Mogollon Rim Trail day 19: General Crook Was a Piece of Shit


Mileage: 23

262.5 miles hiked

It’s cold. I curl up in my sleeping bag. We’re so close to space, up here in this high ponderosa forest. Space is cold. The coldest. The sun goes away and space comes in. It’s a good reminder. Of what, I do not know. I think of Tucson. It’s hot there now. The prickly pears are blooming. The pavement is baking. I imagine our dogs, laying on the porch in the shade. All the doors and windows are open. The fans circle lazily. Warmth returns to me, and I sleep.

We both wake extra early while it’s still dark and are somehow hiking by 6:22, which is out of character for us. It feels good though, to have this extra time. Today is more jeep roads, both rocky and not, horse trails, and cross country, all through what once was ponderosa forest but at some point burned, and is now the bright, dusty land of the manzanita and juniper.

We walk head down, sweating. My butt chafe flares. There are occasional intact stands of ponderosas and we take breaks there, pull off our shoes and poke at our feet, which are black with dust.

Although this section is drier than the last there is enough seasonal and random water that we only have to drink from one cattle pond- and when we arrive there we find it clear, somehow, if a little yellow.

In this section we’ve been following the General Crook Trail, which exists on the ground as a network of dirt roads and faded tread, and I’ve been rolling that name, General Crook, around in my mind. I’ve also been listening to Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee all day, and suddenly, in the afternoon, they start talking about him, in regards to the slaughter of Apaches in Arizona. I stop in my tracks to listen, and as soon as I get reception again I do some furious googling. This is what I learn.

Per Wikipedia, General Crook led massacres of Native Americans in Oregon, Idaho, California, Nebraska, and Arizona. The General Crook trail, the very same one I am walking, was a supply road that connected Forts Whipple, Verde, and Apache. This path I am walking provided General Crook and his army with the supplies they needed to slaughter Apaches.

Wikipedia also tells me that all over the country there are peaks, counties and roads named after General Crook. There is at least one monument to him.

This supply route of colonization and genocide that I’m walking was built in 1871. Only 148 years ago. Everywhere, General Crook is celebrated. This is the history of all of the lands in this country. It’s still there, out in the open. It happened just yesterday.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee talks about how white settlers were able to justify genocide against Native Americans by using the concept of manifest destiny, which they had conveniently just invented. According to manifest destiny, all of the lands of the Americas had been given to white people by god because white people were the most superior race, and so it was their destiny to take those lands, because their culture and blood was superior to all others. Native Americans must assimilate or die. There was no other choice. It was just like destiny, man. This is the white supremacist foundation on which all conservation and land management in the US was built.

Tear down all the monuments. Rip up the roads. Revert the peaks to their indigenous names. We’ve got to get rid of this shit. We’ve got to start over. I keep walking, feeling like there is a blanket of sadness over me. My ancestors homesteaded in Colorado, so they were part of this too. I’m so angry. I want to cry.

We fade at a water source 19 miles into the day, a horse trough fed by a spring and sit in the dirt, silent. But it’s only 4 p.m., and there’s another good water source in 4 miles. If we can make it that far, we can most likely make it to Show Low tomorrow, our next trail town.

The light lengthens and cools, there is more shadow now. We follow the tracks of horses, the blazes of the White Mountains Trail System. I fall once but am fine, cat claw scratches my sunburned calves, I lose my pee rag but then find another one, magically, on the ground. We reach the grassy creekbed that holds still pools of water with enough time to cook our dinner before dark. The stars wink on and a wind blows, rattling the vestibules of our tent.

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 $3,000- day 20 from the MRT will go up on this blog when his fundraiser reaches $3,100 Let’s help Francis get the support he needs! Click here to check it out. And thank you! 😀