was a bubble of other thru hikers just ahead of me, that I would probably catch them. I’ve been seeing their names on the registers too, and it looks like I might be almost catching up to them, but they are still some part of a day ahead.
I ponder what it would be like to join up with a group as I trudge onward. I came out here to hike solo, and so far, I have, with the exception of Flyby for those two days. Joining up with a group would change the dynamic of my hike, and this time around, I am dedicated to being solo on the trail.
My higher self is telling me I need this, even if sometimes I do feel a bit lonsome. This lonesome feeling is new but it keeps coming up, asking for my attention. I want to be with this emotion, in order to understand myself better, to learn, and grow from that place. And at the real core of this hike, is the connection with my Mom. The AZT was never at the top of my list until she moved to Arizona, and since then it quickly made it’s way up.
My Mom and I agreed to meet at the Picket Post Trail Head in Superior on Saturday evening around 5pm, but I’m imagining how great it would be to get there even earlier, because it would give us time to go for ice cream! These are the things that have become my priorities, ha! Of course I’m excited to see my Mom too, but ice cream?! My daily pace is dictated by this arrangement and my motivation becomes the thought of real, freezing cold, sweet, creamy ice cream. Materialized. It’s so damn hot…my mind swirls in heat. I want that ice cream.
I fumble through thoughts of lonliness, thoughts of seeing my Mom, of making the miles by Saturday afternoon and then those thoughts bleed into thoughts of how my food supply seems to already be dwindling. Then, I think about how this weather is getting extremely hot, again, which leads me to think about ice cream, again, and how the water sources are getting more scarce and poorer in quality, and how I need water more than ever these days, and I wish the water were actually refreshing.
Lets see how this Cowhead tank treats me I thought as I trudged onward. Lost in my swarm of thoughts about getting more water, I managed to overshoot the tank, and continued up a long hill when I reached a gate. Shit, I missed it.
I tried to bushwhack along the fence line to get down to the tank, and of course I fell down on the rocks. Flustered and shaky with adrenaline, I stood back up, wondering what exactly I was trying to do here. I saw the tank from up above and realized I’d still have to cross the barbed wire fence to get to it. This doesn’t make any sense.
I calculated how much water I had and when the next water source would be. Beehive Well in 1.8 miles. The reports made the water at Beehive sound extremely unattractive compared to Cowhead tank, but my decision was made, I would go on and get water at Beehive, and take my morning break there. I dusted myself off and followed the fenceline back to the gate.
As expected the tank was swarmed with beelike hornet things and the water was slime green. Think about that color. Slime green. Yes, that is exactly what it looked like. But I had no choice. It was nearly 100 dgrees out by now and I needed to hydrate.
Using my little scoop, I fetched the water very carefully so as not to disturb the hornets. It was a surprise how cool and actually refreshing the green liquid felt on my hands. I gathered a couple Liters and quickly drew away, then plopped down in some shade. I claimed my space by flinging my tent and down jacket out in the sun to get dry, and immediately removed my shoes and socks. The thought of my wet shirt and all the dew from the morning, starting my day out in my PJ’s, was a million miles away now. I was so damn hot, even in this shade, I felt suffocated.
I filtered the green slime water and ate my second breakfast and drank the remains of my now hot bottled cache water I’d carried since Freeman last night. That water was now completely and utterly unrefreshing. The new green slime water I set aside for the moment. Even after double filtering it, the green color did not change a bit and I couldn’t bring my lips to taste it yet.
I sat there for a full hour in the shade, that’s a long second breakfast. As the sun approached the apex of the sky, the temperature continued to rise, it was almost unbearable, even in the shade. If it’s this hot here in the shade, I wondered, how hot will it feel out there?
I had to doctor up my feet too, which took up some time. Ever since they got all wet and I hiked several miles yesterday morning with wet socks and shoes, I seem to have developed some severly raw spots. It is really getting painful, and it felt like I was stepping on razor blades all morning, so this break was really good for more reasons than just water and getting away from the soaring temperatures. To think how different my two days were from just yesterday being cold and wet to today in the relentless heat!
I aired my feet out and then smothered Vaseline on them before putting my now dry socks back on. By 12:00 I was ready to walk again and face the heat. I walked on, still in pain, but I think the Vaseline helped with the rawness, and if nothing else, at least they felt sort of squishy rather than like razor blades as I started another climb. Time to climb. Of course it’s time to climb, of course.
The landscape started to change this afternoon tho. There are views quite far into the distance of beautiful mountain ranges and the rolling hillsides I am walking on are dotted with a great variety of plant and animal life. I feel like the trail today was the quintessential Arizona desert landscape that I originally envisioned.
There were Cholla of all sorts, Saguaro, Yucca, Ocotillo, blooming scarlet flowers on Paddle Cactus, Palo Verde glowing with new leaves, smoky Mesquite, stout Barrel Cactus, golden Poppies, canary yellow Sunflowers, and oh so many others I don’t even know the names of. There are also these little white butterflies that would zip around my body all day and occasionaly I saw a pure black butterfly, that was quite large and regal looking.
I even saw a marigold colored butterfly that had difinitive black outlined wings. Beautiful. I am seeing lots of rabbits and now little chipmunks too. There are constantly birds chirping, all different melodies, it is really peaceful and serene in it’s diversity, this desert. This Arizona.
There’s the peace and serenity, and I’m loving it, but then there’s the heat. Ugh. I decided to stop half way up the climb to rest in the shade and take a lunch break. I may have also taken a short nap. I was drifting off when an odd noise broke the silence. Startled, I wondered what if a rattlesnake was right behind me, how would I know? The thought of that snapped me out of my post lunch daze, and I was back on the trail right quick, let’s finish this climb.
Finally reaching the top of the hill the trail leveled out. Which was a big relief. Shortly, among the thick dry grasses, I met a SOBO hiker named Tom, hailing from England. He was hiking the Grand Enchantmnt Trail (GET) which is another route I am interested in, so I picked his brain a little. While we chatted he told me that he had an encounter with three mountain lions the previous night. Three. That was one thing, and the other was that he saw my name on some water bottles and a bunch of food in one of the caches North of here. Sounds like trail magic to me! I walked away from Tom feeling super excited about the possibility of food left for me by a trail angel!
When I reached the Freeman Road trail head at 4:45 pm I was stoked to realize I had completed 20 miles. There was hope of making 30 today afterall! I topped off on some water from the cache there and layed my sleeping bag out to dry, because I’d forgotten to earlier. I needed to kill about 15 minutes to do this, so I dumped out my food supply and very neatly organized it. Yep, absolutely nothing “extra”. It was exactly enough to make it until Saturday afternoon.
If indeed there is any trail magic with my name on it, this will save the day, I thought as I sat there waiting for moisture to evaporate from my bag. I left Freeman at 5pm hoping to make the next 9 miles by 8pm and stop for the night. Almost there. Almost 30.
I got super lucky because the trail was basically flat and the tread was easy. Combined with my feet actually feeling close to normal because I caved and took Ibuprofen, I was able to crank out a 3+ mile per hour pace and enjoy a lovely evening walk to round out the day.
The trail travelled through a beautiful landscape dotted with hundreds of flowering Yucca’s and the occasional cluster of giant oddly shaped boulders and cacti with Mickey Mouse faces.
It was a magical evening. As the sun was setting, wispy clouds made for great sunset colors and textures. There was a vastness to the space, a sense of forever and timelessness, as if the sun would actually never set.
When I turned to look behind me, the Full moon was beginning to lift above the horizon. Her softness and coolness was a welcome sight to punctuate such a hot, intense and uncomfortable day. Walking on, knowing the moon had my back, I felt a sense of ease and connectedness. It was the idyllic evening hike and I enjoyed it tremendously. The metaphysical quality of light, sun, moon, landscape and floaty walking was the perfect medicine I needed to soothe my hardhips from earlier in the day. Everything is going to be okay….
I had loosely planned to night hike that evening to get my 30 miles in. But after that conversation about the mountain lions with Tom I was sort of freaked out. I was walking right into the area where he’d seen them the night before. I am walking into the night, into lion territory. Dang it, why did he have to tell me that! I’d thought about it a lot this afternoon actually, and finally I’d resolved that I was going to be fine, and concluded I was going to night hike still, even if it scared me, even if there were going to be lions. This is part of solo hiking, I thought, I have to face these fears.
I called on my Spirit Guides and asked for their protection and for the facilitation of mutual respect between me and the lions. I figured that if we had an encounter that we would not bother one another under this agreement. This all made me feel better and I hiked on feeling confident and happy with a certain sense of belonging, that I am part of all of this wilderness, not separate from it, not separarte from her.
Dusk came, night came, and I continued to walk. I made it to my intended campsite at 8:00pm and called it a night at mile 29. There would likely not be any more camping for several more miles, so I took what I had been given. The Full moon is absolutely lighting up the sky, everything is glowing and I am all tucked in having done a wet towel wipe down, removing all the crusty salt from my skin, and that felt so amazing!
Cold soaked curry couscous with refried beans with some dehydrated eggplant and peppers and coconut oil was on the menu for dinner, and it was super tasty! Then, the best part, yes, Mississippi mud pie for dessert. I am still rationing it, don’t ask me how I’ve got the will power, but I am saving a few bites for tomorrow. It is so damn good at the end of a long ass day. Perhaps the best thing ever. Well, let’s see if I can do this all again tomorrow. Knowing I have mud pie to look forward to is motivation enough. But what I really want is Ice Cream. Where’s the ice cream?!