May 17, 2019
Miles hiked: 27
AZT Mile: 565
Elevation: 6,870 ft Flagstaff
I wake at 5am just before my alarm, it’s still raining. It rained all night long, off and on. As I lay comfortably in my sleeping bag, I have visions of walking in the rain, slugging it out and squishing in the mud all day long. With this vision comes trepidation of not making enough miles to make it to town and not having enough cooking fuel to cook my mac n’ cheese dinner, which is my emergency dinner. It’s all I have left. What good is an emergency dinner if you can’t cook it?
I’d better just get going. I make hot water for coffee deciding that using a little fuel is completely justified when waking up to rain. I eat breakfast before setting off instead of eating while walking. Normally, I am not hungry at 5:30 am, but this morning, I start in on the granola and a kind bar right away.
Thankfully, when I am ready to walk, the rain has abated, clouds have drifted away and the sunrise is now christening the forest.
The trail continues along the old RR bed still for a spell. Within an hour of walking, my stomach is grumbling again and while the rain is gone, there is definitely new mud.
Shortly, and a little too early, in an opening of the forest I discover an RV parked at a Trailhead with a table outside all set up with loads of trail magic! Wow, what a set up! I stop and take a look at all the goods, but there is no reason for me to be drinking Tecate at 7:00am so I press on. This trail magic is making hikers happy in another dimension right now and that makes me happy. Thank you Trail Angels!
Fortunately, the ensuing mud is not the deep slick, squishy mud that makes you slip and slide. This is the drier, more clay-like sticky kind, it clumps up on your shoes at the heels and forms little balls that make you feel like you are walking with platforms on. It’s actually sort of funny, but still annoying.
After several miles it becomes another rocky dirt road that connects to other rocky dirt roads in a series of turns you don’t want to miss. I have to check my GPS often to ensure I am going down the correct rocky dirt road, as I can’t afford to loose any time today.
The wind is biting and relentless as I walk bundled up complete with my hood and rain dress covering my cold legs. I feel tired. I feel like my pace is so slow, yet by 10:00am I have somehow managed to make just over 10 miles. Another 10 x 10, hey, I’ll take it!
At Gooseberry Springs TH, I meet two women day hiking with their dogs, and they are like balls of glowing energy for me. They are super friendly and so lovely to have a brief few minutes chat with and getting to pet their dogs is like plugging into an electrical outlet, as their energy gives me a much needed jolt for the next few miles.
By 12pm I find myself at the Marshalll Lake TH and feeling satisfied with a 15 mile morning, I plop right down, ready as ever for my lunch break. The wind has not let up and I struggle with making a flame to heat water. I accidentally singe the handle of my umbrella by trying to use it as a wind block, but my Earl Grey tea is marvelous and like my morning coffee, worth the fuel penalty.
Exhaustion is sinking in, my body is doing wierd things. The flat walking is not agreeing with me and I just feel achy all over, especially my low back. I eat lots and lots of food, finish my tea, then lay back flat on the Earth with my clothing stuffed under my neck and promptly fall asleep.
It’s probably only minutes that I am out, just a little catnap really, as what wakes me up is the wind gusting and blowing my sleeping bag completely off my body. I guess it’s time to go!
From Marshall Lake TH, it’s only 6 miles to the AZT/Urban trail split and then from there, another 6 miles to downtown and “all the things”. So, even though the trail junction isn’t far, it still feels like it’s going to be a long afternoon. I am now out of cooking fuel, so the decision to make it to town is made. I cave in to my body’s discomfort and pop a few Vitamin I and then I hit it.
The wind has been blowing harshly all day, pushing the rain clouds away in earnest, leaving me feeling raw, chilled and exposed. In the clearings I can now see the San Francisco Peaks forming a spine of mountains in the backdrop of Flagstaff.
This chain of volcanoes is considered sacred by at least thirteen Native American tribes in this region. I gaze toward Mt. Humphries which bears different names to different tribes, such as Dook’o’oosliid in Navajo and Aaloosaktukwii in Hopi. She is the highest peak in AZ at 12,637 ft, she presides over the land with a stunning presence. The San Francisco Peaks will be my next destination.
The exposure forces my skin to combat the harsh Arizona sun which is now so intense on my face. The sharp, chilly wind takes an energetic bite out of me every time it gusts. The lack of trees cover here is a dramatic change and my awarenss turns to understanding I am traversing a mesa now. I may be walking at 7,000 ft but clearly I am still in the desert.
All day I never feel like I am hiking fast at all. I need to stop for water and that takes time too. But since I did make good miles in the morning, I decide to rein it in a little after lunch and just try to relax the pace and enjoy a chill, peaceful walk before entering the chaos of civilization.
The dirt roads are soon replaced by lovely single track and the open mesa eventually gives way to a Ponderosa forest once again. The forest embraces me and I realize instantly how very much I love trees. It’s very quiet here in this forest. My footfalls are buffered by the soft, dried pine needles. In this softness, I feel so at peace. It’s just me and the trees now. The wind blows way up above me in the high canopy now, giving my cheeks a break. I walk in a daze embracing this softness as the loveliness of what I’m doing overtakes my conscious awareness, shifting me into a subtle trance.
Just to be here, just walking, alone in the wild woods, on a long, solo adventure on a wilderness trail. My thoughts drift to acknowledging other women in different parts of the world who would never ever get this opportunity to do this.
I start to deeply understand how very fortunate I am. How by my doing this, my energy, and how I feel in this experience is contributing to the collective consciousness. By fully experiencing this I feel that I represent what is possible in a field of all possibilities.
I drop deeper into this meditative state and feel myself connect to a woman somewhere in another land, perhaps who is bound by society, family or even imprisoned in her own cultural expectations. She is suffering, wishing she were free. What would it mean to her to be free, doing what I am doing?
I decide to concentrate on this and visualize the absorption of all the energy I receive through being immersed in the wilderness as the base of the sacred peaks whose magnetizing energy pulls me closer.
I concentrate on the freedom and joy I feel and the beauty I am merging with and channel it through this image of a woman I have somehow connected with. She somehow represents all women everywhere and through her holographic image I am channeling this feeling of freedom and bliss to all of them, representing a certain possibility manifested.
My intention becomes the generation of hope, believing that in some reality, in some dimension of time-space, this freedom is possible for everyone to experience. I feel as I drop deeper into this meditation that I am no longer defined as “me” but rather I am “all”.
The junction with the Urban Trail is suddenly in my face. When I look at my watch it says 4:45pm. I am rapidly snapped out of my trance.
“I got myself here” I say outloud.
There are so many ways to look at this phrase. Riding on the tail of my trance-like state I wonder what really does this mean? I trust myself to get me through experiences and land in places that are full of awe and wonder? I got myself here because I was able to choose to do this? I got myself here because I was free…
On the margins of civilization, I check my Guthook App and see I am now less than 5 miles from Flagstaff. I switch my phone to connect to service and now have to begin the task of finding lodging for the night. I stop to do this periodically as I walk now along the Urban Trail.
The wind is still blowing roughly in the tree tops and several clouds have now collected, forming into the possibility of rain. I meander along the Urban Trail, walking on pavement that leads me under bridges and eventually onto the sidewalk next to a busy road. The Grand Canyon Hostel is all booked up so I settle on a hotel room. I plot the location into my GPS to guide me there and quicken my pace, acutely aware of the impending rain.
Feeling a sense of urgency, feeling cold, and tired yet eager to get to the comfort and safety I know awaits me now, I push on through a frazzeling cityscape. Shortly, I reach a shopping center where I duck into a restaurant called Wildflower and order a hot chocolate. Just as I get my steaming hot drink and take a seat in a booth, the sky opens up releasing a downpour.
The timing could not be better and oh my goodness the hot chocolate is amazing. I take a few minutes there to regroup, sipping the sweet, hot drink, waiting for the rain to let up so I can continue walking.
I find the booth and the hot cocoa a little too relaxing and need to peel myself up from the comfort. You’re almost there, I encourage myself. I slip back outside, abruptly confronted with the chilly wind that has already pushed the rain clouds away. I book it to the High Country Inn a mile away.
Finally, I am opening the door. That familiar sound of the beep from the electronic key and then the door latch unhinging brings me a certain calm. I enter the dark, warm room, drop my pack and flop down on the bed, mud clad feet dangling off the edge.
I connect with my own deep exhaustion, having walked 110 miles from the town of Pine just four days ago…. I got myself here.