p.m. 4/17- p.m. 4/21
From Mexico: 465m
VL Mileage: 237m
I left the marina after eating. Up and up I went into the Four Peaks Area of the Mazatzals. I climbed up and looked down on the Salt River Dam and bridge, Everywhere around me shown verdantly green on a deep red rock tierra. I kept looking over my shoulder, for the Tonto Basin and Roosevelt Lake were majestically splattered with shadows of clouds that made for an amazing light display. This was the most scenic landscape I had seen yet on the AZT. Like a sky mobile the clouds held the Tonto Basin in transfixation while the infusion of swirly movement of the puffy cumulous clouds morphed shape incongruously, as almost shapeshifting oafishly. The scene seemed stilled, as though art manifested through life.
There comes a section in every trail where the rumors fly. This section was no different. This section was supposedly overgrown with sharps and pokes and trail lacked in structure and direction. But there also comes a section in every trail that tests you, pushes you with all the elements and it will eventually dictate the personality of your whole hike. The Mazatzals were it for me. It brought out the most 'wild.'
The Four Peaks came into a massive view, smothering up the landscape all around me. I trudged up and up and became surprised about how much water spilled from the ravines. I hit the dirt road the trail follows in this section. I met a backpacker who didn't even notice me in front of him on the road, for his pack was so big his head was forced downward. He told me, "You better wear pants!" "Bah!" I responded back to him. I sallied forth almost at a trot and hit the Boulder Creek drainage. I met 7 other section hikers, all with gigantic packs and layered with clothing. They told me the same thing as the previous mule. I left them and slithered my way through the drainage trail whisking aside the overgrown scrub oak, catclaws, and other thorny plants.
At the highway, I assessed myself and I was unscathed. I firmly believe it is the ultralight weight of my pack that provides maneuverability and flexibility as I am walking. Also, I believe if the shit gets too thick, move faster, or more agile. It is like a Band-Aid, you pull it off slow and it smarts, you pull it off and the pain is fleeting and negligent.
I camped that night with the streamline of commuter jets falling in place to land at Phoenix International Airport one after another. The roar was so consistent it lulled me to sleep.
I ascended the Mazatzal Divide. Fire scarred the mountainsides and the trail got steeper and tougher. In fact, some trail went right up a gully or was non-existent due to the giant wash-outs from the fire ravaged slopes. Eventually, I made the top switchback at Mt. Peeley and I could see at least 10m of trail in the meandering, jagged crest. This was rugged and wild country.
The days slowed and I became a part of the wilderness. For the first time on the AZT I felt utterly alone. My safety net was gone and I felt exhilarated the whole time I was there. Yeah sure, places were overgrown but who the hell cares. There was enough trail to follow and I zigzagged between the young prickly oaks and stubborn cat claws.
In the mornings, I was stirred awake by tiny songbirds. There harmonious trill much more soothing than their corvid counterparts, like the magpie who squabble and squawk at the most ungodly hours.
Bear with me: Figuratively, I was orgasmically engulfed in emotion and spirit. Only me and the mountains, my fellow rock and dirt counterparts, orgiastically fulfilling everything I craved and desired. This was wilderness in full romance.
The 'zone' or 'runner's high,' even the 'paincave,' are essentially a wilderness type of experience except they are fleeting. Even a big boozy bender ends. You wake up feeling hungover but the feeling is over. In the wilderness, whether you are there or not, it always is. At the same time I wanted to walk through the Mazatzals, I didn't.
In Pine, I felt really guilty washing off the grime and dirt of the Mazatzals, as if the act of cleaning was sacrilegious, as if I was sinning, or being violated, assaulted.
I had a zero day in Pine. It was tough not moving but I knew that the sensible thing for me to do would be to rest. The VL is one tough ass loop, kiddies!
THAT Brewery and Pub was graciously hospitable. Thanks Y'all!