Mogollon Rim Trail day 25: the pioneer myth


Mileage: 14

336.4 miles hiked

It’s cold.

“We should’ve slept in the trailer,” laughs Muffy, as we heat water for our respective coffee and tea in the morning, too cold to get out of our sleeping bags. Oh well. Lesson learned. Gray dawn gives way to long yellow light and I watch Muffy drink her coffee silhouetted against this light, the steam rising up around her wispy braids, come undone in her sleep, her shining morning face. I love her. She is the best.

As soon as I stand up I get my period. What a relief! Goodbye PMS electrical storm, hello first day of the rest of my life.

Today we walk on an old railroad grade, which is basically a flat stretch of earth that once hosted some train tracks. The railroad grade, now reclaimed with clumps of grass like the meadow around it and distinguishable only by the way it’s raised up, runs alongside the border of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, which we’ve been skirting for the past few days. The railroad. This Apache reservation. General Crook. My mind is still blown by how recent the history of this area is, how still on the surface, and how much of it is covered in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Seriously, every non-indigenous long distance hiker should read that book. It would make a great difference in our understanding of the history of public lands in the west and also facilitate a lot of conversation, I think. While I understood some of the things in the book on an intellectual level before reading it, my white privelege meant that I didn’t have to put all the pieces together, wasn’t forced by my lived experience to put all the pieces together, and the book helped do that for me. The book has an incredible narrative arc, and sucks you in. These things are always helpful in allowing me to absorb history that would otherwise be timelines, dates, places and names. Seriously, my fellow hikers. You should read it!

The railroad grade and its respective meadow are beautiful, and the walking is easy. We cruise along as the sun angles higher in the sky, shining on the pale grass, the glittering ponds, the patches of snow on the low peaks. We’re at 9,500 feet, and the world feels fresh and new. We love it up here!

We get reception and learn that the diner in Greer is open until 3pm. This lights a fire in us and before we know it we’ve made it to the road, where a steep old jeep trail in the woods drops us down to singletrack along a creek, and next thing we know we’re wandering past huge, shuttered summer home cabins and then we’re at quiet main street Greer, where tiny frontier log cabins with stone chimneys (General Crook, colonization and slaughter of the Apaches) crouch in the grass alongside newer vacation rentals (inhereted familial wealth from generations of exploitation and extractive industry, a people destroying their landbase and, eventually, themselves, in the name of short bursts of rapid, excessive growth).

As we walk past the log cabins I think of how tightly we white people cling to the myth of the American west, of pioneers in wooden wagons, immigrants setting out and persevering through great hardship. Making due. “Conquering” the land. Thriving against all odds. As white Americans it is our only remembered ancestral connection to the earth, and I believe that this is one of the heartbreaking reasons we hold onto this myth so tightly. My ancestors were poor immigrants fleeing famine and violence in Ireland, but it doesn’t matter. Just because a people experiences oppression at one point doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of commiting even worse oppression onto others. Israel’s current occupation of Palestine is a good example of this. My ancestors were scabs, brought into the west in droves to help force Indigenous people off their land, as well as kill them. In order to create real cultural change, we’ve got to change the myth. We have to let go. We have to tell the true story of this country, a story that centers Indigenous people. It’s the only way that anything will change.

Speaking of current indigenous outdoors narratives, here are some good instagram accounts to follow:








By noon we’re in the diner, drinking giant tumblers of ice tea and ordering one of everything on the menu. What a wild time to be alive.

The hot water in the Lazy Trout motel isn’t working but they did let us check in early and there are free DVDs for guests. I’m in a glutenfog and Muffy is laughing at the things I rant about when I’m in this state, like I’m a little bit drunk. Who needs a giant vacation mansion! (Waving my trekking pole at a gated subdivision on the walk to the motel.) Eleventy billion rooms and they’re only there two weeks a year. Who even wants that?

The hot water returns and we shower and then watch Sex in the City 2. It’s white feminism, before people started using that term. Rich white women are free now! Did you know? They’ve thrown off their shackles. Rejoice! It’s badgood.

The light dims and Muffy falls asleep, still on hiker time. I’ve grown anxious, of course, so I do not. The bed is very comfortable and warm, though, so there is that. The paradox of town.

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 $3,600- day 26 from the MRT will go up on this blog when his fundraiser reaches $3,700 Let’s help Francis get the support he needs! Click here to check it out. And thank you! 😀