May 14, 2019
Miles hiked: 18
AZT Mile: 490
Campsite Elevation: 6,736 ft
I have to say I do really love the feeling of being inside my tent, all warm and cozy, listening to the sounds of nature that come out at night. I also love all the rituals of preparing for the night. I love making dinner, eating dinner, getting all my stuff organized, my bed made, brushing my teeth, stretching.
Tonight I did some things that I don’t normally do. First, I stopped hiking early, maybe around 6:45 pm. I also stopped 1.7 miles before I reached my intented goal. I also bathed in the creek I am camped next to, and I cooked myself a hot dinner. These are all definitely things that boost morale and tonight I needed all of it. I feel the best right now that I have felt all day.
This morning I slept in, I didnt wake up until 7:30 and I just wanted to sleep more. I may have slept too long, because I never seemed to come out of that sleepy, heavy mode today. Some days are just like that. I was thinking how in “regular” life (whatever that is) you have days like this all the time, and you have resources to get through them, maybe a special treat, a phone call, go see a movie, take a nap, take a bath, drink some wine, so many things that are not possible out here to do to assuage your funk. Out on the trail, you just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got and keep on walking.
My answer to the funk this morning was to do some Yoga. This actually helped a lot, got the blood flowing, the breath circulating to my brain, clearing some of the mental fog. With this, I started off the day feeling more optimistic that I would continue to feel better as the day went on. I’m hesitant to admit, I left camp the latest I have on this entire journey, at 9:20 am. Ouch!
At least the trail was not mean today. The first several miles followed along the ridge just beneath the Mogollon Rim, with undulating trail that was sometimes sidewalk-like and sometimes the good ‘ol AZ rocks I now know so well. There were several natural water sources along the way too, and they were such a delight to behold. I filtered some cold spring water at Bray and guzzled it with vigor. Since I camped where there was no water, I was quite thirsty!
The soils were often the red clay that you see when you are in Sedona, and there were some beautiful “Kachina Woman” type spires that towered above, framed by the white masses of puffy cumulus sky water that I am seeing daily now. Today was warmer than I had expected too, and I think that may have been a factor in my sluggishness. I felt quite hot and while there was a lot of shade along the way, it didnt actually cover the trail, so it was all still quite exposed all morning.
By lunch time however, I had made it to the East Verde River at Washington Park and had hiked a whopping 7.6 miles. Whoops! Embarassing! I was hungry though and wanted to take advanage of the cold water to make iced coffee, truly the answer to all my problems.
From there I had a climb ahead of me, one that would be somewhat steep and also that would pop me up on top of the Mogollon Rim, finally! I had been holding the Mogollon Rim section in my heart with much anticipation, so this was something to look forward to. I left my lunch spot by the flowing river feeling somewhat revived, and headed up, up, up toward the Rim. The scenery became more and more beautiful, and as I climbed, the clouds grew thicker.
This little section follows along the E. Verde River drainage and thus is surrounded by lush green plants galore. I would never guess I was in AZ, as there was constant water, constant shade and billowing grasses. Eventually it became consistent Pine forest and then, there appeared Fir trees up there! What?!
The rocks changed to something like granite but I think it is more of a sandstone perhaps, but Im no geologist, so who really knows! Either way, the final few hundred feet of the climb really remined me of the Sierra’s due to all of these elements. Despite my funky energy today there were so many times I twirled around and simply smiled in awe of the beauty around me. That feeling right there, that is why I hike.
When I made it to the top of the climb, I was now technically on the Rim, and it was totally different than I expected. I had imagined an open landscape, long flat stretches of dirt roads and a lack of vegetation or tree cover, and certainly also lack of water. To my surprise, it is heavily forested and there’s a lot of single track that followed along General Springs Creek for miles. I had no idea!
Shortly, thunder began to roll and rain pattered the dry dirt leaving little pock marks. These afternoon thunderstorms are seemingly becoming a regular occurrence out here. Again, who knew I’d get so much rain in AZ?
It was not a cold rain so I simply opened my umbrella and hiked on. It thundered and rained for about 30 minutes, and the forest magic ignited now in all the wetness. There is something about the rain in a temperate forest where there is soft grass, vibrant flowers, and flowing water. The smell of wet pine-bark, aromatic fir trees, oh and the earthy, metallic soil. ahhhhhh….bliss.
The rain stopped eventually but I continued to walk with my umbrella in hand in case it started up again. Then the sun came out quite suddenly. The storm had passed. I began to think about how magical this whole experience was this afternoon. The elements of magic were ever present indeed. What are those elements?
Rain…Sun…Birds…Trees…Greenery… Flowing Water…Scent of Wet Earth… Thunder…Raindrops Hitting the Surface of Water and Concentric Rings Waving Outward in Perfect Ripples….all of this coalescing into a single thread of seamless moments…this is trail magic!
I was happily walking along appreciating all this magic, and then I heard it, the Washington bird! Oh my god, I was so delighted to hear this magical bird! This has to be my favorite bird song ever! I really want to find out more about it’s range and I think it must migrate because I heard it on day one of this hike also, but haven’t heard it since. That is crazy! Now that I think about it, that was also at a higher elevation, and in an evergreen forest similar to this one, that one other time I’d heard the Washington bird…in Arizona. Bliss Amplified.
The next few miles were super easy, cruisy flat walking, although somewhat repetative for the body. Because of this my butt/hip was really giving me a lot of grief. I stopped once or twice to stretch briefly, but overall it was just being a pain, literally, in my butt. By 6:30pm I stood before a rank cow pond, debating taking water from it and camping nearby for the night. I was feeling like I wanted to be done. I did what I usually do though, and I kept walking. I can do better.
Shortly, I passed through a gate and started a 300 ft descent down to East Clear Creek. It was with the intention of getting water there and continuing back up a 600 foot climb and another 1.7 miles to Rock Crossing Campground, where I would stop to camp. When I got down to East Clear Creek however, I was surprised to see that there was a wide rocky beach there and it was absolutely beautiful.
Camping here was so tempting. I was not looking forward to finishing my day with a steep 600 ft climb all the while lugging water to dry camp. My body felt sticky and itchy too, and the sight of flowing water made my body even itchier. Now I really want to rise off in some fresh water. Then, I looked to the left up the creek a bit and spoted two tents! People! I wonder if they are the two thru-hikerss I have been seeing in the trail register? Well, that settled it for me, if they were camping here, so was I.
I turned in the opposite direction and went looking for a somewhat sandy spot to pitch in the rocky creekbed. I knew it would be a wet night from condensation, but I didn’t care. I like it here.
I set up my tent and then stripped down to nothing and went into the water. I splashed off and used my bandanna to wash my body, oh did that ever feel good! Itching and stickiness gone! This was definitely the right choice. Yes indeed. I collected water and dried off, putting my warm sleep clothes on and went over to cook my dinner while I filtered more water.
Most of the time I sit right inside my tent while I eat, usually because I am cold and it is dark already. Tonight, it was still light out and I had a hot meal, so I sat out on the beach and enjoyed the fading light. Bats flew overhead and the frogs made their cacophony of song.
It’s 8:55 pm now and I am ready to call it a night. I am going to start out early tomorrow so I can hopefully make up some miles on what looks like a pretty flat day. Well, after I tackle the 600 foot climb right out of the starting gates, I suppose that will get the blood flowing.
Stars are out in all their glory, the sky is clear under a growing moon, and I am ready to rest my body and soul. Grateful, so very grateful, for all of this.