Monday, May 13, 2019

Chapter 1: A Dream, or Goal, and the Idiotic Process: Greer to South Rim

Chapter 1: A Dream, or Goal, and the Idiotic Process
Greer to South Rim


























A static line is consistently nonexistent. Only an interaction within wavelengths, randomness within collisions, a bobbing equilibrium, blipping and kissing these trails, a staggering ride through eternity. Yet, we try to put an order to the math, numerically organizing our chaos, just to slide along our uncomfort zone. This is so tiring I need a nap. Just to drift into nothing, like a feather of insignificant gossamer. This need of seeking out a semblance when things are unexplainable only to fool ourselves with a false sense of security is somewhat baffling to me. 

Maybe it all is in the senses. The blustery of the chilly Spring day up in the high plateaus brought dank to the aspen groves, the air redolent of a northeastern cellar as I stroll on by. My hands tucked into my pockets, my buff flanking my ears, and my hoodies zipped up to fend off the relentless wind; I am conscious of my sensual freedoms. My toes nip with cold from soggy meadows and my nose gloomily perks up with those dank aspen leaves, the mulch a potent herb over a cold boil. My eyes water and I feel I am alive.

The days drift but I am hindered not by my senses being entranced by my world around me rather my racing mind. I only wish the wind would flurry through me and roar louder. I think, I did have something occur to me. I cannot fool it. I tasted something consciously free last summer and whatever it was is gone. But really, something changed. In the distance I can pinpoint describe to you what I am seeing but even a stalwart visual changes over time. Whether by heat rays, natural catastrophes, my own blurring vision, or simply utter ignorance, let alone a communication breakdown. We are not all on the same page, nevertheless, I am only concerned with my own leaflets within the bindings. 

I don’t think the notion of being consciously free even crossed my mind when I first dreamt of wandering so many moons ago, let alone on my first step on a long distant trail. Emotionally voided is probably where and what my mind drove for. All of this, imperceptible to my reality, what was happening around me, a study in alcohol at one point. Off and on, I undulated in pain as an alcoholist. I studied it rather than indulged in it in order to stave off fruition of a dream and the blessing of some sort of toilsome freedom. And there on the Salar de Coipasa in western Bolivia last summer I found both, emotionally and consciously free, a level, a condition of being human that seemed to blend in with impermanence, riding the god damn wave. I had not a fleeting high we usually associate synergy with, rather an elevated state. At that exact moment I was guilt free and finally living the actual life of years of inner turmoil, painful vacillations of emotional swirls and a chaotic intellect torn between the normal and the wild, or actualizing a primal instinct, a natural wonder, a blooming gut unfolding inside of me to explore the world and to shelve all fear and timidity apart. I wasn’t aching then, for I was thriving. For the first time in my life, I had been free.

What better place to experience this freedom of nothing, this blank existence, a shroud of an endless hole in a place as vast, empty, and voluminous as the Altiplano. The naked veneer of mineral and salt, ancient volcanoes melting, the whole world a smeared palette, life begat a vacuum where I was being hurled in a state of perpetual emptiness and I crossed over into the essence.

If I could carry this I would, and although I am free I am condemned by it yet I do not carry it. I walk in consternation at times, laden with guilt. Yet this hike I am on now is a freedom from everyday drudgery, the facade of actuality, the inconvenience of rigmorale. One step in front of the other, then back to work. Rinse, lather, repeat: the Shampoo Effect. I always thought I would leave when and if I’ve nobody left. I mean, I believed this event would occur. I waited. Far from being patient, stirring and lurking within society charming idiots with my smile and my shoulders of leadership. I used to stare up at Orion and his glittering shoulders. He held up the sky while mine only punctured the floor burrowing deeper and deeper. Release me, I thought. Constantly. 

The last one...a morbid thought...’If I’ve nobody left’...I’m not sure how to elaborate that one. It’s holding on to a ridiculous dream, one that doesn’t make sense. Nobody left, like no one to miss me or need me or to care for, like all is done, or my freedom is no longer on anyone else’s hands...that’s when I’d go. 

I still don’t know what that means. Because I am completely aware that is absurd and completely against any idea or notion of what I know or would think I would do. It’s a selfish and self-indulging thing that has no relevance to real life. It’s imaginary, childlike, a fairy tale that doesn’t take on the form of the present. Like an alternate universe. Or else, I am a coward. How else do I explain it. But, it’s there. Occasionally popping up in my brain or heart, a whim of fantasy, of the infinitely lonesome vagabond.

Chasing the coyotes, I’ve got worlds to run. I am feverish, pursuing the tapered point of a bushy tail of the middle pack, signifying the balance of a controlled beast. Because my focus is on the tail. I thrash through the gambel oak, one way, then another. The branches resist and poke further in as the leaves have yet to unfold. The radar of my instincts gouging the way through something complicated, while my coyote instincts are infantile. I am clumsy, but getting faster, my eyes zoomed in on what I am relentlessly pursuing; my heart is fusing over into another realm. The smaller game trails weave in and out of the thick brush, the  few crusty leaves of the gambel oak clinging on to the last season of growth, already dead, like faded scars. The coyotes whack the sharp branches cascading the brown bristled leaves within a tunnel of brush. Somehow I am able to hollow out a path behind coyotes, trampling. My clumsiness relinquishes but a labyrinth grove of dwarf aspen trips my gut up, confuses me. I lose tail of the middle pack; my mind catches up, I am not animal then.

Suddenly a clearing and I gain ground. My stride opens in a tall length. And my unobstructed path, my stride within the bare slopes, pushes the pack further, quicker into the next thicket. They don’t trust me yet. Yet, I see what the coyotes are focused on—-something further up ahead, within another thicket, something I cannot see but I know it is there. Whatever it is, I feel it more than I see it. I want whatever more than the coyotes can ever wildly want. I feel competitive, arrogant, breaking from the herd of the mind. A social instinct fractures because I am hungrier.

Still I am behind three of them, zigzagging chaotically yet seemingly fluid through the pokey brush. At a fork, one coyote, a lead one, dashed off to the right, diverging to what I have known as to where people are to inhabit. I go the other way, chasing the other lead coyote, hankled by a reactive and unconcious movement, a fissure from my social instinct. Saliva now frothing around my jowls, I crease a furrow in my brow, I hunch further inward and narrow in on the hunt, my shoulders lurched, my hackles up. I made the choice: coyote not people.

I awake, up on the Rim, from a lunchtime quick nap and in a spontaneous thought, my coming-to, my random human mind is still there and I am befuddled by the whole 'lone wolf' expression. It simply isn't true, I think. The coyote, now, so similar to humans yet so vastly different--- to herd or not to herd. That is the question. My eyes still groggy, I spy on a wild horse herd from the heights of the bluff, not with any particular interest, no hunger pangs or urge to kill, nothing is triggered. I am lingering insouciantly up on the smallish and wallish rampart reading the contours of the land. The heat waves of the faraway distance high desert confuse me yet tantalize me, while the bends in the earth refresh me, make me thirsty; I see where water travels, erodes despite the patchy thick forest. Most of all, I am listening to the lament of the wind, hearing the moan of nature. It’s not always like this, but it is what’s left. All this dream world babble is code for the ultimate question: Just what the fuck am I?

A horse bellows down below me in the pasture. Burnt and laid low in a large expanse with undulating cover, the grass-green meadow is a place of refuge. Food, water, protection: the herd. At least until everything dries up. I spot a lonesome horse hobbling towards the circled main group about a hundred yards out. Long, dark tails flicker indifferently of the close-knitted band. I suddenly feel an immense sadness. A lone tear drizzles from an eye down my cheek and drowns in my scraggly beard. I am a fucking cow, just like everybody else. What shame I feel watching that lonely horse hobble back to the group. And I thought—no, I believed I had the pluck to leave with no strings attached. But isn’t that a guitar that cannot be strummed? The existence of a guitar is when it is made, the essence, now, when it is played.

I am injured. Not from the sympathy, nor any physically agonizing pain, no, no no no—-it’s the soul that’s injured, my spirit in this blasted muck. Hobbling back, head down, I feel what that horse feels. Connection lost, humiliation, dejectedly defeated. I’ve lost enthusiasm: people not coyote.

I gather up the gall to move forward. The sweet smell of ponderosa, vanilla and butterscotch, emanate from the puzzled jigsaw of bark. Air in my head, I am light. I found a drainage to walk up following a stamped out horse path. As soothing as my steps sounded the forest of ponderosa pushed me towards a window sill with a fresh apple pie atop. I couldn’t resist, as I floated through. Nevertheless, I walked on in guilt, ashamed for who I am which I knew not. Despite the seemingly insufferable pain the hobbled horse appeared to be in, I could not escape my hobbled thoughts and ridiculously feel worse, that this dream that has become idiotic. I am afraid, but I found solace in this mundane ponderosa forest up on the Mogollon Rim. I just felt faraway, of a place where I didn’t have to be me, anyone else, or anything. I was a part of the landscape, insignificant, sewn together within nature to a stitch that held the semblance of mystery together. Nature didn’t care. That was my true solace. I didn’t have to be part of the herd. Time to not dwell on my hobbled thoughts, a space to feel a loss with others or the guilt associated with it. And with time, the steps continued, the places changed, and I forgot about the wild horse.

Soon, I was under the Rim. I followed the pulse of the venous trail weaving into gullies and over shoulder juts. The rim above looked jagged and messy. The blood of red sandstone below the rim and along the route exhibited a core. Somewhere along the Rim, perhaps under and inside, a heart pumped. Of course I am being slightly poetic. Mainly, you can feel the Mogollon Rim, a divisive end between geologic features. The presence of the past pulses through this wide landscape, not quite the romantic dream of connection I sought, but if I could be a giant I would slide a barstool up to the bar of the Rim and slug a beer and smell the essence. 

I wakened to the pungent smell of elk urine the next night, now atop the Rim permanently for now. My eyes popped open from smell, my olfactory senses telling the brain an animal stood near by. Immediately I knew the smell of elk. I kept still to not startle the number out there. Trampled or not, I wanted to be a part of them even for a split pissy second. The deep whiff of salt and sour, alkaline, brought me back to the Altiplano. Despite all this gunk I made a plan at that epiphany. Living and thriving ‘out there’ is as real as that elk piss. This Winter changed me, however. The pull of the opposite life I crave demanded I be present. Yet, the seed was planted. 

Right now, right here, surrounded amid a thick air of elk piss, enveloped under a dark and moonless night, I am on a journey that will span into the next decade. I am doing it the way I feel I need to do—-maintaining relationships and connectivity, and not abandoning every last godforesaken one of you. All those things I said when I was young, I meant it. My gall is apathetic anymore to whatever mumblings are around. I am no longer brave only when I drink. If I do not interpret what is inside of me by the natural world I will stay holed up forever. But the Altiplano changed that. The static line I had lingered over is a severe depression. I crossed over and I ain’t turning back. The poles dictate my balance.

The smell of rain and a prescribed fire mixed into miles. Ominously, clouds ranged in like a lazy, thundering herd of grazing cattle. Smothering the land, I moved quicker than the sky pattern. I kept walking, driving, seeking a free consciousness smothered under clouds. How idiotic a goal! I hearkened my senses to forge my dreams. Maybe I understand through my nose, acknowledge with my eyes, and obstinately refuse with my ears. And how do I taste? I interpret with my taste. I tasted that bitter elk piss. No matter the alkalinity I see that window I saw. From my will I acknowledge my dream is now my goal. And I will fall over clumsily to attain it.

Rain sat in Flagstaff for a few days. I trotted over to a bar, a dark and dank bar. A drunk Navajo blathered about incoherently and I sat quietly listening to him. We chatted and laughed about languages, in particular how ridiculous the English language is. ‘Seek’ and ‘sought...’ fuckin weird, no? A biker swilled like a pirate and acted like an asshole, a disheveled student slunk on a tall table celebrating another drink as he was to graduate the next day. A yuppie ordered a coffee with cream. I am out back into another wild realm. My thoughts can save the world but I am not in the mood. Yet, when the bartender cut off the Navajo I scoffed and walked out with him. On the street, I parted ways and hoofed it under pouring rain. When I am in the mood, I will be gone regardless of how condemned I will be of my own guilt and of who I have left who may bestow my freedom. In the end, it is all ridiculous, simply me the most of all.

The rain persisted. Heavily shrouded in clouds the San Francisco Peaks appeared an unending ascending range, like an ominous volcano harboring evermore altitudinous flanks above. I followed fresh bear track and studied the meandering route scouting what the bear was smelling or eluding or touching. Then, the tracks pushed deeper through the soft snow and scrounged up fresh matter of mud. The bear had heard me and started to run. I tracked his stride envisioning the bear breathing only a tad effortlessly, unaffected by the weather or the time of day, or me, and affected only by his instinct for isolation.

The storms brought out different animal movements not normally associated with my being on foot. Lone coyotes snuck oddly close by, the cows hung underneath a juniper canopy of their own, and deer huddled close together. But the elk, they acted the same, indifferent to the dampness. Two enormous cells split the sky. Up on the plateau I could see a mega-thunderhead darkening the mountains to the south. To the immediate northwest, and the direction I needed to go, curtains of rain hung. I popped my shelter up not only to wait out the impending rain but to dry off what precipitation had lingered from last night. If the rain hit I had shelter. If the rain didn’t, I had a dry shelter. Either way, I felt secure. But above me an emptiness appeared, a vacuum of sorts splitting the cells into a vee. I sat on a flat yet sharp piece of dolomite, elbows on my knees and my hands on my chin, waiting. A large beetle shaped like the old racist syrup bottles wandered between my shoes. I observed the beetle pick over whatever laid in its path—-sprigs of grass and sage, fragments of paintbrush, specks of bark, and speckles of endless red dirt. I looked closer at the 6 oddly shaped legs. The legs splintered at 90 degrees and appeared stiffly floppy. Yet the beetle climbed over whatever it came upon. Diligently the beetle scoured the tiny plot it meandered in. Suddenly, tiny clumps of dirt flung out from under a tiny patch of grass near the weaving path. From underneath a grassy roof, another beetle, a tad smaller than the other one, burrowed under the clump of grass. I thought maybe this beetle sought coverage from looming rain, like I was witnessing a behavior, that even all animals and insect have some sort of emotion, like fear, during certain climatic events. I mean, that’s what I was doing. The larger beetle clambered on whiling away its picking and I wondered if that beetle could hear, or sense, or whatever of the other beetle. Not even one inclination for me to consider these beetles had any one type of emotional intuition. The one digging backed out of its hole and continued on, clearly unaffected by the incoming weather. Both beetles passed each other like ships in the night except without any longing for connection. 

I sprang up and rushed over to my tarp. I giggled a bit, out loud to myself, broke down my tarp, packed up, and hiked onward towards the oozing clouds stacked with a towering thunderhead. I topped out at a barren plateau and the sky, all around me, changed. I trudged on exhilarated with the morphing world around me. I passed under strung out power lines from metal towers. The electricity zapped the air loudly, sizzling because the rain drizzled onto the lines. Under these towers and power lines my pinky and ring finger, nestled under the corked handle, tingled every time each carbon fiber trekking pole tapped the damp ground. I felt the static jolt at every stride and I persistently indulged the more so by keeping my fingers on the pole longer at every jolt. I even stopped, right out under and in the middle, and felt the static current vibrate and tingle my fingers. Muscles in my forearm quivered as the current ran through my nerves. Nothing seemed certain to me at the moment, except my wonder, a wonder I hoped would never change.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Preface of Whatever: Columbus to Greer

The Preface of Whatever:

Columbus NM to Greer AZ (~350m)





I want to walk slow. Slowly enough to process a ramble, to define a curve rather than a structural straight line, let alone to work out the kinks. Despite my pasty legs, which is unusual, this seems not to be physical. After all, the last long distance trek was merely 5 months ago. A hangover of sorts; I’m slow to think, as if things are so drawn out time appears deadened, numb to the stifling and penetrating wind out here. For it blows, blows enough to simply forget yet churn the cogs. Like an equation I cannot solve I must find the missing constant first.

I want to be nice to myself, and this is the only place I feel tranquility. Away from it all, the normal, the civilized, the normalcy and the standard; the way we are supposed to do things. I will not neglect what it means to be human. This is where I feel free. I want to walk slow, slowly free, away from you. The grind, the pain and self-inflicted torture, the erosion...


My pace is determinate of my interpretation, my understanding of a problem, of a landscape, or my immersion in your world. A dash-dive turn into the Chihuahuan desert and I am roaming, moving decidedly efficient through the greasewood maneuvering my torso to avoid the tentacles of the ocotillo. I follow random washes discerning the relationship of dirt and seldom-seen water, of what ravages rock. Automatically I am seeking flow, forgiveness. Funny, sometimes what is distinctly barren is full of a purpose and goals, something from deep within, a radar of clarity, blipping in unison with a choppy heart, a tractor beam through muck. Then, I pull a few green sprigs off of a mesquite and rub the sprigs between two fingers. I am expecting a refreshing and sweet desert smell, yet as I blend my fingers and the crushed sprigs I smell shit crescenting over the aroma of the mesquite. It is a fusion of worlds that brings me back to me, to what is a reality in my life, the realness of me.

That night I slept near a windmill, the wind chime of isolation, the harp of the desert. Nothing was around me but rock, shrubs, spiky cacti, and emptiness. I made it, this long road. I hurt; I am at the point that the only one I want to thank is myself. I am grateful for people, but I don’t owe anyone shit. This tirade is not about the duration of 5 months rather than what filled the 5 months. I had a dream that night. Freediving about 100 yards offshore, I dove deeper through shades of deep blue. I sought something in the blue black darkness. I encountered a shadow, a silhouette of a shark. Afraid and exhilarated, I felt the palpability of unknowing, the security within a darkness. I know, whatever journey I am on, I will test my soul.


There is so much imperfection in attaining balance. I feel that needs to be said out loud. The storms rolling in only dissipating curtains of drizzle that taunt a sun-scorched plain, or the bees unabashedly diving in like a kamakazi pilot into the tubs and troughs of water merely to flounder in failure for the hive. Both show a fervency, a panic in nature of an entity obsessed. Flaws pockmark our skin less than what is scarred on the inside, of what scratches and pokes through from underside of skin, of what boils the marrow free from the innards of bone. Only in dry and aged wrinkles shall I flood the system. More time outside in the wild, under the baking sun, shall I wear out my welcome, shall I shed this fucking skin. Maybe volume is key. Then again, only more bees will drown fruitless in a tub of water spinning in circles from the frantic flapping of its iridescent wings. Maybe I am simply looking for a grip to climb out of the trough. 

Would I rather learn from dumb people or smart people? I thought about this at times this last Winter when my job seemed the most important thing in my life. It’s a well-rounded question because both have a useful broadening of information, of carving out an informed experience. However, how can one be unbiased, or non-judgmental, or favoring; objective or subjective. I flatly state that even though I feel it seems a travesty of goodness. Connection can influence what you absorb, while the contrary can reject an opportunity to learn. I think an unencumbered isolation is as big an affect as an impressionable immersion. There’s a point here: I’m nicer when I’m in the wilderness, and more slyly ornery when I’m with people. I connect with people when I am in the wilderness. I am objective when I am in nature. I do not do well otherwise. And I say this with trembling words: this has never been about you; this has been about me.

In life consequences sometimes seem a flippant act based off mood and not even as much as the rules we are supposed to live by, that are constructed on what’s fair. I want to surround myself with smart people but is there any empathy I can exert to even try to achieve everyone’s expectations. I’m beginning to think that if leadership isn’t revolved about being in the moment when the ego is gone, when the team is foremost, then the act alone of being a leader is simply an egotistical choice. In the moment, I’m the one you want; long term, find a flunkey, cater to the sycophant. Adapt and solve, maneuver and figure the situation out on the fly; fight. Therein lies the consequences I seek, that matter. In nature I find vitality through these consequences that I cannot find elsewhere. What did I learn this Winter from your world? I just want to be in nature even more so.

In the end, I want to learn from good people more so than successful people. After all, success is only relevant. Being significant, on the other hand, that is what is truly impactful. Longevity, loyalty, pillars, all traits I admire that I believe I have traces of. But being good, now, I may not have much of that. To blend in sometimes a charade must be played. I came to a mountain spring running full like the cool refreshing water is always there. Up high on the crest a spring spews water, a head water, and begins a fluid life. Where do you go? When do you end? What wash, where the rock and grit pile up? Where do you go underground or dry up? Why do you define such beauty so simply? Yet you define the whole landscape leaving an indelible impression. Pleasant to the ears the rush, tantalizing and shimmering to the eyes a thrill, crisp and pure the taste of sustenance, and the baptismal cleansing and icy touch the reminder. But the power, almost unknown, unfathomable, imperceptible to my eyes to ascertain any form of semblance.

Jokes aside and a depressive rant if you will, I am not saving the world. I merely am being who I am. Despite the mask in which a self-hatred may be possessed. However I feel the necessity, I understand sometimes you have got to sacrifice beliefs, exercise sensibility, and shelve the ego to do what you have to do in order to do what you love to do or how you choose to live. Furthermore, in holding my stance, I am doing what I want to do.


This delicate cycle emerges familiarly to me. I touch this interstitial space, tip toeing an intangible line that I appear acceptable. Yet I cannot wait shred my shins through thorny locust shrubs, through overgrown paths. Like a yearly rite of passage I morph and shed whatever suit or hat I had been wearing. A smile appears on my face, the heart opens up, as a menthol tingling on the legs shiver gleefully. This morphing, from the thorn thrashing, from my trodding progress feels seemingly contradictory, a running in circles of sorts, these two worlds I stride over in and out, one wholly immersed and of an act of utter self, from a mongoloid to a human, a glutton for growth and punishment, a Sisyphusian contradiction; ultimately, the effort is worth it, this shedding, molting, to bring value to my life, purpose. This magnetic essence of being feels greater than my existence, this symbolism of self and societal rebellion. I am me, yet I am not you or me. I am always was, here and now.

One mid-morning I walked upon a cow pond.  I didn’t mean to scare the 5 ducks waddling in the pond, but my presence alone did. I decided to take a break. I relaxed and laid back on my backpack. The same ducks whooshed in above my head sounding like an airplane with their wings in the gliding position. I observed them circle over and over in concentric circles that started wide and high and eventually narrowed in to a tighter circle. I could tell the ducks were scoping the scene out, feeling the safeness of the pond they wanted to wade in. Suddenly, they plunged in and splash-landed. I instantly thought about some decisions this past Winter, circling high and wide, observing, a warning or threat, or positive encounter, feeling I was being cautious, and sometimes plunging in carelessly, or a tad rash, however, whatever plunge occurred I had good intentions. I question the source and if this plunging was instinctual, essential to me. Nevertheless, I circled in a probably splashed landed clumsily rather than the smooth hydroplaning of the 5 ducks.

Something darted blurringly off to my left in the oak thicket. I quickly stopped to investigate and saw nothing. Two steps later a cougar leapt out in front of me and dashed up into another thicket. Less than two hours later after tussling through mangled trail strewn with logs and thorny shrubs I startled a black bear. He grunted and huffed really loud that signifies he was pissed. We both were getting back up to the crest, trudging through a fire-scarred hillside. He turned towards me and held his ground. I did the same. I had no choice. I stood up on a large fallen tree to look imposing to the large bear. I yelled at him as he huffed back. Amidst a stand off, he took towards me and stopped quickly. A bluff, I yelled back and circled around him to give a wide berth. But I let my stance be known.

I love these old mountains. The fire scarring, the wilds, the isolation, the howling and melodious wind, the cantankerous history; the old in them, that is what I love, this Black Divide.

But the details didn’t elude me while covering rugged land through the Gila Wilderness. A wild spirit loomed, heavy in this Spring after a heavy Winter. Lonesome and wild, the Gila was perfect. Tall ponderosa forests accompanied me most of the day with decent trail weaving and undulating through random canyons and broad parks. Three passes afforded me some views but the lizard trees brought me the most joy. Seemingly ancient and petrified alligator junipers, large and robust perching racks, housed scrambling lizards. Through fissures lizards would scramble and find a hideaway, a maze underneath the skin, protection and safety; no one really knows what is on the inside.


A few days later, deep snow lingered on the Mogollon Crest. I trudged through some hip deep postholes which only tingled my shredded legs from overgrown and thorny paths. I even fell into a trapdoor tree well. I swam with my legs and reached for some low lying branches. I managed to get out and my adrenaline stayed off the cold. The wind howled screechingly through dead totems as I molted time worn. Lady bugs in the snow, slowly prancing over pleated aretes where the sun has affected the crystals, I spotted the ubiquitous ladybugs. The lovers all kept me company at various mental anguishes, at indeterminate exertions that broke me free of my mind and drive. ‘Hey, lover...why are you up here.’ 

‘For me.’

A statement, flat out. I want to walk slow. Slowly enough to process a ramble, to define a curve rather than a structural straight line, let alone to work out the kinks. Wherever I am headed I want to do what I want to do, how I want to do it, and when I want to do it. The only influence I want is me, and nature. That’s the connection I crave. And I know what the constant is in the insolvable equation. 


What I am doing is conceptual, my freedom. I built a loose plan and I will plan each section I walk based off difficulty, wildness, preference, scenic value, curiosity, and accessibility. Like road trip, free roaming, yet on foot, I will have my feet describe a route rather than a name. This is all mine, where I want to go, and my intimate knowledge of the wide West coupled with my time given off I will explore at my fancy and whim, my own compass, simply walking and writing and thinking. 


I spotted a bobcat up on a green and lonesome mesa dashing through the thick alligator juniper stands. Purple darkness draped the lingering day from my high and flat vantage point. I slept comfortably on a hard and cobble ground understanding the only thing greater than my drive, my anti-conformity, is my curiosity and my urge to roam.

Through the Blue Range Primitive Area, old west style trails, everything was cobbly and thorny. Old corrals still stood albeit crooked and slanting, rickety. Tough cows roamed these trails, a tumble breed roving far and wide here. Along the Blue River I followed fresh bear tracks, although no ordinary bear tracks. A large bear, the left forefoot left a mangled mark. Facing inward, drag marks left a trace in front of the big paw after each stride. The Blue Range essence is survival. This rough country, these animals, the weathered folks, all emblematic of survival. As is with Raspberry Basin. Fire ravaged and scorn, life tries to pursue an existence in a very vulnerable place.

On the Highline beneath the Mogollon Rim, in and out of drainages and up and over knolls or shoulders, undoubtedly I had been one of the first, if not the first, to cross that trail since last late Fall or early Winter. I found elk sheds, even a full set, sticky and varnished brown, probably worth a pretty penny. I dodged storms all day, in which curtains of a dark smeared sky loomed in the distance. From whatever random source I stayed relatively dry. I could not help but recall the dark phase I had been in, that hollow apartment, that paincave. Above me, sunlight swirled, and in the distance a storm blurred a contorted landscape.



Steeply up into Bear Wallow I attained the Mogollon Rim again. Hail pelted on my umbrella as I hunched knelt beneath a girthy ponderosa, the chilly wind cooling me off from the sweat earned from the 2000ft ascent. I plunged down Schell Canyon and into the Bear Wallow. The name implied a vortex, a funneling of emptiness, a blank stare. Flood damage scarred the canyons gouging out a deep creek channel with fragile banks and occasionally a log jam way above the banks barricaded the way down. Tall and slender pines reached for the skies from a inverted scarp, a pit. Thunder boomed above and echoed in a spiraling reverberation of hollow walls and slopes. Inside this wallow felt to be in a cavern with a thunderous heartbeat; introspection.

All this effort recently, a choice not of my own necessity but to go slow rather than of the terrain. My medicine, my evolvement, my metamorphosis; it is here. For me; not you, not I, but for me, for the was, and for the fucking ride forward.













Sunday, October 28, 2018

Mogollon Rim Trail

The Mogollon Rim Trail





Intro: The Mogollon Rim 

The Mogollon Rim is an enormous geologic feature roughly from the Mogollon Mountains in western New Mexico to Seligman, Arizona. Ending points of this escarpment seems to be fairly vague but the rim is pretty well contained in the parameters above through central Arizona. However, the rim acts as a long east-west line with a northwest-southeast trajectory and boundary of the Colorado Plateau to the north and the Madrean Sky Islands and deserts to the south. Because of the divisive nature of the Mogollon Rim the landscape and the flora and fauna are diverse. On the top of the rim, which ranges from 6500ft to over 11000ft, the area reeks of the Rocky Mountains. Huge herds of elk with the bulls having immense antlers roam the grassy meadows, the elk bugle into frosty Fall air sheering the silence with a sing-song trance, the aspen shiver and tingle in the breeze, and the air chill and sink in the meadows. Sunsets are blazingly stunning and the grassy plains to the north are pockmarked with cinder cones and sweeping views. Wild horses roam the rim in the higher country, a large population of bear roam wide, and even the occasional howl of a Mexican lobo persists and cuts through the thick night blackness of air. Below the rim, which hovers roughly between 4000ft and 6000ft, with an occasional uplift to 8000ft, the escarpment is rough country full of overgrown trails, spiny and pokey brush shred the hiker, and water can be a scarce commodity for the high desert traveler. Most impressive, above and below the rim, is the largest and continuous ponderosa pine forest in the world. The ponderosa smother the central and northern part of the state. Another feature of the rim, and in particular of the people of the rim, is the presence and reality of wildfire. Monsoonal storms flow with ferocity towards the rim, then abruptly erupt high into the cumulonimbus heavens. When the storms hit the rim they are ready to project lightning and spill downpours. In dry years, fire and smoke has dominated the skyline. But the landscape and the people have endured. Being weathered out hear has meaning, with the common presence of fire the Mogollon Rim is the milieu of the rim people. 

The Route: The Mogollon Rim Trail

The MRT is a route in its infancy, a route designed for the hardiest of hikers, for ones seeking a unique experience in a vast landscape interweaving among the Mogollon Rim. Not surprisingly, the concept and route idea spawned from Brett Tucker, an inventor of long distance routes around the wide open Southwest. 

The Mogollon Rim inspired Tucker to create a route that at one point was considered as a possible northern route for his Grand Enchantment Trail. Ultimately, due to land issues, more landscape diversity, and the connection between the two major Southwest cities of Albuquerque and Phoenix he chose the southern route we see today starting/ending in the Superstition Mountains. In fact, the MRT diverges with the GET at Sunflower Mesa on the NM/AZ border.

I have a faint memory of Tucker writing to me about this route many years ago, probably after my Vagabond Loop in 2013. However, in 2016, the MRT was the missing piece for a giant year of hiking for me. I wanted to bookend a PCT nobo and a CDT sobo with the Sky Islands Traverse and the MRT. Unfortunately for me, wear and tear in the form of food poisoning and kidney stones did me in and I had to set aside the hiking plans of the MRT. Ironically enough, the day I decided not to hike further that year, Tucker and Tree passed along the MRT info. I was pretty bummed, but I always knew I would get my chance to tramp the rim. 

Mileage and Termini:

The MRT’s mileage is still not set in concrete. As with most routes, most mileage changes, grows, or seems off. Some of this discrepancy can be from having unintended ambiguous termini. Other ways of mileage and measuring being off is not having on-the-ground field-truthing. Some trail sections, for instance the Highline section, has been rebuilt and engineered to increase the mileage data in that section. The rebuilding of trail in that area will ultimately benefit hiker in the form of easier walking but mileage data may continue to change as more improvements are made. The vetting of the route was done by Tucker himself and/or Tree by either hiking some of the sections piece by piece or by Tucker’s obsessive diligence in scouting over satellite images. The eastern portion of the MRT in the Blue Range Primitive Area and the Bear Wallow Wilderness have yet to be completely vetted on the ground by Tucker, however, a long distance hiker by the name of Bernie hiked intrepidly into these areas with little to no updated info in 2016. His water info proved invaluable.

Insomuch the MRT extends from the Mogollon Mountains in western New Mexico to Cottonwood, Arizona. The eastern terminus can be identified with the Catwalk at the mouth of Whitewater Creek in the western portion of the Mogollon Mountains. Arbitrarily, Lint and I started at the Gila Cliff Dwellings and crossed the whole Mogollon Mountain range. The main reason being so that I could cross a namesake range that eluded me in ‘13 while on the GET due to severe flooding and fire damage. I saw this hike and time as an opportunity to experience that area that could possible tie into the ‘Mogollon theme.’ So, we walked an extra 60m or so to extend our trip to get to Sunflower Mesa where ultimately the MRT becomes completely independent of the GET. 

The western terminus is clearly defined by the Parsons trailhead near the confluence of Sycamore Creek and the Verde River. After enduring the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness one would pop out into a finish line worth seeing, one that makes one feel like they have accomplished something. There is an exception or an extension as well. 14 or so miles from Parsons is the Jail Trailhead bear the Tuzigoot Monument and Dead Horse State Park on the outskirts of the town Cottonwood. 

So, finally I’ll get you some mileage numbers, or at least close to what we actually walked. According to the town guide and GPS waypoints, the MRT from the Catwalk to Parsons trailhead is ~485m. If you extend the hike to Cottonwood, then the mileage is ~500m. We started at the Gila Cliff Dwellings tacking on roughly ~60m, so we tallied ~560 or so miles. Here’s the funny part. Now, if you take into consideration the mileage discrepancy with new trail having been built and for a ‘red line’ on a map not being completely tracked, I think it is fair to say we hiked close to ~570m to ~575m. 

Whew! That appears to be a lot of gibberish, but maybe this will show the user and reader how much goes into a route before it is released to the thru-hiking public.

The Challenge:


A quick note:
This is not a route for a novice hiker. This route in its totality will push you. As of now, the GPS and Town Guide is by invite only. Navigation and route finding skills are a must. Thwacking through fire-ravaged country with little or no trail among thorny and spiky brush or cactus is fairly common. Wading through water, rock hopping, crawling over logs, and dealing with inclement and stormy weather are natural characteristics of this trail. This route is as difficult as the GET, although shorter in length. 

We are not trying to dissuade a hiker, only to be transparent and upfront about the route. As of now, besides Lint and myself, who have thousands upon thousands of miles in shitty conditions, Bernie Krausse is the only other thru-hiker of the MRT, who actually is the first person to do so. He also has a plethora of outdoor knowledge and skills, among thousands of miles under his belt, to have helped him achieve this route.

Any questions on this route, please comment below and I will get back to you, or go to Brett Tucker’s website simblissity.net for further information and updates.



Interwoven Hiking: The Flow


The Mogollon Rim lended a thematic and challenge flow to the MRT overall. Bear with me here as I explain. The landscape provided a major theme in the form of the rim itself. Trails, whether ‘good’ trail or ‘bad’ trail, little used dirt roads, and some cross country, all weaved above and below the rim. Hard, easy, then hard, the route denotes the character of the rim, showing the stability and balance between civilization and wilderness. Where the rim is inhabitable communities thrive and the White Mountain Trail System interlocks the towns. On the eastern and western edges of the route the landscape is very rugged. Extremely rugged would actually be more appropriate, especially with my tendency for hyperbole. However, I’m not doing the Mogollon Rim any justice by selling it short by not being accurate in describing the rugged characteristics of those places. For example, the Blue Range Primitive Area is as wild and rugged as the GET’s section slightly south of the MRT’s route. In fact, even more so. 






You see those black dotted lines on the map that define a ‘trail?’ Yea, those aren’t always in truth anymore. What I think I am most fascinated by the spirit of wilderness is its impermanence, the constant state of change while not being too different than what a particular place actually is. I admire the flexibility and adaptability of these changing places and I am investigatingly curious to read the changes in the form of fire-ravaged land or water erosion, or old corrals, or old maps with outdated dotted lines. 


So, with this in mind, here’s the theme of ‘hard, easy, then hard:’


Having scoured our way through the Blue Range Primitive Area, with a thorough divulgence in the Little Blue Creek area and the surrounding basins and canyons, the Blue River area, including a long ascent up the long tributary of Strayhorse Creek, we plunged into the headwaters of Eagle Creek. We thrashed our way up and down these areas following scarce trail and the occasional cairn probably built many, many years ago. Fire-scarred, brush and plants that thrive in fire disturbed soil posed the thorniest option. There was no way around it; just go through it. Old remnants of a past ranching culture posed in sunken fence rails and rusted barbed wire constructing an old square now lack in rigidity. In its isolation, the Blue Range Primitive Area held herds of elk and bands of coati. Tarantulas crawled in migration to who knows where. Water settled in the deep recesses of slot boxes and flowed down chunky rock bottoms. 

The difficulty continued in the Bear Wallow Wilderness. Although huge pockets and forests of ponderosa pines exist, it is hard to ignore the fire scars of the past. In this instance and our timing, inclement weather greeted us and we had to make an important decision to not delve deeper into an area with a high potential for flash floods, as well as a high chance of hypothermia in the wetness that existed and the temps that persisted. We missed the heart of that wilderness in Bear Wallow, but in the aftermath of the storm and seeing the snow totals, no doubt we made the right session. 





Nevertheless, the route continues up to the high point of the White Mountains at 11400ft in Baldy Peak. (Please be aware that the actual peak is on the San Carlos Indian Reservation and a guide is required to actually summit the peak. The MRT stays on National Forest land just outside the boundary). After the trail goes up and down the east and west forks of the Little Colorado River, the MRT hits the Apache Rail Trail and things become easier. You feel like you can take a big breath and let the legs stride open. You are now in alpine country and huge meadows welcome you with flat walking, aspen tingle in the breeze and a sense of calmness entrance you as you now pick up the pace to 3.5-4 mph versus the 2mph in the most rugged of places in the previous days. Evidence of civilization show you are not alone. Roads and trails are signed, established camp sites entice a wearied hiker, and mountain bikers weave through rolling and groovy singletrack. It felt just a relief to be among the Rim Country and its network of trails and road that bring users together. On a low ridge following trail in thick forests on a chilly morning you almost forget you are so close to the rim proper and above a high desert environment. Besides the obvious abrupt escarpment on the map, the only way to know the rim is near with the locals who refer to ‘The Rim’ as if it’s another person we all know, like a common bond or thread that seams our connection.


Then, you plummet down the rim, as the wind hollows out a vacuum of sound, pulling your person down like a palpable gravity. It’s a gulp of air, the sucking of a wall ominously standing over you, and the collapse of biospheres showing the drastic change between a landscape barrier. The Highline Trail dreamily whips for roughly 60m. The rim dominates above you, hulking over the top of you as you are constantly reminded of an entity that rules an area. In Pine while enjoying a beer, you feel grateful for that fun and easy stretch that pumped you full of oxygen from that sucking wind. Leaving Pine things change again. The rim is omnipresent but the rock is changing becoming more red and sandstone like. 





Instead of being immersed on top of the rim in flat expanses, the route themes towards the bottoms within the towering walls of a canyon. West Clear Creek, although a short difficult jaunt, you are afforded the smooth walls of varnished rock. You wade through the clear water and thrash through willows at about 1m per 45 minutes. It is really hard not to go slower though, as you are caught up in the splendor of the canyon. Up on the mesa, even with open dirt road, the easy is not that going. Bulky volcanic rock clogs the little used dirt roads making for slow go. You have to pump the feet to move quick to maintain a fluid pace. This is hard work, for anyone. Nevertheless, sweeping views reward the traveler. Ever rosier red rock tantalize you as forward progress is slowly attained. Wet Beaver Creek is achieved after a steep and well-engineered descent via old cattle trail. 


Things get good from here and the ‘trail’ becomes ‘hard.’ But the motivation is there. The wildness is there, a deep wilderness, but the scenery is jaw dropping. We took a dip in Dry Beaver Creek and felt completely isolated from everything. In the heart of Red Rock Country most of the trail is red compacted sand with occasional jaunts on pink sandstone under towering turrets and pinnacles. A long and etching descent up Loy Canyon terminates at a narrow saddle separating islands of mesas. 

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness encompasses the character of the MRT. I felt haunted with wildness, like a spirit took control of me. The technical descent into Sycamore Canyon proved challenging. However, what really got me was the rock hopping in the bottom. Total concentration is needed as the blueish hues of the boulders clog the creek channels that show the flow of flash floods. The energy of this canyon you feel the immense power of the wild. And you feel the reward of a ‘thru-hike’ becoming near, the sense of accomplishment through a challenging environment tickles the taste buds of adventure. 


That’s the theme. Writing this I am as motivated as ever to get back out there. You feel it?





Direction:

The MRT Town Guide and the waypoints went west to east, from Cottonwood to the Catwalk. We went east to west, from the Gila Cliff Dwellings to Cottonwood. I chose this direction mainly for 3 reasons:

•harder access to the eastern terminus, to get the difficult hurdle of ruralness out of the way.
•to hike the higher country during the warmer time periods. Although this proved to be an ineffective strategy with an extraordinarily wet Arizona October, I would do the same again in a different Fall time of year.
•I really wanted to finish in the Sedona area. The towering red rock and exquisite scenery provided a warm and fuzzy feeling as I revisited an area I hadn’t seen in 20 years or so.

So, reading the maps and waypoints backwards could have potentially got us into trouble in regards to water carries. Lucky for us, this past October was one for the precipitation record books. The other challenge in this is that I had to keep looking ahead on the waypoints for road or trail numbers. Again, this route is in its infancy. So, the resources for this route aren’t completely finished or updated or haven’t been vetted. Lint was a good sport about it, as we both took it in stride.

Lastly, due to severe inclement weather we had to do a flip of sorts, which Tucker perfectly dubbed the ‘Pineflop.’ When we decided to avoid the Bear Wallow area due to flooding, cold temps, heavy snow and rain amounts, the duration of the storm, and the technicality of the route we decided to hitch from a forest road to Alpine. Realizing how hard it would be to get back where we had hitched from we ended up hitching to Pinetop, some 100 trail miles further west. Pinetop had more amenities for us to wait out the storm, as well as being more advantageous for us to get as much trail completed with the snow amounts that fell figuring the extra day or two would help melt out some sections. Also, we knew that ultimately it would be easier to hitch out upon reaching our connection point. Ironically and interestingly enough, this decision, not only a vital safety one, this ‘Pineflop’ helped me garner more knowledge of the Mogollon Rim itself, as well as the people. See the Highlights section for the quick story.

Duration:

We completed the roughly 570m in 22 days, with an average of 25.9mpd. We really tried to push our feet a bit while walking 11 hours of day in the 12 hours of daylight available. That being said, in the difficult sections expect lower mileage per hour, while in the easier sections you can expect realistic thru-hiking speeds. We had a couple grueling days with a couple memorable days of 22m or so that took all day to accomplish. Some sections in those days were if the bushwhacking sort that gave us a slog at 1-1.5mph. 

Water:

We had a freakishly wet October. So, water was abundant for us. That being said, the water sources on the rim, mainly earthen tanks, were silty and muddy making them almost unpalatable. The rains flooded the ponds and became tainted with dirty run-off. The eastern side seem to have reliable sources and running creeks, although this may be favorably influenced by the wet October. The western side had so much water that the places we found water are totally to be unexpected in most years. The tanks seemed too silty to drink but we were spoiled by the even smallest of ravines and drainages that held pools of rainwater. I would expect to find the biggest of water carries in the western side from Pine to Cottonwood. 



Water waypoints, concerns, and updates are in the GPS tracks. However, that is available by invite only, as of now. Please be aware the water levels are highly based on monsoonal flows and tendencies. So, the years and time of year are variable and are dependent on these flows. Natural water sources are rare on this route, especially up on the rim proper. Also, even more importantly, the water sources in this sensitive ecosystem are fragile and vitally important to the wildlife also using or living in the source. Please practice LNT ethics and only use what you need.

Timing:

There are realistically two seasons to hike the MRT, Spring and Fall.

Bernie hiked the MRT in the Spring months, I believe late April to May. This timeframe seems logical and I bet the plant life is a bit lush and green typical of a desert springtime bloom. Daylight is ample, but the mornings cool and even cooler up in the alpine country. Snow would probably linger up in the alpine country as well, especially around the Baldy Peak and Greer areas.

I chose the Fall as I wanted to have a desert type Fall hike. The silence, the lonesomeness and remoteness all entice me for desert Fall hike. However, the MRT is enhanced by this timeframe with the rut of the elk, the changing of the colors of the leaves of aspen and the cottonwood. Even the gambel oak and sycamores show some brilliance. The air is heavy and humid and one can expect to be sweaty on the warmest of days. The shorter days and longer nights are an aspect I relish in for a Fall time hike, a way to reflect on a hiking season while resting up a bit with lots of recovery time in the long nights in a changing season. 

Although one could feasibly attempt a thru-hike in the summer months, I do not recommend this notion to the fickleness of water and most hikers’ experience levels. 

Resupply and Resources, Maps:

A map set has been compiled by Tucker, including a GPS track. However, as of now, vetting of the trail is in progress and only available by invite only. The map set and GPS track read in a west to east direction. Please, be mindful of that in regards to water sources, trail and dirt road numbers, and mileage. If you are interested in this information please email Tucker.

Tucker has completed a thorough Town Guide to provide the hiker with details on resupply. I used this to develop an itinerary that seemed most sensible. However, after hiking the MRT I would do things a bit differently. Please email Tucker with questions or how about attaining this Town Guide.


I will list my itinerary below, based off what we hiked, east terminus to west terminus, and suggested resupply and postage. I won’t include mileage though, only section point to section point, our estimated duration between sections, section difficult rating, and recommended and/or what we did there. I will keep this somewhat brief, but hopefully this will give the future hiker a template to go off of.

•Gila Cliff Dwellings to Glenwood
2.5 days, moderately difficult 
Grocery store in Alma, PO in Glenwood 

•Glenwood to Greer
6 full days, very difficult 
Small grocery store in Greer

•Greer to Lakeside
2 days, easier difficulty
Grocery store in Pinetop, maps to PO

•Lakeside to Forest Lakes
3 days, easier difficulty 
Small grocery in Forest Lakes

•Forest Lakes to Pine
3 days, moderately difficult 
Grocery store in Pine

•Pine to Sedona
3.5 days, very difficult 
Grocery store in Sedona

•Sedona to Cottonwood
2.5 days, very difficult 
Grocery store in Cottonwood 

Highlights:

•An impact directly borne of the aftermath of the MRT became apparent the more I spoke of the route. This notion actually became apparent during a hitchhike with a rancher from Douglas, AZ. We spoke of southeast Arizona and the Chiricahua and Dos Cabezas Ranges nearby from where he was born and raised. Anyways, all this rambling leads me to a reflection on all this exploring of Arizona and how the impact of Tucker’s route inventions has influenced my life over the past 5 years. 

I feel lucky and grateful to reap the benefits of Tucker’s ideas and hard work over the years. I feel like I know Arizona, especially southeast Arizona intimately and my connection to that landscape runs deep. From my Vagabond Loop (AZT and GET), the Sky Island Traverse, bikepacking the AZT, and most recently the MRT the miles seem less important as the time spent immersed in this very beautiful state.

I am still being drawn back. I am not sure when, but I am sure I will be back soon to Arizona. A special thanks and unending gratitude to Tucker for his direct impact on my life. 



•The ‘Pineflop.’ I struggled with this decision. And before I go any further, a big thanks goes out to Lint for being so flexible with my plans and the weather, as well as me taking my time to make such a tough decision when I was battling with my integrity and my sensibility. In the end, I know it was the right decision. But the unperceived benefits afterwards became invaluable for my time spent out there on the rim. 

The flop helped me gather a broader and more intimate understanding of the Mogollon Rim area. Like the hitchhiking broaden familiarity and brought a bearing to my inner compass. During the rides I suddenly became aware of the vast complex of the rim, the impact of the rim of the people, the character not only of the rim but the people themselves; the flop tied all the moving parts of a complex movie together. 

Most memorable of the flop was the 5-way hitchhike getting back to Pinetop after walking eastward for roughly 90m. The first ride was with the rancher, Jerry, I alluded to in the previous highlight. He dropped us off in the small town of Alpine after a 45 minute ride. Storytelling of this isolated landscape in great detail only brought my curiosity to further deepen for this area.

The second ride came from a grizzled old man of the woods riding in a Mercedes Benz sedan. The sight appeared weird at first, and we even thought he was drunk. But he had been living in the hills learning the land out here for the previous 5 months. He knew the paths of the elk, had a freshly killed bear in the hollows of the hills, bucked firewood for money, and fondly knew different strains of marijuana. He took us out of his way to a reservoir that enabled us to get closer to our destination. 

Next, an interesting ride with an Indian and a bearded aging white make who looked like Abbey in a tweed jacket stopped for us and let us ride in the back of a small Toyota Tacoma pick up truck. They dropped us off in Springerville and bade us good luck. The journey continued with a ride with a couple of paleontologists, including a young man who at a young age discovered a new dinosaur. That discovery now bears his name. He is also an aspiring CDT thru hiker, which we spoke of at length in too little of a timeframe. 

Lastly, Rupert from Maine, who now lives in Showlow, stopped for us in his work van. Lint crammed in the back which was separated from the front cab. Rupert’s 3 dogs licked and lapped up on Lint quite comically. We zipped down the highway talking of travels and the friendliness of people. Soon enough we were back in Pinetop and back on schedule. The whole day seemed improbable to me at first, but niceness prevailed. And the experience was fun with a partner, especially Lint who had so much fun throwing his thumb out and flashing a giant smile and a hearty wave to every vehicle that passed, something I am pretty shy to do.

•The ruggedness and the wild spirit of the Blue Range Primitive Area provided an awesome introduction to the MRT. Wading through slot canyons, stumbling across old vestiges of rural ranch life, the wildlife, the overgrown trail and the deep canyons, and the deep blue sky filled the wanderer’s spirit with wild wonder and a yearning to go deeper and further.

•The Highline National Recreation Trail, #31. In recent years, the Highline Trail has seen some serious makeover and maintenance upkeep. The trail weaved and wiggled through steep ravines, gradually climbed and fell through hills and spur ridges, the corridor lopped and logged back to provide a drier experience on a soggy day, and the benches along sandstone with ephemeral pools of fresh rainwater made the 60m so much fun for a trail lover’s heart. Aficionados of well constructed trail will not be disappointed. 



Besides the trail magic received from Tucker and Tree on a very rainy and cold night, the highlight of the Highline area was our encounter with a mountain lion. Our timing was just perfect. Lint spotted the lion as I walked up from the rear after a piss break. Otherwise our conversation might have shooed the lion away before we rounded the corner. Not only that, the wind blew strongly from the west which put us upwind from him and caused the ponderosas to sway and shimmer in the wind loudly enough to muffle our footsteps and our arrival. What seemed like a long minute, Lint videoed the lion ambling along the trail. I stood watching in awe as the lion’s tail swayed like a snake charming its prey. Quite realistically lazing along, the lion would occasion stop and look west into the thick forest. The lion’s ears would prick up and his tail would stop in mid air. Quite large, the apex predator eventually jumped off but the exhilaration of the encounter brought out an adrenaline unmatched in most wildlife encounters, a rare one indeed.



•The canyons of West Clear Creek and Wet and Dry Beaver Creeks brought us to deep hideaways filled with raging creeks and soothing swimming holes. These pockets of wilderness really displayed the diversity of Rim Country. Lush canyon bottoms brightened with cottonwood, the creeks jumped with fish. The beautifully polished cliffs revealed the inside cartilage of the shelves of rock. Old trails displayed the evidence of homestead life from many moons ago. These canyons provided an oasis from the drier highlands above.



•Sedona and Sycamore Canyon. Many years ago, some 20 years, I tried to explore Sedona with a mountain bike. Yet, spying the town and sandstone monoliths from Munds Wilderness brought a we’ll of emotion out in me. I knew finishing in this area would evoke something high within me, like glee and happiness. Walking through into it and through it, then out of it, is such a more rewarding experience than driving a stinking automobile to it. I simply want me feet to go everywhere to fully experience a place.




One of the most wild areas of the MRT was Sycamore Canyon. Giant sycamores stood corkscrewed yet tall within the gouged flood channel. One of the most rockiest creek bottoms, we hopscotched across blue tinted boulders and above deep recesses hidden among the creek bends under dark pink sandstone. We encountered a couple of ACE trail crews that had been maintaining the first 5m of the wilderness trail. This reward of a clear corridor, we thanked the hell out of the crews personally. Even as we left the wilderness we had a chance encounter with Jason, a Prescott NF Wilderness Ranger, who had been working with the crews. He has roamed and scoured the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness the past 17 years and knew the area so well. Encountering him reminded me of what meeting an Abbey character in modern day life is like. 



•Friendship. I have known Lint for years now, stemming from our first meeting on the CDT in 2012. We hiked half of that trail together. Over the years, we have remained very good friends. During that time we both have endured some tough times. Sparing any details, I extended an invite as a feeling of gratitude for his being there for me during my trying time some years ago. I also felt this hike of the MRT would do him so good as a way to escape the fuss and flutter of his trying time. As a Triple Triple Crowner, Lint usually sticks to the Big 3 trails, so doing something like a route, which I prefer, the invite seemed a perfect time to catch up and have a great time walking in an unknown and wild area.


Here's what I will say about friendship: Grace. I think everyone should be granted a little bit of grace. Not everybody is perfect, to say the least. I don't think it is fair to condemn someone who hasn't been told there side of the story. One thing I yearned for during my trying time was not having anyone ask my side of the story, save for my buddy AllGood and Swami. I wanted to do the same for Lint. And this isn't because I believe in all that he believes in. This is the compassion I want to exert to people, especially friends, who have pain or have been hurt. To perhaps provide a friend with an open ear and heart in an open and wild area where you can nearly scream at the top of your lungs and no one can hear you scream your pain, I felt that would be vital for growth, for self-forgiveness, for finding a meaning after whatever you have experienced.


Thanks for the laughs, homie. I hope this trip will be meaningful for you, as it was for me.





Sycamore Canyon:










Sedona:







Munds Wilderness:




 Dry Beaver Creek:







Wet Beaver Creek:




 West Clear Creek:






Highline Trail:











Top of the Mogollon Rim:














Blue Range Primitive Area:





















Mogollon Mountains and Mineral Creek: