AZT Day 22: Painting Mazatzal

May 9, 2019

Miles hiked: 21.6

AZT Mile: 413.6

Campsite Elevation: 6,555 ft

This morning I woke to wetness.

Not only was everything wet from the rain, but the condenstion made it all wet inside my tent too. I knew this was going to happen, but somehow waking up to it as a reality was a slap in the face. My sleeping bag is soaked, everything is limp and soggy and cold.

Must get out to that Sun…

I began hiking just before 8am, and the last thing I had to do before getting out of the tent was put on my soggy wet socks and my soggy wet (muddy) shoes. Always a fun way to start the day!

As I fell into that meditative rhythm of the first morning miles, the thought that percolated up was how each day really is a blank canvas. How the colors, shapes and feelings yet to fill in are always a mystery at the start of a new day. The landscape told some interesting stories today and I listened.

Climb the hill to a red saddle in the sun.

Red clay baking off moisture from the night.

Particles of water evaporating into thin air.

Enter the Mazatzal Wilderness…

I soon reach a small saddle in the sun and can’t resist stopping to dry out my tent, eat my breakfast, change my socks, stretch my body, I feel slow in my body, my mind is beginning to clear, I am still waking up…

Head for that pointed peak!

The Journey then shifts into Perfection. Weather, terrain, ambiance, easy trail tread with soil that changes colors. Delicate wildflowers line the trail.

Partway through my morning, I reach the AZT half way point, and very soon after that, the 400 mile marker. Contemplating the meaning of this 400, I reflect on how many times before I have reached this same number:

where was I?

who was I then?

who am I now?

Each 400 has it’s own identity…

Soon the canvas fills in with a flowing creek, pine trees, birds, puffy clouds.

I am hungry earlier than usual, and land myself a perfect place to stop and take a break beside a beautiful creek near Cornucopia Spring Trail Junction.

The area is teeming with lovely energy, wonderful shade from Pine trees, flat areas to lay lazily on the Earth, a flowing stream singing her sweet song and dappled sun fading in and out with the slow passing of clouds.

A perfect spot for an early lunch and a little “down to Earth time”

This is the kind of place you don’t want to leave! The wind around the Pine needles provides the most excellent music to complemenent my meditative sate of being. I sit in stillness, breathe deeply, slowly, stretch my body some more, write a couple more post cards. Alas, I have to go.

Always upon taking a long break my brain later attempts to compensate by calculating miles. I stew a little over the idea of pushing 19 more miles from there. I determine it’s do-able, depending on the terrain, nature of the climbing, how strong I feel etc. It’s just an idea though and so I must ask myself, do I even want to push?

Why? What for?

Ha ha ha…as if in answer to my thoughts, the trail provides me with SO much climbing that afternoon….

Turns out, all the climbing really made my body hurt today, I wish I had a number in thousands of feet to equate it to, so I could justify this pain, but I don’t. It would perhaps make me feel better about how tired and sluggish I felt for a good chunk of the day.

Climbing, climbing, I find myself needing a boost from a caffeinted energy gel and then getting a lovely little buzz from that. Finally, I reach Mazatzal ridge and am rewarded with stunning views of this rugged terrain. The climb is not overwith though, I proceed onward and the trail forcably tilts in the skyward direction again.

At a point, I begin to re-evaluate my mileage goals for the day. I tune into my body and realize my left ankle is feeling quite sore. As if in answer to that realization, the trail suddenly flattens along a contour line through a shaded Pine and Oak forest that is sublimely lovely.

A soothing patchwork of sunlight envelops me, holds me, and there are all sorts of newly green plants taking form in their journey from seed to sprouted new life. The energy in this little forest is buzzing and high and I find myself suddenly catching that buzz and now I am in a really great mood.

The canvas fills in now with shadows, accents, richness, I think to myself, this is such cherished memory art being tattooed to my heart. These moments.

Perhaps because I was starting to relax, I suddenly become ravenously hungry and complementing that, I need to pee super bad. It is now 3:45 and it’s been a while since I ate ir stopped. So, I stop, throw off my pack, dig into my snacks.

I rapidly consume a granola bar, with almond butter smothered across it’s crumbling surface, dumping every last oat into my mouth and then top it off with jelly bellies. Mabye this was all just an excuse to sit and enjoy this wonderful forest setting a little longer.

I linger…

Very at peace with my surroundings. Silence. Stillness. I have seen zero people yet today and I am totally okay with that. Walking through this Enchanted little forest, I connect to the vibrational exchange happening within.

Yes, it’s what I have come to identify as the rewiring of my neurons as they calibrate to match the frequency of the woods. But it’s the energy/vibration that has to take place first and eventually, the biology follows. But most times, people only pay attention to the biological, the tangible, without giving thought, time or energy to its precursor, that which we can feel, but cannot see.

Suddenly my enchanted forest vibe gets totally disrupted by 4 fighter jets that blast across the sky, completely dominating the land, everything within miles gets taken over by the intense roar of these jets, I cover my ears and stop in my tracks, such intense energy! My heart pounds and I stand there waiting for the noise to dissipate…

I decidce then to consult my Guthook app to see what is ahead. It’s time to climb again. This will be the third climb of the day, another 1,000 ft over the next 3 miles, then it’s looking more level after that. The next water source, at Bear Spring is in 5.2 miles. I will definitely need water to hydrate my dinner and to dry camp tonight, I’d best get going.

It’s now 4:00pm and so I set off once again. Now, wondering if I can make it another 11.5 miles because it looks like the climbing is mostly behind me.

Later… many more miles have melted away and I am ridge walking and gazing at clouds. My mind has gone pretty blank, and I acknowledge that I am totally zombie walking, yet I am totally at peace too.

I have all this space to myself, yet I’m loosing myself to the space, I am the space, I am this wilderness too.

I tune in back to my body and realize that the pain I’d been feeling had miraculously gone away. I feel a loosening of tension, everything softens and releases. I must be getting my period, I think. Well shit, I didnt bring anything with me for that. Hmmmm…

I indulge in imagining the conversation with the person I happen to meet out here who sees the blood trickling down my legs and I feel a sense of embarassement. Yet, if I am all alone, I ask myself, would I even care?

This imagined scenario exits my consciousness and my body starts to feel floaty now and I walk with newfound ease. The climbing is definitely over.

The trail meets a ridge with wonderful flat walking on matted red clay tread. My internal compass has me headed straight toward Mazatzal Peak, though I don’t know it yet that this exact prominent rock is Mazatzal Peak.

I reach the Bear Spring turn off at 6:15 and have a quarter mile down a spur trail to get to the water. The spring turns out to be a small hole in the ground with milky looking water. Someone had built a little bowl with stone to capture the water coming straight up from the Earth.

I collect what I need and begin to filter it. Taking that first sip, I am pleased, the water is cool and pure and I receive it gladly and gratefully. I wander back to the trail and plop down in what would be a lovely campsite, I have to hydrate my dinner and come up with a final plan for the remainder of the day.

I contemplate how easy it would be to stay here, it is a lovely place indeed. But, it’s not dark yet and I can hike a couple more miles. I check my Guthook app and sure enough there is another campite in exactly 2 miles at another trail junction called Y Bar. I decide on that spot to camp and haul out of there.

Rewarded with a glowing sunset situated behind some thickening gray clouds along the horizon, I realize how blessed I am that this part of the trail happens to be a ridge walk along a Western facing slope. This time of day, is so magical. The last rays of sunlight casting beams across all the mountains between here and as far as the horizon will allow itself to be seen.

My heart strings stretch out to the ends of the horizon too and I walk slowly, contemplatively, in complete bliss, for the last two miles to camp. These are the final touches on the canvas for today, the golden light touching everything, giving it everlasting warmth, never to be taken for granted.

I reached the Y Bar trail junction right at dusk, just in time to pitch my tent with some light still remaining. There is one perfect flat place to pitch, and lucky for me, it is mostly out of the wind. I like this campsite a lot. Its a small saddle, and it is exposed, but yet tucked in by a big old dead Juniper tree, it’s a great little perch. I am in awe of the stoic Mazatzal Peak that governs the land here and I read about it’s history in my Guthook notes. I feel really excited to be here, I love this campsite, and this gigantic piece of rock I’m looking at, it all feels simply amazing.

In the dark shadows of the peak, I sit outside eating my dinner: garlic couscous and a tortilla with avocado (both from the trail magic yesterday, thank you very much!) Followed by mouthful after mouthful of Guacachips and several handfulls of Peanut M & M’s. A fine hiker trash feeding frenzy. I really had to stop myself, I felt like I could just keep eating and eating. And now, as I lay in my bag, curled up and writing, my body is chilled, I do feel tired, and ready to tuck into my sleeping bag, get warm and get some rest under the shadow of this beautiful, giant rock.

14 thoughts on “AZT Day 22: Painting Mazatzal

  1. I am so happy after reading your post and seeing your lovely photos, MP! You’ve made my morning on this very wet downpour of a day here in Bellingham. Thanks!

    1. Arrow!!! Oh how I am longing for a rainy, wet day in the cool, green forests of the Cascades, maybe we should trade places for a week! Much love to you my friend, from Sedona xox

      1. That would be lovely! I am so missing the desert! Although, with all of the dryness and fires over the past few years, I have never appreciated the rain, wet and green this much. I hope everything is going well for you in Sedona <3.

  2. The Proenneke of the PCT… the Walden of walking… the Muir of marvelling…
    Amazing Photos & Perfect Prose. Great job 👍
    Go on… I’d buy the book!
    Keep on steppin’ out marypoppins

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