Day 30: Giving In

March 18, 2020
Miles: 495.3 – 496.7

I was really hoping to be in a better head space this morning. I woke up grumpy, cold, and with a swollen right shin. I sat in my tent for a long time going back and forth with myself about whether I should call it quits or try to push on with an injured leg amid the beginnings of a pandemic. I stared at my phone for a long time before I finally hit send on a bail-out call to Hike On.

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Day 29: Losing Steam

Date: March 17, 2020
Miles: 473.3 – 495.3

Hike On and I had a parting conversation over rehydrated breakfast this morning. He had only intended to stay a couple nights out and was heading back to the Pine trailhead where his camper and a couple gin and tonics would be waiting for him this afternoon. He was enjoying an extended stay in Arizona, just driving, hiking and camping wherever he felt like it. I envied his nomadic opportunity. Before I left, he gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I got stuck or needed a ride into town. I doubted I would, but I sincerely thanked him for being kind, and such good company.

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Day 27 & 28: Pine & Beyond

Dates : March 15 and 16, 2020
Miles: 461.1 – 473.3

It was so nice to spend some time with other hikers in Payson, and they were generous enough to let me stay in their hotel room for an evening and tag along for a resupply run. I learned that they are a group operating under the auspices of an effort called The Push Beyond in an attempt to finish the Great Western Loop, a 7,000 mile trek that pieces together several long trails in the American West and sounds insane. I marveled for a moment at their willingness to commit to such punishment for such a long period of time, but then set my sights on a more attainable goal in the moment…a hot shower.

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Day 26: Moving On

Date: March 14, 2020
Miles: The Ranch to Payson – 0 Trail Miles

I woke up to the biggest patches of blue sky that I have seen in days…hallelujah! I waited patiently (not really) for MaryAnn to appear from her home so I could get her assessment of whether she would be able to drive the one road out of the ranch and deliver me to Payson, the nearest town. I knew that it would take a long time for the sun to dry out the land considering how much rain had fallen in the last week, but I grasped at a glimmer of hope that maybe there would be a chance. Nope. It was still too wet. But another opportunity soon presented itself.

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Day 23: Floating the AZT

Date: March 11, 2020

Miles: 404.9 – 431.9

Rain came down hard all night and the wind gusts wouldn’t let up. I had trouble sleeping, worried about the leaks and whether I staked the tent well enough to withstand the blasts. I gave up on shut eye around 4 am and did as much as I could to get ready without having to get out of my quilt. Eventually, I had to get out and just get the pain of the cold smacks of rain to the face over with. Nothing wakes you up faster, except maybe the sound of a pet getting ready to throw up in the middle of the night.

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Day 22: Mazatzal Mountains

Date: March 10, 2020

Miles: 380.5 – 404.9

Today I learned that a friend died. He had always been a big supporter of my adventures and because of him I have accumulated a collection of pocket knives and pepper sprays. He wanted to make sure I could defend myself. He taught me to shoot in his makeshift firing range. He was a father figure in certain ways. He had a lot of his own adventures and I truly enjoyed hearing about them. I felt this loss in my gut.

So I let my tears flow as I hiked. It was easy to grieve in the raw spaciousness of the wilderness. There was no one there to say hush. The mountains absorbed all of my sadness and said, ‘don’t worry, we can handle it all. Let it go.’

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