Arizona trail day 19: hot n steep


22 miles

There is a single mosquito that keeps regenerating after I kill it, so for the first time this trip I hang my bug net in my tarp. Also, it’s warm tonite! Too warm to sleep in layers. My body feels confused, I toss and turn all night. In the morning tho I’m ready to go. Let’s walk!

The mazatzal wilderness is pretty rugged- loose red rock, stiff manzanita, some thorny stuff that almost, but not quite, encroaches on the trail. And we have climbs now! Six thousand feet today, in the warm bright sun. First we sit next to the verde river, which is just a wide shallow pool here, cold and barely flowing, and eat snacks and listen to a dog bark at a ranch nearby. I love this trail now. It beats me up a little more, there are challenges sprinkled in. People are saying the AZT is overgrown this year, but I haven’t seen anything yet that I would call that. I try to imagine what it would be like to traverse today’s brushy hills without a trail, forcing my way through the cat claw and stabby manzanita- it would be bonkers. Who cares if the occasional plant brushes my legs while on the AZT. Even if it scratches me. I won’t begrudge nature its growth. If you’ve ever hiked cross country through rough terrain, you know what a blessed miracle it is to have a trail at all.

Matthew smokes me on the climb. I plod slowly, drink nuun, let my music carry me away. I’m sweating, the sun roasts me, I have service and I send breathless voice messages to my friends. When I catch up with Matthew at the top at last it’s taken much longer than I thought and I feel kinda bummed but no matter. We’ll get there.

Today’s water is a metal trough, spring fed, waving with green plants like an aquarium and sprinkled with mosquito larvae and, later, a tinaja- our first tinaja on this hike!

A tinaja is a depression in the redrock that acts as a sort of tank to store water, in a drainage that likely becomes a creek when it rains. The sun sets earlier than we’d like it to and we hike along a ridge as the last of the light fades, watch the stars come on one by one. The big dipper wheels above us. I feel like I am on the PCT- so many ridges, walking as though suspended in space. The trail dips down into dark hollows and I shiver and see my breath- it climbs back onto the ridge and the world is warm again. At a junction we find campsites beneath a couple of pines. It’s so quiet, and properly cold- too cold tonight for bugs.

Day 20 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 $12,000, 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!