215.5 miles hiked
We want to hike the miles we missed when we hitched into Forest Lakes Estates to catch the store before it closed, but how? Should we hitch back to the trailhead where we bailed? That seems hard to conceptualize, for some reason, while I drink my drip coffee in our cozy RV park cabin as the sun comes up. Walking there from here, though, headed west, and hitching back to this cabin when we finish- that seems easier for some reason. We pack water, bars and a layer. We should be back in time for checkout, so we can leave our things. Time to slackpack!
It’s a beautiful walk, on the gentle forest service roads that run behind Forest Lakes Estates. We see shuttered summer homes, ponderosa forest both intact and cut, RVs tucked into the trees. The labrynthine dirt roads lead us to Willow Springs Lake, which is more beautiful than I expected, in this land of ephemeral watering holes. The water glitters in the high thin air, and small boats dot its surface.
We scoot through a hole in a fence to cross a spillway, and weave through the trees around the lake to the road, which we walk to the highway. It’s 10 a.m., perfect timing as long as we can get a ride back.
Chris picks us up in his huge rig. He’s headed to Oklahoma to pick up a trailer he bought on Ebay. He drop us back in Forest Lakes Estates. Thanks Chris!
After packing our bags we have lunch at the general store and then there’s nothing left to do but hike, I suppose. Section 4 here we come.
We’re walking a soft dirt road along the highway when we get a text from the friend who is currently housesitting for us and watching our dogs. They say that they found a couple of bedbugs in our porch couch.
We stop and sit in the pine needles, unsure of what to do. I start furiously googling bedbugs. Stress googling is my favorite coping mechanism. More texts: another friend helped them carry the couch to the curb. An exterminator is coming over to see if the bedbugs are also inside the house.
What do we do if there’s a bedbug infestation in our house? Muffy and I run through all the options. Bail off of the trail, hitch back to Tucson, get rid of all our furniture? Move out of our house? What even is the appropriate response.
Mostly, we feel terrible for our housesitter. How awful would that situation be? You’re watching your friends’ dogs while they’re gone for over a month, and then bedbugs appear?
We can’t hike out of reception until the exterminator comes over to check the house, which won’t be for a few hours, but luckily the gas station we’ve been walking towards turns out to have a diner, so we make a beeline to it. We stress eat french fries and tater tots while we wait for our phones to ping. The cafe just re-opened for the season, and the staff has a sort of red faced conservative talk radio vibe. They seem like the kind of people who listen to conspiracy theory talk shows while cleaning their guns and nodding along. You know, that makes a lot of sense. My iced tea tastes like dish detergent. I am careful not to touch Muffy.
The exterminator didn’t find any bedbugs in the house, our dogsitter texts us an hour later, when we are sitting outside the cafe in the sun. I am so relieved I could cry. I guess we get to finish this trail after all. It’s a bummer about the porch couch, though. It was worn leather, and we got it at the goodwill for $13. The porch stays shaded and cool during the day, and I used that couch as my office for hundreds of hours of editing. I would often read out there in the evenings, until the night’s chill drove me indoors.
Our route turns onto an old jeep road that dead ends at a fire ring in the forest and from there we head cross country towards Black Canyon Lake. These woods burned once, things are a mix of intact stands of trees and baby ponderosas with their pompoms of outsized needle clusters. The understory is open and generally clear and it makes for chill, forgiving cross country. As we near the lake we can hear campers, huge groups of them apparently. A family gathering? They’re blasting music. Probably grilling and playing cornhole. They’ve got ATVs and boats to take out onto the lake tomorrow.
The lake is surprisingly wet and very beautiful. In a drainage nearby we find a flat spot and kick the sticks and rocks away to set up our shelter. We eat dinner, joking about Muffy’s dominatrix persona, which we’ve decided will definitely one day be a thing. She’ll wear a thong and a leather jacket, with the words Pretty and Mean and Can’t Touch This emblazened on the back.
We hear stamping and snorting. Kind of a lot of it? I peak my head out of the shelter. Wild horses! Like seven of them! And a baby one! Monching grass twenty feet away from us in the last of the light, not a care in the world. They’re edging closer so Muffy claps, and they thunder away. Apparently this section is full of them. Maybe we’ll see more tomorrow?
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 $2,800- day 18 from the MRT will go up on this blog when his fundraiser reaches $2,900 Let’s help Francis get the support he needs! Click here to check it out. And thank you! 😀