Arizona Trail day 11: Flagstaff


12 miles

I wake up at 3 a.m. I can hear Flagstaff down below us, I can feel the rumblings of the trains, and I’m too excited to sleep. Town food!! I lay in my sleeping bag for two hours, waiting for Matthew to wake, and then pack up, full of electric anxiety. Sometimes on trail I’m calm, relaxed, elated or in pain. And sometimes I’m like this- every nerve buzzing, jumping out of my skin, with a stomach ache coming on.

We drop out of the ponderosas into the most beautiful oak forest, all the leaves dayglo orange. There’s bright granite and I feel like I’m in the Catalinas, outside Tucson. We get to go there too! There’s so much to look forward to!

Late morning we break out of the trees and are dumped unceremoniously into Buffalo Park, a flat open area with lots of trails. Suddenly there are runners everywhere. Super serious looking runners. Jogging in the bright cold sunlight. What is this? There’s the most incredible shitter, with heat and flush toilets and a sink with hot water and almond scented soap. I wash my hands three times.

The pure bliss of finding a good shitter

When I come out I see the line- lots of runners, waiting to pee. Oops. A blonde runner in worn fleece with knuckle tats chats with us. She says that she set the women’s course record for the Javelina Jundred. “It’s kind of a rave.” She tells me that one of the guys waiting in line while I was washing my hands three times was an olympic silver medalist runner.

“He peed on the toilet seat,” says Matthew.

“I just moved here yesterday,” says the woman. We’ll meet at least one other runner today who will tell us the same thing.

The streets of Flagstaff look freshly pressure washed. The buildings look like they were built yesterday. The sidewalk isn’t even cracked. There’s a pride flag at the dentist. All the cars are clean and they all have intact bumpers.

“This place is creepy,” says Matthew.

“We’re not in Alaska anymore,” I say.

The wind tosses yellow aspen leaves around. It’s freezinghot. We trod the pavement feeling like tired racoons, easily spooked. At last we reach my friend Drew’s house- Drew is an old friend, an aging punk from Matthew and my generation- the last generation of punks to come of age before social media or even cell phones really. And we’re all somehow connected to each other- Drew and I first met at a zine symposium in the early 2000s. The older I get, the more reassuring I find those connections. Like there is shared history, it really did happen. Even if so little of it was documented.

Drew is also someone I consider part of the “aging punk to endurance athlete” pipeline. He is, of course, a runner.

Drew isn’t home- he’s backpacking in the grand canyon with his girlfriend- and he has graciously offered us his house and his car, and his dog Roscoe is even here to pet! We dump our things and set out on foot to find burgers. We do find them. They are euphoric. More errands, then the overwhelm that comes from being around so many people. I take a shower and lay for a long time on the couch. Then we rally again- more errands! We do laundry, eat chipotle, eat a strawberry daiya cheezecake in the car. Back at the house, Laura is there! Laura is someone I’ve known on instagram for a long time, but had never met IRL. She’s been living in Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory. And she’s a very fast hiker. She started FOUR days after us, and she’s already caught us. We drink tea and talk about our trail pains. I try and convince her to hike with us. She’s going to zero with us tomorrow at least! By 8 pm we’re all exhausted, and we make our nests in various corners of the house. Outside the wind is howling, it rattles the window panes. I feel grateful not to be in my tent tonite.

I’m using this AZT blog to raise funds for Trans Queer Pueblo, a rad org that provides funds to trans and queer people seeking asylum and/or in immigration detention along the US/Mexico border. Here is the fundraiser- it was at about $9k when I first posted it, let’s see if we can reach their $15k goal! For every $150 raised, I’ll post another blog post. And thank you!