May 16, 2019
Miles hiked: 29
AZT Mile: 544
Campsite Elevation: 7,133 ft
My alarm chimes at 5:00am and I hit snooze for 10 minutes. Then I remember I can make HOT coffee, heck yeah! I get the little flame of my alcohol stove going in the pre-dawn stillness and while waiting for water to boil, take an inventory of my remaining food. It ain’t much.
I had heard the wind throughout the night but slept well even so. The moon is nearly full, so bright that I used my head band to cover my eyes while I slept, which works great. Better than hotel blackout curtains!
I feel pretty rested despite the early hour but always look forward to that first sip of coffee. When I do take that first sip you know what? It turned out perfect. Oh my goodness. So perfect. I add hot coco powder to it too, and then it is off the charts. After 500 miles without a stove, this is such a wonderful treat!
Today I am on a mission to get to Mormom Lake by lunch time, as I need more food. That means I have to hike 17 miles in the first half of the day. Also, I learned that the General Store closes at 3pm so I really can’t afford to dally if I want access to whatever it is I think they will have. With that in mind, I set off walking at 6:05.
Within what seems like just a few minutes, the sun is rising over the ridge. Just below the trail, there is a stream flowing near a cow tank. The water is fresh and cold and lovely so I stop to fill up. The light from the sunrise glistens off the water, and all around are fields of fresh Spring green grass. It is indeed a beautiful area. In moments like these, I am often stunned that I am in Arizona.
I walk all bundled up with my long sleeve shirt, my wind jacket with the hood up, my buff wrapped around my ears and my rain mittens, which are amazing little featherlight things. This turns out to be the perfect combination for the day. I’m still in shorts but my compression socks keep my legs warm.
Focusing on efficient motion, I try not to take any unnecessary breaks through the morning. When I get hungry, I eat while I walk, my cold soaked overnight oats are great. I walk and eat this out of my coffee cup with my spoon and this works just fine. I desperately want more coffee but as it turns out I only have one serving left, so I must save it for tomorrow. This makes me want to get to Mormon Lake even faster, the thought of real coffee!
By 10:15 I am just rounding out close to 10 miles, which is something I rarely ever accomplish. The 10 by 10 rule is almost a requirement for hikers who consistently cover 30 miles a day. I am not quite there, but sometimes I get close. The trail is in my favor today, with the terrain being very forgiving, so I am lucky. The Gods want me to have coffee and get food at Mormon Lake!
I reach the trail junction for Navajo Spring at 12:34pm which seems like an auspicious time. From here, Mormon Lake is only 1.1 miles further down this side trail. I take off down the hill and can’t seem to get there fast enough. It seemingly goes on way longer than a mile, and it is super rocky and tedius and there is never a point at which you can “see” any sign of civilization. What kind of a place is this Mormon Lake anyway?
Finally, I see a horse corral and an outfit that offers horse back rides. I see a few cowboys and a couple city folk in the pen, and a few sleepy looking horses. I blow right past them all and cross the road making a beeline for the Lodge. Now, I’m hoping for the restaurant to be open, but know it might not be, since it’s still early in the season. It’s always worth hoping for tho.
When I get there, indeed, the restaurant is closed. So much for the french fries and a salad. Next I check the General Store, whose lights look quite dim and the doors all shut. I can’t tell if they are open either but I really want them to be. There are no people in sight either. I stand there staring at the weathered old wooden door, trying to accept the reality that I am not getting any coffee and no additional food. My heart sinks.
I begin to imagine how to get a hitch to somewhere that I could buy some food. I look around, maybe I can go to the RV park and Yogi some food from the campers? I do not have enough to get all the way to Flagstaff, stopping here was always part of the plan. I’d been counting on it.
I decide to try the door anyway, and to my surprise, it opens. Oh my goodness, hallelujah! There are people inside who greet me cheerfully and I can see they have “all the things” fully stocked like a hikers dream. They even have a hiker box! I am elated but probably didn’t show it. I place my backpack down out of the way (right next to the hiker box) and grab my coffee cup. I make a beeline straight over to the coffee pot and filled ‘er up. Oh yeah, Happy Dance!!
I wind up staying there for about an hour, consuming 1200 calories (including a frozen breakfasst burrito, a bag of lays sour cream and onion, a chocolate muffin and 2 cups of coffee). While I stuff my face, the awkward store clerk literally sits down at the table with me and chatters away the whole time. I don’t say much, because I’m busy eating, but he is nice enough.
I find a few things in the hiker box and purchase a few extra snacks. On my way out the clerk says to me “I never did get the dreadlock thing”….to which I reply after a smile and a long pause “well then, I guess it’s good you don’t have them.”
On my way back to the trail, I veer toward some restrooms for a pit stop. Here, I wash my hands, brush my teeth and generally freshen up. This is all so rejuvenating, life is so simple when you live on the trail. The food, snacks, coffee and wash-up has me totally recharged and I head back up the trail with a serious zip in my step. When I get back on the AZT I glance at my watch, it’s now 3:10. I plan on doing 10 or so more miles and feel ready to take that on. Mormon Lake, you done me some good!
The last few hours of the hiking today are very peaceful, passing through more serene Pine and Oak forest. There are herds of deer running and several elk as well. When they tromp through the forest, I stop to watch them, listening to the thundering of hooves and breakage of tree deadfall. I am in awe at how they move their bodies. I want to move like that! I have been noting so many animal tracks in the mud here too, deer and elk of course, but there are cat prints and other small animals, I wish I knew more about tracks. The mud is the perfect medium.
By 5pm I pass through a campground that has a trail register and guess what? Katie-Did and her partner Whisper, and Eagle Eye all signed that register earlier today. That means I am super close! I am going to catch them after all, that is so great! I spoke to the camp host there and pet his really sweet dog, and “Rob” gave me a stick of Beef Jerkey.
I take a water collecting break at 6:15 pm when sudenly the winds pick up and the air temperature plummets. After all the coffee at Mormon Lake, I’d had a plan to night hike, now I’m re-visiting that idea with a different plan in mind. It surely feels like rain approaching.
As evening begins to set in, I start to feel chilled. The trail is flat walking except now it follows along an old RR bed. For a short time I am even walking perched up on the top of the dirt mound that once held a massive train. This continues for a couple miles. Eventually, I drop down off the dirt mound, and scout a nice flat, protected spot among ponderosas to pitch my camp. This looks perfect!
Right next to my camp, is the rock wall made from stones piled on top of the dirt forming mounds that make for a little fortress of protection.
The full moon is high up in the sky looking dashing as ever, her light flirting with the shadows of Earth. My heart races with leftover coffee and my body is so happy to be horizontal.
The rain starts to patter my tent as I prepare my dinner. Wow, I am so glad I didn’t decide to night hike, I would be getting rained on right now!
Dinner tonight is rehydrated instant potatoes with refried beans, brussel sprouts, a nut burger and topped off with coconut oil. Seriously Yum! I sit quietly as my cook fire flickers just outside my open tent vestibule.
The circle of ponderosas surrounding me, coupled with the swelling moon offers me a feeling of comfort, like I am sitting in the forest with old, dear friends. The beams of light from the moon permeate through the trees, and in this moment, all I can think and feel is how much I love this life in the forest.
The water falling from the sky smells fresh, metallic, and the scent of wet earth is now infiltrating my tent air space. It’s amazing. The rain is coming in spits that almost sound like hail, but it’s not that cold out. There is no thunder, but it has been incredibly windy all day which must have delivered this rain.
Alas, my thoughts turn to tomorrow. I have more big plans. The trail continues for 21 miles to reach the junction for the Flagstaff Urban Route. From there, it’s 5 miles into town, where I plan to get a bunk in the Hostel for the night. I am also craving Thai Food, which would work out well for take out, so let’s just put that out to the Universe.
I’m all tucked in, ready for rest, the wind gales high up, the trees bend and sway, the rain spits at my tent in bursts, then pauses and I hear trees creaking. I’m so incredibly comfortable, laying here in the dark mysterious forest with all these sounds, and I couldn’t be more delighted.