May 13, 2019
Miles Hiked: yesterday: 0 today: 14
AZT Mile: 472.1
Campsite Elevation: 6,027 ft
Owls are hooting nearby, I saw an elk this evening and heard others stomping in the brush, their poop is all over this place, a bird is calling wahhh-wit, wahhh-wit over and over, crickets chirp, the occasional airplane roars by in the distance, far from this magical forest. I am surprisingly tired right now. I feel like just laying here, listening to the sounds of the forest and gently, slowly falling asleep. But first…
The highlights of yesterday in the town of Payson, about a 15 minute drive from Pine.
We got Rain, lots of peaceful rain. Sleeping in a bed. Starbucks coffee and the requisite chocolate croissant, a hotel breakfast with Mom. Getting back into bed after breakfast and cranking up the fireplace. We cracked open the door to let in cool, moist air as it rained steadily all day long,. A perfect day for a zero. We layed in bed watching a great movie, it was titled On the Basis of Sex about Ruth Bater-Ginsburg’s early career, super amazing woman and well done film!
We truly just lazed around most of the day, I did my errands and resupply chores and got organized for this next section of my hike. By 6pm I was craving a glass of wine, so I went and got a nice bottle of Pinot and then we decided to walk next door to Fargo’s for a Mother’s Day dinner. It was great, we ate well and the staff were really friendly. I got linguine with cream sauce, vegetables and shrimp, a salad and bread. This is my ideal town dinner indeed and it really hit the spot. Later, we crawled back into bed and slept with the fireplace going all night. It was such a treat to wake up to an early morning fire, then just roll over and decide not to get up just yet…
Today, it was another morning visit to Starbucks, for another Chocolate Croissant, yes, and then we decided since it was an amazingly sunny, clear day out that we would go to the Tonto Natural Bridge and do a little hike before I got back on trail. Well, that turned out to be quite the adventure! My Mom was gung ho about doing this, so I jumped right on board for the adventure together.
As we passed the sign for the trail at Pine Creek, I read the words “this hike is very difficult” and then I shrugged it off per my usual, thinking, sure, for the average american who rarely hikes. Okay, well, after the first .1 mile, it was all complete rock scrambling and every so often a little dirt patch to walk on. My Mom was amazing, she totally rocked it and we made it all the way to the bridge in this rock scrambling fashion.
The Travertine Bridge was stuning, sitting under it, gazing up in awe is a memory I won’t soon forget. Fortunately we found another trail that led us out, so we didn’t have to come back the way we came in, and then realized this actual trail was the one all the other people were going down, the one we should have taken. And, it was so easy! We laughed and high fived as we made it back to the car.
My Mom dropped me off back in Pine at the local coffee shop, where we said our goodbyes again. Embracing with a deep hug and loosely making a plan to meet up again at the Grand Canyon. I am so looking forward to that reunion!
I perched on the porch of the coffee shop and ate a sandwich, chips and drank a sparkling lemon water while posting my blog and doing a few other things on my phone. Next, I went inside and got a double scoop of ice cream in the flavors of espresso chip and double chocolate on a waffle cone, then packed up my gear and walked to the PO to ship off my resupply box that I am sending to Flagstaff.
At the PO several people noticed me with my big pack and they were actually quite interested in my hike. I stopped to talk with all of them, and it was fun walking around town and getting thru-hiker attention. Those conversations can sometimes be really morale boosting and fun. You always meet interesting town folks- thats for sure!
Finally ready, I walked down the road to the Pine Trailhead. It started to rain (of course) just as I was geting ready to set off. I re-packed my backpack with a trash compactor bag as a pack liner- just in case. Today was the perfect weather though. About 65 degrees and mostly sunny with big cumulus clouds hanging around, the occasional light rain shower would fall from the sky and a low rolling thunder drummed in the background.
I set off by 2:45 and headed into the next AZT section, passage 27. I was feeling re-charged, loved up and ready for what lie ahead, the Mogollon Rim. I am really looking forward to the Rim. The Mogollon Rim (pronounced mow-ghee-yon) is a flat geographic feature extending 200 miles across Arizona, defineing the Southern end of the Colorado Plateau and also divides Northern and Southern Arizona. It’s a thing. And now, I’m gonna walk across this thing.
The AZT from Pine, overlaps with the Highline National Recreation Trail for about 17 miles before splitting off. The Highline NRT dates back to the 19th century where ranchers travelled back and forth to neighboring homesteads, traversing the steep sandstone slopes beneath the rim for 50 miles. I make a mental note to myself as I read the signage to come back someday and hike that trail too.
At Washington park, the AZT splits from the Highline Trail and climbs steeply up, following along the drainage of the East Verde River. After several miles of steady climbing, you reach the top of the rim at 7,200 ft.
In the roughly 4.5 hours that I hiked today, what I can say hands down is that this section of trail is very benign! Wow, the trail tread is a dream, there are far fewer rocks, it’s all been single track, the views have been amazing and we are moving into layers of red rock and soil that are absolutely beautiful. There is lots of water as well (except where I am camped, I can’t seem to find it!) but the rock formations are getting really dramatic and beautiful and from some of the lookout points you can see the Rim itself, defined by a steep escarpment dotted with conifers and red and yellow rocky outcroppings.
Since we are a little higher in elevation now, the landscape is almost always covered in trees and shrubs. Oak, Ponderosa Pine, Pinon Pine, Juniper, Cypress, Manzanita and occasionally even hardwood Maple. This would be amazing to see in the Fall season, I think….
This whole afternoon and evening I felt relaxed and happy, very very peaceful indeed. I only saw a few day hikers and it looks like by the trail register I am on the tail of a few other thru hikers perhaps. I really don’t need or want to hike with someone, but if the opportunity presets itself, I will be open to it. It can be really fun to have a companion at times, and thru-hikers are just the best people anyway! But for now, I truly am content being solo, as that was my intention for this hike, and I have had it most of the time.
Tonight I pitched my tent just as it got dark, and guess what? I have a stove! I decided I am ready for hot coffee in the morning and a hot meal at the end of the day. I’ve gone stoveless now for the past 450+ miles, and I’m over it! So, I made a cat food can stove this weekend, and am using a very small titanium cook pot to boil water. I had hot Ramen tonight and it was ah-mazing!
There seems like there is so much more to say but I am just ready for bed, so I am going to say good night for now.