Thursday, September 13, 2007

Arizona Trail journal December 24, 2006



I am sitting in a dry creek bed a mile south of Interstate 10. I took a road walk route not listed in the Dave Hicks' GPS coordinate route or described in the guidebook. Nonetheless, on a dirt ranch road heading north, I saw, off road, nowhere near a trail, a carsonite AZT post with an arrow pointing west.

Highlights since leaving Kentucky Camp:

Right when I left I walked through a snowstorm -- wet, heavy, Illinoisan flakes. It accumulated about two inches. Got some great snowy pics of the Santa Ritas draped in snow and low clouds. Adversity has its rewards.

Then 12 hours under my tarp, dripping snow from the tree above, a steady, gentle, but always surprising background noise.

Sunny and cool yesterday. Took a long break to dry tarp, shoes, socks, sleeping bag, on a grassy saddle with great views -- south to the ever-present Mt. Wrightson, west to the foothills of the Santa Ritas, east to the Empire mountains, and north to my next sky island, the Rincons. Nearby all rolling golden fields of long grasses. Reminded me of my beloved Harlem Hills Prairie back home. [postscript: the rolling grassy fields also reminded me of a popular background image of a green grass hill and blue sky used on Microsoft desktops. Nerdy note.]

I got off the trail with a bushwack up Oak Tree Canyon to a fenceline. I jumped fence and continued north along a fence line road. Great! No thorns and plenty of great views.
Followed washes and bushwacked over a hill to FR 231. Then, around dusk I veered to Hwy. 83 for a sunset road walk. I felt like an Eagles song:

"On a dark desert highway

Cool wind in my hair

Warm smell of Calitas

Rising up through the air"

Whenever I hear that song I think of Around the Bend, who asked, "What the hell is Calitas?" at Rusty's Hard Time Hollow on the Appalachian Trail. That was the same night we all gave each other foot rubs with olive oil. It was one of my favorite experiences of the entire AT thru-hike.

The Empire Mts. at sunset,. The Rincons pink and imposing off to the north. Thw white stripe of the highway my nighttime guide. Step off to the brush for the occasional car. Lights go on in hillside houses. Someone way up high has a huge lit wreath. But out here the stars shine brighter. The moon, a mere sliver, appears briefly early evening.

Twin Tanks. Water. A fire ring. A flat spot. Half a mile off the highway. Nothing but sand, prickly pear and thorny scrub. Coyote howl in the distance. Nearby a dog answers its wilder cousin.
This morning another mile on Hwy. 83, then about three miles on the Old Sonoita Hwy., then a right onto a dirt track to a dry creek bed. Present. Here. I got phone reception for the first time and called my folks, Esther, and Dave (to thank him profusely for the GPS unit and entered coordinates, which have saved my ass countless times). I've got about a mile to the interstate, then another mile or two, hopefully, to a trailhead.

Here's my routine out here. I get up around 7 a.m., take care of bidness, then re-start, re-kindle a fire for coffee. I read and get warm, take my time. I don't get started until about 10 a.m. I hike until 1 or 2, then take another 1-2 hour break to dry gear, write, cook oatmeal (too heavy, as it turns out, for me to eat for breakfast. I usually eat a candy bar or two instead.)

I then hike until dark or the next water spot, pick a flat spot to lay down my bivy and bag, gather firewood, cook dinner, meditate by fire, escape to warmth of sleeping bag. It's too cold at night to do many tactile tasks like write or read.

"[P]eople who consider themselves to be wise are often indecisive when command is called for and rebellious when they are called upon to obey. They are ashamed to give orders and consider it dishonorable to receive them. Don't ever be that way." Paulo Coelho, "The Pilgrimage" (218)

Sad to say. This describes me.

"If I lay here

If I just lay here

Would you lie with me

And just forget the world?
Forget what we're told

Before we get too old

Show me a garden

that's bursting into life"--Snow Patrol, "Chasing Cars"

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