It’s so hot. I mean I know in the last section I was being a weenie about even mild heat, and then yesterday I felt like I’d finally adjusted! But today it’s actually hot. Alan’s watch says 94 degrees. We’re contouring above the Gila river on nicely graded, beautifully groomed trail, as trail seems to go in this section, and we are roasting in the sun. No shade and lots of gentle climbs that feel brutal in this heat. This morning was awesome! We woke up next to the Gila river, where we’d staked our shelters in the dust full of spiders (that live in the dust? We’re not sure) and in the cool of the morning we were cruising- in 16 miles we knew there was a trailhead where you can order pizza from the town of Kearney, and we were on track to make it there by 1:30. And while hiking I crossed paths with two nice hikers, Queen B and Slow Miles, who recognized me from this blog and were so nice. I was feeling great! But now it’s noon and I’m melting. Things went from comically sweaty and doable to oops I got a bit too warm and now everything feels slurry pretty quick. I’ve got a warm half liter of water with nuun in it to make it the last 3.5 miles to the trailhead where there’s supposed to be a spigot.
We’re hiking today with Birdbath, a hiker we found sitting next to the Gila river smoking weed this morning. A river guide from Las Vegas, his feet have been killing him this last stretch. He’s about to take a few days off in hope that’ll fix the pain. I hope it does. It’s always sad when people have to get off trail before they want to. Bodies and the ways they break! More reminders of how little we can actually control in this life.
Although I feel like I’m stuck in this moment of too-hot walking for eternity, the spigot does eventually appear. It’s at a… county maintainance place? Like a chain link fence around a lot full of trucks. Which seems like it would have nothing to do with the trail. But hikers must’ve been using this spigot for water for years, and the county must’ve decided to run with it, because attached to the chain link is a blue metal sign that says “water”, and next to the spigot, in the shade of a palo verde, is a picnic table with chairs!
We… can’t believe it. All of this for us? Water? Chairs? SHADE? I lay on the ground under the spigot and let the water run over my head, which is something I’ve been fantasizing about for the last hour. Soon our pizza arrives and we sit at the table and stuff ourselves- they didn’t have any GF pizza so I’m having a salad and a huge order of french fries. A fog descends on us after, the cloud of post-heat fatigue and indecision. We all feel totally wiped from today. A few miles away is the town of Kearney, which has a motel. Should we get a dark, cool room and rest for the night? Yes, we definitely should.
There’s no traffic on this road. A mile away is the highway, but the thought of standing on hot pavement trying to hitch makes me feel ill. Birdbath is getting picked up by his sister in about an hour and a half. If we wait she can give us a ride into town too. I find a number on guthook for a trail angel in town and send a text into the void.
A small old man is walking down the bright road towards us. He’s wearing cropped wranglers with a wallet chain and a faded new hampshire t-shirt with an eagle on it that says live free or die. A jeep ball cap shades a kindly face. In his hand is a rolled up green pendleton shirt.
“Can I join ya here?” He says, when he reaches the table. He pulls out a chair and plops himself down, sets the pendleton next to the spent pizza boxes. “Name’s Frank,” he says. “I come from the bar. I’m a little drunk. Had a bike but it got a flat tire, so I dropped it in the brushes and I’m walkin home.”
He proceeds go tell us many things. Places he’s lived, jobs he’s had. “Wages used to be five cents an hour. Bought a car for fifteen dollars!” And “I can find something wrong with just about anyplace. First come here when I was eight years old. Tried lots of other places over the years but they always fell short. Don’t like this place neither but I always end up back here.” He offers us his house. “If you don’t get a ride, just walk down this road until you’re in the woods and holler Frank you bastard! I don’t got much but you’re welcome to stay with me.” Eventually Frank announces he better be goin down the road, gathers himself up and heads off, walking slowly on the empty blacktop.
We all spread our sleeping pads on the woodchips in the shade under the palo verde tree and curl on our sides, let smooth brain take over. I’m just about asleep when a huge yellow jeep pulls up.
“You order an uber?” Shouts Jeff, the man driving. It’s the husband of the trail angel I texted! We’re saved!
Thirty minutes later I’m standing in the shower in our motel room in Kearney, letting the day wash away. We didn’t plan to be in town again so soon, but I’m stoked about it. Tomorrow we’ll head back into the heat.
Day 30 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 $13,350, 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!