Ariona Trail day 15: ponderosa immersion therapy


26 miles

The days are starting to blur together. Total ponderosa immersion therapy. I didn’t know I’d be spending so much time in this ecosystem that I love, and I’m into it. This area has the largest stretch of ponderosa forest in the world and the AZT, it turns out, cuts right through it. This warm, open, peaceful-ass forest is soothing me, this clear tread free of obstacles is draining the anxiety from my skull. A quiet contentment has taken its place. I have no thoughts anymore. Smooth brain.

Today is our warmest day on trail yet- maybe 70 degrees? I’m almost sweating! Mid morning we lounge next to an algae-filled cow pond described as “less muddy than the others” in our navigation app and bask in this newfound warmth. Matthew and I both feel good- I have no serious foot pain anymore, just regular foot pain (absent in the morning, level 5 the last two miles to camp), and Matthew has only random pains, nothing that settles or lasts more than a few days. Our bodies are being good sturdy reliable pack animals, doing what we ask them to. Our bodies concede to carry us 800 miles for no reason. We repay them in sunsets, good snacks, and by allowing their circadian rhythms to revert to their natural state- asleep by 9pm, up before the dawn.

I have zero service today, which is a first on this trail. I’ve been using my phone to distract and comfort myself kind of a lot on this hike, and I know it’s good for me to not have the option sometimes. I check my libby app for audiobooks, but all the books I checked out before the trail have gone back except one, Digital Minimalism, a book about how to have better boundaries with your phone. That’s more irony than I’m in the mood for right now so I listen to the small sounds of the forest instead and play my favorite hiking game while I walk- Imagine Pleasant Scenarios, Change Small Details. Ok ok. There’s a party in Anchorage. A big party. All my friends are there. Covid isn’t a thing. What am I wearing? What music is playing? I’ve imagined this scenario a hundred times. I think I’ve almost got the perfect outfit figured out.

At lunch Matthew and I sit in the shade of a juniper tree and talk about grief, one of my favorite subjects. I have lots of thoughts and theories about grief. I think it’s one of the reasons, besides allowing our species to evolve, of course, that we have to die, and new humans have to be born. Because grief just builds up and builds up over the course of a lifetime, like barnacles on a ship or layers of paint. Until we’re almost crushed beneath the weight of it. That energy has to be released somehow, so that it can be recycled. That’s what death is. Matthew talks about the things he inhereted from his partner when he passed away, and from his partner’s parents. How it’s so hard to throw anything out, even a scrap of paper with his partner’s notes on it. All of those items contain stories, and how can Matthew throw away stories? It’s so fucking sad and we both cry a little. Loss, man! What the fuck! Life! It’s brutal! We start listing some of things that make it worth it to keep going- the light at golden hour. Good food when you’re really hungry. Laughing with friends. The feeling before you fall asleep. Sex. Drugs. Falling in love.

The last mile of the day is in the dark, walking the highway to a ranger station a mile off trail where there’s a water spigot- water that’s not from a muddy cow pond is hard to come by in this section! There are picnic tables too, and a shitter! While we cook dinner we talk about our favorite books, the circumpolar culture of the arctic, how cool it would be to visit Greenland. Then into my sleeping bag to peck away at my phone and write this here blog, something that I’ve done so many times from so many trails that it’s become a sort of comfort, something I’ve grown to appreciate a great deal.

Day 16 of this AZT blog is written and ready to go- I’ll post it (and its corresponding tiktok video, (which you can see here) when this fundraiser reaches $11,400, and thanks so much to everyone who’s contributed so far!! 🤗

I’m using this AZT blog to raise funds for Trans Queer Pueblo, a rad org that provides support 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!