Arizona Trail day 18: Mazatzal wilderness


12 miles

I wake up just before 4 am in the room full of sleeping hikers on air mattresses, and can’t fall back asleep. Why… oh well, might as well make use of the time. I sneak out of the room and into the upstairs of the house, where a long leather couch faces huge windows overlooking a dark oak forest, the sun still hours from coming up. I can only find a lightswitch for one dim yellow kitchen light so I sit in the dark, a blanket over my legs, and edit videos. I need about six hours of phone time in each town stop, I’m finding, to edit and post the blogs I write in my sleeping bag each night, as well as edit, record and upload the tiktoks. It’s a funny responsibility I’ve made for myself on this trail, to produce this much content, but I also really like it. For some reason I’m most prolific under pressure, and this gives me an opportunity to do that. Cold and exhausted in my sleeping bag after a 25 mile day? Time to write. Awake in the dark in a stranger’s house, surrounded by sleeping hikers? Time to write. All of it on my phone, my two thumbs somehow knowing where to go on the keyboard that is just little symbols on a screen! How do they know where to go?! Over the years, on all my different hikes- a thousand words, ten thousand, a hundred thousand words. A few hundred thousand words. All of it on the fucking phone! But give me a nice room with a desk and a comfortable chair, a computer with a real keyboard, an entire morning of uninterrupted time. Then I will do anything but write.

The morning seems impossibly dark but eventually the sun does rise. That reliable sun! More reliable than anything! At least until it burns out in two billion years. That really takes the pressure off, right? I eat rice chex and leftover chicken from last night, then back to my phone. Activity swirls around me while I work. Laura is there, with her pack of marlboros, then she’s gone. Matthew is there, making everyone laugh. Someone’s loading the dishwasher, someone else is making another pot off coffee. Stomping up and down the stairs, carrying packs around. The front door opens and closes. I look up. The house is silent.

Everyone is headed back to the trail this morning except Matthew and me, who will head out midday. Laura is gonna crush it to roosevelt lake at which point she might, on a whim, hitch to Payson to meet us when we get there- she’ll be a few days ahead of us by that point but wants to hang anyway. I wish we could just hike as fast as her! Alas I’m not ready for 35’s everyday, might not get to that point at all on a trail this short. I would if I could though!

We eat lunch at the tavern before heading out, the pure luxury of two town meals in two days making me feel ecstatic. Back on trail the tread is rocky and loose but not too bad and my god, it feels good to be walking. We climb into the Mazatzal wilderness, which in this spot is more chunky lava rocks, junipers and red dirt. I was sleepy earlier but now I just want to walk and walk- my legs are getting to that point.

We find some flat spots in the yellow grass right at dusk and to our horror there’s a huge surface shit right in the middle of one of them, a fluttering square of toilet paper clinging to it. What the fuck! I cover it with rocks while Matthew scouts another site nearby. This one is good too and we set up our shelters as the western sky flames. We’re low now, at like 4500 feet, and it’s not even cold! There are night crickets singing, moths against my headlamp, a single mosquito! We’ve rewound time, back into summer. What a cool planet we live on.

Day 19 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 $11,850, 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!