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.
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.
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.
I didn’t sleep very well last night, with the lightning, thunder, accompanying peacock screams and Noodle knocking things over and kicking at the bunkhouse door. Have you heard a peacock scream? It’s an unsettling mix of the insistent meow of a very large cat and a crying baby. And when one starts, they all join in.
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.
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.’
This morning, I managed to finish the climb I started yesterday. The reward was a beautiful close up of the Four Peaks for which the Wilderness is named, which was a striking change from the hilly scenery for a stunning minute.
Last night I had some of the best sleep I’ve ever had on trail. So good I did not hear whatever medium sized animal visited my campsite to poop right next to the door of my tent. I’m sure I’ve done my business next to some poor creature’s forest home, so it’s probably cosmic payback.