Mogollon Rim Trail day 3: beautiful things for rich people


Mileage: 20

50 miles hiked

Another incredible nights’ sleep, apart from the moment when I woke briefly from a dream in which my sleeping bag was something trapping me and cried out “How do I escape?!” before discovering the zipper and remembering where I was. Now it’s morning and it’s not raining, even though the forecast said it would, steadily, and in fact it won’t rain at all today, except for a few sprinkles, for which we are so grateful, because it’s actually kind of cold.

My legs itch this morning- is there poison ivy in Arizona, along the creeks? I didn’t think so, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to google that when I’m in town.

Today’s 20 miles have us winding in and out of all the breathtaking redrock around Sedona, the stacks and whorls and enchanted mesas, both up close and from a distance, and there’s cool juniper forest and clear pools of water in the rocky streambeds. There are beautiful $100k camper vans in all the pullouts, and shiny rental cars throwing up dust on the roads.

I get why all the rich people want this place and it makes me feel sad and conflicted. Because access to untrammeled nature has become the new signifier of wealth. And sure the nature needs preserving but I wish these very very rich white people cared about anything else as vehemently as they cared about these miniscule illusions of intact wilderness.

The rich people in the $100k camper vans will fight with the strength of a thousand suns for their poppy fields and their plastic straw bans, but do they care that a few hundred miles south of here is a militarized zone where thousands of refugees are forced into the desert to their deaths? Refugees fleeing violence in Central America that was facilitated by U.S. policies and intervention? That their bodies are not recovered, that humanitarian aid workers are arrested for leaving food and water for them? That Cabeza Prieta wildlife refuge, a wilderness area where there is much infrastructure to protect the endangered sonoran pronghorn and where the ground is littered with the bones of refugees, recently added a claus to its permit application specifically prohibiting hikers from leaving food and water?

No, they don’t care.

I would trample every poppy in every single poppy field if it meant that they would care.

(Read this article to learn more, and also this one.)

I don’t exempt myself from these feelings. Everyone in the outdoors community has a long way to go to be accountable, as opposed to exploitative. As soft dirt paths alternate with jeep roads and bits of cross country amongst the redrock, I am keenly aware that I am walking through an illusion. A place to make believe. Just large enough that I can’t see past it. That I can pretend, for a while, that this is all there is. If you’re rich enough and white enough, you can pretend that this is all there is.

Our feet hurt today and we stop to sit in the red dirt, tape our hotspots, eat chips. We gather water at a cattle pond. The wind comes and goes. Our bodies ache and we lose steam in the late afternoon, just as we drop off a mesa on a rocky trail to a trailhead- the end of the first section of the MRT! It’s a short drive from here into Sedona.

We put out our thumbs and a woman stuffs us into her warm car and then deposits us at chipotle, where it has begun to rain. We eat while staring at nothing, and then reserve the last room at the one affordable motel in town. In our room I look over the notes for the next section- at our pace, section two will take six days. It’s hard to know for sure, but it looks brutal. I take a long bath, scratch my legs some more, and then regret the bath. Hot water is a surefire way to spread poison ivy further. Is that what this rash is? Oops. Muffy is finally able to clean all the cuts on her body from the slide down the rocks, and we both tend to our chafe. Sleepiness comes in like the tide at 9 p.m. and pulls us out to sea, our phones in our hands, still trying to type out the last of our blogs.

I’m using my blog posts from the MRT to help raise money for a very important cause- legal fees for Wendy, a Honduran immigrant, so that she can pay a lawyer to appeal her asylum denial! Wendy is a friend of friends in Tucson, and you can view her fundraiser here.

Day 4 from the MRT will go up on this blog after her fundraiser reaches $1,600. Let’s help Wendy get the support she needs!

View the fundraiser here.