Arizona trail day 20: bummersville


22 miles

In the morning Matthew tells me that something was wandering around in the woods in the middle of the night, screaming. I slept right through it, which I’m grateful for. The sound wasn’t quite right for a mountain lion- he thinks it was a fox. The noises foxes can make are truly wild.

Today is kicking my ass again. Steep climbs in the heat, loose rock. Everything here is stabby- agave, cat claw, ceanothus, some bushes I don’t know. The trail is still good but you do have to edge around these things at times, and we both get our fair share of scratches. “BDSM car wash,” Matthew calls it. It kinda sucks, but I know it could be worse. A LOT worse. I remember the brush that changed my perspective on bushwhacking forever- it was the four mile bushwhack through ceanothus cordulatus in the goddard drainage on Skurka’s Kings Canyon High Basin Route. Nothing has ever really compared to that. Yeah, alder bushwhacking in Alaska can be bonkers difficult, but alder doesn’t have thorns. ceanothus does. I remember throwing my whole body weight against the brush in the goddard drainage, while laughing hysterically and repeating to myself “pain is pleasure! Pain is pleasure!” And the wild wave of euphoria that washed over me after it was over. Here the catclaw only snares my legs like once every half mile- a dream trail!

Midday we gather water at a spring that is sulfury and pretty bad tasting and afterwards my stomach is upset and my mood plummets- I just want to lay down in the shade of an alligator juniper and nap, not keep climbing these dang hills in the sun. It’s the first off day I’ve had in a bit and I feel like a failure. Yesterday I was feeling almost cocky about how little pain I had- I should’ve known better. The trail gods don’t like that. Now I shuffle along in the heat, feeling sorry for myself, and playing the game that is the opposite of Imagine Pleasant Scenarios- Imagine Upsetting Scenarios. This game is courtesy of my C-PTSD brain, and most of the time I (gently) try to keep myself from going there, as shit can get dark very fast, but today I indulge, like poking a bruise. After a time I start crying while I hike, and it feels really good. Ok, there. That’s what I needed. To cry. Do you know that tears have cortisol in them, and crying is one way the body gets rid of excess stress hormone?

Shortly after crying I round a bend and there’s the most beautiful sunset- we’re way up on a ridge and we can see the whole world, hundreds of miles of desert mountains spread before us, and the sun is setting over everything. Now I want to cry again, but because everything is so beautiful! If that isn’t life in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. We descend two miles to a hollow in the mountain as the light fades, gather water at a spring in the dregs of it. It’s warm way down here at five thousand feet, and I don’t even need layers in my sleeping bag. There’s a soft breeze and the crickets are singing in the dark. Things are really good again.

Day 21 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 $12,150 and when I have service again. 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!