AZT Day 17: until we meet again

April 24, 2019

Miles hiked: 19.3

AZT mile: 330.2

Campsite elevation: 4,564 ft

The moon is waning yet when I woke up this morning I could still see her glowing as she made her way toward the Western horizon. It was 5:05 am when I heard Katy Did stirring. I lost my early morning wake up habit in the two short days I was off trail, so this morning 5 am felt a tad early. I rallied myself to a sitting position by 5:20 and attmpted to meditate but very quckly realized my need to pee was too distracting.

I felt out of sorts this morning, and lately my right ear has been cloging up as I sleep, so when I wake up it souns like I am in a tunnel and every sound is muffled. Katy Did and Eagle Eye were chatting and I was trying to chime in and listen, but half the time I could not hear. Their voices like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons wah wagh wagh….

The three of us set off together by 6:25, ready to tackle this big climb before the sun did it’s thing and got all hot and intense on us. Already by the time we were walking away from our campsite the sunbeams had crested the mountainous ridgeline to the East, casting it’s light from behind a giant Saguaro. I greeted the sun and felt gratitude for a new day despite the anxiety about impending heat.

Throughout the morning I alternated walking with Katy Did and Eagle Eye, enjoying conversation with them both as we climbed. The views became quite impressive and soon we were looking all the way back at Picket Post mountain, it’s once imposing stature now much smaller and further away, a mark of our progress.

I walk and talk with Eagle Eye and I’m right in the middle of telling her about stepping on a snake and….I almost step on a giant rattlesnake! My adrenaline surges and I yelp in high pitched screams like a girl. My story already had her adrenaline pumping too, so she reacted to my reaction and soon we are both completely out of breath, heaving and screaming/laughing together.

The trail weaved around ridge lines and sometimes dipped into the shade, offering a welcome respite from the already intense suns rays. When I entered the shade, I would think about how many of the moments of pure elation and bliss on the trail are simply the result of cessation of prolonged suffering.

I started thinking about how we have these “peak” experiences out here, usually at the summit of a mountain or perhaps in a synchronous series of moments of sheer and utter earthly beauty. Other times, our peak moments are simply the ease of suffering. It may be the pain from a blister that finally pops, or a muscle cramp that goes away, maybe relief from never ending ardous rocks or it may be an unexpected pool of cool water that appears just when you are dripping with sweat from the scorching heat and just cant take it anymore. Relief equals bliss out here.

Today didn’t end up being a difficult day at all tho. Part of that was the lazy agenda I agreed to, and part of it was that the sun never really got all that bad. By late morning, we had climbed enough in elevation that the air was a lovely temperature and there were actally trees! Most of them were Oak trees, but then we began to get some Pines, Sycamore and Manzanitas as well as some beautiful, tall and ancient Junipers. I love the Junipers, the way they twist and the way their berries smell like Gin. I love to crush a handful of them and inhale their essential oils, waking up my mind. I always said if I had a daughter, I’d name her Juniper.

We had climbed up and out of the low land boasting Saguaros and were now back in the familiar land that to me looks so much like Southern Cal. Today we were also blessed with a lot of water along the trail. We followed Reavis Creek for several miles, and all along there was plenty of clear, running water and shade, all making for a simply pleasureable day. Katy Did jumped into a pool of this lucious water at one point and I sat in the shade while she splashed off, thinking this badass woman knows how to enjoy a trail.

Swimming pool!!

Eagle Eye is coming off a few days rest after some knee problems (hmmm, I know what that’s like) and so she is taking it easy on the mileage and not pushing herself. They agreed to stick together and hike 14 miles today, but of course I needed to go further. I originally figured on 25, leaving 10 for tomorrow. But as the day wore on, I kept taking my time and we all kept taking long breaks together, chatting. It was quite easy for me to fall into this pace and it was nice to have friends.

Entering the Superstitions

I had gotten ahead of them on a climb and eventually stopped in some shade near a creek for my lunch break. I took some time to jot down some toughts about my job interview, I ate a tortilla with almond butter, made a coffee and looked over my maps. Eventually the two ladies showed up and we three sat there chilling for yet another 30 minutes. By the time we got goin it was 245 in the afternoon and I was feeling like I needed to push on ahead. Still, I walked another 3 miles with them, to their intended campsite, before saying goodbyes.

So there I was, back to being solo again. The next 3 miles were super slow and rocky, quite tedius actually and had a lot of overgrown brush, which was true of most of the trail today. I sort of liked the obstacle course nature of the trail here, but my idea was to bust out some late afternoon miles, and it was preventing me from doing that. Oh well. Just-oh well.

Cool rocks and Junipers

There are some really interesting rock formations beginning to show up here and the views to the North are pretty beautiful also. I made it to Pine Creek and tanked up on water figuring I had enough to make it through tonight plus about 6 or so miles in the morning. I trudged on and soon found the trail turned onto a slope covered in fresh beautiful green grasses. Facing into the sunset, it was like eden, like a dream, a fairytale. Where are the unicorns?

Expecting a unicorn

I love this time of day, the golden hour, more than any other time of day, and today the light and warm beauty were no let down. I followed a ridge and soon was aware that the trail was going to drop and then climb once more. The contour lines were looking steeper up ahead. It occured to me that there may not be any good camping for a solid four more miles at least. At this point it was 6:40 pm. I needed to either push on and prepare to night hike, or stop soon and make camp. Of course, just then, a beautiful campsite magically appeared on a knoll just off the trail. This might be a sign it’s time to camp.

I made my way off trail to the campsite and checked out potential flat spots. I found myself standing on a ledge facing the now setting sun, feeling grateful for the opportunity to finish my day here and not be hiking on steep ridges in the dark for the next few hours. I clasped my hands in front of my heart and closed my eyes, letting the last rays of the day kiss my face goodbye. My heart filled with gratitude for another wonderful day on the trail, and I said goodnight to the burning ball of fire, for another 12 hours. Until we meet again.