Arizona trail day 16: off the rim


24 miles

Some small animal comes snuffling around my tent as I’m drifting off and knocks over my water bottle, spooking me; now I’m wide awake, listening for small sounds, everything outside seeming bigger than it actually is. At last I drift off, altho I’m a little chilled- this is the first night I’ve had condensation on my sleeping bag, and it’s damp. I wake to Matthew shouting my name- it’s 6:30, I’ve slept in! There’s frozen condensation on the inside of my shelter, frost on my pack. I guess the lawn in front of the ranger station is, functionally, a meadow; and everyone knows that meadows are the coldest places known to man.

Today the ponderosa forest grows rocky, more textured, there are gullies and drainages- and then we’re walking up General Creek and there’s water, by god! Pools of cloudy turquoise water, shining in the sun. Flowing into each other. With green grass and so much dappled shade for napping. If only I could nap… instead I keep walking. The sandy trail sparkles, as though glitter’s been mixed into the soil. I feel like I’m on drugs. Everything is so beautiful! At the trailhead a sign informs us that General Creek is named after General Crook. That’s the POS general responsible for orchestrating the slaughter of indigenous people in this area, Arizona in general, and many other parts of the west. I learned that from reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee while on the Mogollon Rim Trail- if you recreate in the west, or anywhere in the U.S., you should read it! It’s hard for me to focus on and absorb books about history, honestly, but the book is written in a really captivating way, and that helped. And it feels really good to know the real history, the one that’s not on the commemorative plaques at the trailheads.

Suddenly we’re at the mogollon rim, looking down at a lower level of the known world, and a loose, steep trail drops us into a paradise wonderland- flame-leaf oak trees and a real flowing creek that tumbles over boulders, makes tiny waterfalls! And the trail, now chunky and textured, twisting and turning through it all! So many layers! So much surface to catch the light! After the sensory deprivation tank that was 300 miles of flat ponderosa forest, this feels absolutely bonkers. I am high out of my mind. I am having a peak experience.

I catch up with Matthew after the trail leaves the enchanted drainage to contour below the rim. Now all is redrock, manzanita, alligator junipers. Extra chunky, lots of up and down. We exclaim to each other about how incredible the trail is now. How exciting this is! The sun is sinking, the world dims as we make our way. We pull out our headlamps as the west glows fuschia, then deep purple. Cows crash in the brush. We can hear the night insects.

Camp is at a spring in a fold in the mountain, good water coming from a pipe and flat tent sites already cleared on the sandy ground. My feet ache a regular amount, Matthew has blisters. After dinner and blogging an owl hoots and the night pulls me away, into its embrace.

Day 17 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 $11,550, 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!