140 miles hiked
The ponderosa forest is perfectly still and cold, the stars bright, the moon so full it feels warm, there isn’t one drop of condensation. We’re warm and cozy, I’ve never felt anything as comfortable as my neo air. We wake at dawn to turkeys gobbling in the distance. My socks have somehow dried in the night. Everything is perfect.
Dirt roads through the ponderosa forest, so tall and full of light and air, a wondrous peaceful place, really, take us to the edge of the rim and drop us into Hicks and Duncan canyon, a cold sink with a smooth gravel bottom, running water here and there. Easy walking, and I’m grateful. My feet feel so beat up from yesterday, from the transcendental struggle in clear creek canyon. They’re swollen, full of hot spots, they ache. I shift my gait around the pain but I know that will only cause other injuries, other pain. Today we get to town, tomorrow we have off. A day of rest will fix them. It always does.
We walk the canyon upstream until it peters out in more gentle ponderosa forest. I love these fire scarred trees, this open understory that gathers the light, this loam of pine needles. We’re walking a network of logging roads- all of this must have been logged once. That’s why roads are often made- resource extraction. I’m listening to the audiobook of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. In it, a Navajo war chief describes white people as a plague of locusts, consuming everything in their path at great speed. I think about the way we’re taught American History in school- as though the “U.S.” has been here for a long time. But the history of the United States is actually quite brutal and short. What would happen if we were to acknowledge this fully, and teach it to our children?
A very rough and rugged trail, hot in the late morning sun, drops us steeply into Pine Canyon, and by the time we reach the creek in the bottom we’re cooked. The clean understory of the high ponderosas is gone- the forest is wild in this canyon bottom. A jumble of downed trees, moved by weather and water, small trees competing for light, wild growth, boulders. We chase a patch of shade while eating lunch, fill our bottles in the frothy, tea colored creek. At last we motivate to pull our shoes back on. We have to hike.
We climb on hot, exposed switchbacks and the trail gets hotter and more exposed the closer it gets to town. My blisters are so painful, it feels like I’m walking on coals. My feet throb in the heat. My chafe is burning. I dig for a positive thought, but the only thing I can find is how good it’ll feel to clean my blisters, lay in a bed, not walk for a whole day.
I find Muffy at the trailhead, sitting on the grass with her shoes off. It’s 12 miles south on the highway to Payson, where we sent our boxes and where we can get all our town errands done. We just gotta get there.
Dude in a pickup truck, the patron saint of hitchhikers, pulls onto the shoulder for us. He’s in a small honda, not a pickup, but it doesn’t matter- I’d recognize him anywhere. He works for the power company, or he’s a carpenter, or he does road construction. He’s on his way to his mother in law’s house to do some roof repairs. He’s headed to pick up his kids. It doesn’t matter. He will always pick up hitchhikers. And if you’re stuck someplace, if you wait long enough, he’ll eventually arrive.
He drops us off in Payson. Muffy, in her genius, already booked our motel, when she had reception earlier on the trail. We draw the curtains and crank the AC, and begin the long process of scrubbing off all our various kinds of dirt, afterwhich we lay on the bed, too exhausted to move. And my feet hurt too bad to walk far. My feet are pissed! The only problem is, we need to do our laundry and we need food. The motel has no laundry, and both the food that Muffy and I can eat and the laundromat are all at least a mile away. There is no lyft, uber or doordash here. How to solve this conundrum?
I see on google maps that there is an RV park across the street, the Payson RV park. The website says it has laundry. Score! (And also sicc tent camping sites and hot showers and a pool, for future MRT hikers!) Then Muffy discovers that a local Mexican place, Alfonsos, not only has vegan food she can eat… but they freakin DELIVER. And the food is CHEAP. We put in an order for kind of a lot of stuff. I eat until I feel ill from sodium. It is amazing. And then I turn my rain jacket into a skirt, put on my puffy and work on my blog in the little RV park laundromat while our clothes spin, eating an apple fritter from the gas station and feeling happy.
I’m using these blog posts to help raise money for Francis, an El Salvadoran refugee who is raising funds for an asylum appeal. You can view his fundraiser here.
Francis’ fundraiser is currently at $2,000- day 11 from the MRT will go up on this blog when his fundraiser reaches $2,200. Let’s help Francis get the support he needs! Click here to check it out. And thank you! 😀