my arizona trail….”for going out i realized i was really going in…” john muir

href=””>imageI have written a full accounting of my journey on the Arizona Trail. It is long and in depth. I hope you enjoy it.
I couldn’t sleep. Tomorrow I would be on my way to hike solo across the state of Arizona, through the desert, from the border of Arizona/Mexico to the border of Arizona/Utah. The completed trail would be 800 miles and take me approximately six weeks to complete. My nerves were taut. What in the world was I doing? I was not experienced at map reading or GPS navigation. I didn’t even know how to read a compass. I had met with a friend who went over map reading skills with me. I figured the learning would come with the doing.
The planning of this trip came on sudden. I was falling for a man, he needed time to himself. I needed some time for myself. My heart a little broken I decided to find a trail, to hike alone. After a bit of research I discovered Arizona was my best choice even though the timing was a little late. The desert was already heating up, the water sources already drying up. I decided a challenge was what I needed to make me feel whole again.
My brother arrived at 3:45 am to take me to the airport. I let Rick chatter aimlessly as I half Heartedly listened to him. I was a bit apprehensive. This was big, something bigger than I had ever attempted. I had tried for a couple of weeks to find hiking partners, however none surfaced. I was told it was a tough time to start this trail. I am a little stubborn to say the least. Once my mind is made up, well it’s hard to be swayed otherwise. So I learned what I could in a short amount of time about life on the Arizona Trail. I studied maps, data books and the trail guide, nothing however can prepare you for the reality of the harshness and intensity of this trail.
My flight to Tucson was easy. I sat next to a woman on the plane that was absolutely amazed at what I was to about to embark on. We chatted the whole flight. We shared a bit about our paths, our spirituality and how it played a major role in both our lives. It was an interesting conversation and it took me out of my fearful anticipation of what was soon to begin.
P1000080 I had arranged a ride to the trailhead. I listened to a tape the driver played about the history of Arizona. It was quite interesting and again, took my mind out of the story it kept re-winding , that of fear and the fact I must be crazy to be doing this alone. We arrived at the Coronado National Monument , which was where I was dropped off. The Arizona Trail is a new trail. There is not as much information on this trail as there is on some of the other longer trails. I had thought I would begin the trail there. I discovered however, I had to ascend for 3.5 miles up Joe’s Canyon before I would descend a mile to the border and the Southern Terminus, which was where the trail officially began. It was dry and hot and a rather late start to a day. I began the hike up at 12pm. Once I arrived to the Monument , the start of the hike , I was elated. A journey! An adventure into the unknown! I realized I was ready. The fear replaced by wild curiosity about what lay ahead.
imageBathtub Spring was my desired destination for the day. It was a definate water source and good place to end the day. Even though it was only 9 miles up trail. By the time I got on the actual trail it was 2:00 pm. Not my favorite time to begin a hike, but it was as it was. A dusty, hot trail lay before me. At Montezuma Ridge I was greeted by the Border Patrol. This trail is heavily populated by what are referred to as Illegal Immigrants. I prefer to refer to them as Mexican Citizens. Many people warned me of the dangers of this. I saw no danger. I was prepared to offer conversation and water or food if they needed. The thought of drug runners didn’t enter my conscience. It was a relentless climb up. The sun was blaring on my already exhausted body from little sleep. The trail wound up amongst pine trees and boulders . Glancing outward the sky islands of Arizona delighted me. Vast desert lands with mountains rising upward. It was a beautiful sight. Birds singing their afternoon melodies serenaded me on my journey up the mountain. image
imageThe thoughts rolling through my mind were thoughts relating to life experience. How the hard times are actually so beneficial to life. Once we experience pain, loss, and even suffering and come out the other side we realize that we usually do, come out the other side. This awareness, enables us to risk, to risk loving again, to risk adventure, and to risk those things we could be so fearful of, but realize, we will most likely come out the other side. It enables us to go forward with arms wide open and heart exposed to live fully.
As the day wore on, the winds got stronger. I was blown about. I was tired after only a 12 or 13 mile hike. But it was getting to be evening. I found the Bathtub Spring. It was an actual spring coming out of the faucet of a tub. It was delightful. I filled some water into a water bladder and began searching for a campsite. It was quite challenging as the winds were getting stronger. I ended up on a ridge which isn’t the best place to camp during strong winds, however, there was an established campsite and it was somewhat flat…so I chose to stay there for the night. It was really difficult erecting the tent. As I was nibbling on some dinner I glanced out to see the most spectacular of Arizona sunsets. I had seen photos from friends already on the trail and it was truly a wonderful ending to the first day and the beginning of my journey. The winds were strong all night, but after awhile they lulled me into sleep.
IMG_8017As I do on the trail I awoke early. The sunrise shining through my tent looked like a fire on the horizon. I ate a core bar. I was a bit sore and not totally rested , even so, I began the day. Desert landscape is quite varied. Today the trail was lined with beautiful cactus of various shades of green . I am not well versed in the names of cactus so I just marveled in their varieties of shapes and sizes. Heart rocks, white butterflies and crows seemed to be my guides today. I have a connection with crow. A friend refers to me as Crow Woman. He is a member of a Native American Tribe and claims crow is one of my spirit guides. As I walked the Pacific Crest Trail last year I had two crows with me for the first 800 miles.
IMG_8018IMG_8030One of the interesting things about the trail is that I am always in the moment, though looking ahead. It is necessary. I had to be on alert for trail signage, or cairns, and water sources. All of which are crucial. Being in the moment I am aware of so many sights, sounds and scents. From the birds singing, to the lizards scurrying across the trail, to the winds blowing across my face and the various scents from the flowers that adorn the cactus.
IMG_8022It was a long first full day on the trail. Again ,at the end of the day I found myself at the top of a ridge. I realized that I prefer to be up high at night instead of down in a canyon. I like the wide-open spaces versus the feelings I get in a canyon of restriction and small space. I had hiked 25 miles and I was extremely tired. It was almost dark and the only flat site I could find was amongst cow-pies and mountain lion rocks. I wasn’t pleased. But it was all I had, so I erected my tent. The ground was so very hard and my hands were getting nicked by the pounding I had to do with large rocks to get my stakes into the ground. Because I feared animals wondering near because of the scent of food, I ate very little once again for dinner. One of the things I really dislike though is having to rise in the middle of the night to pee. Especially in an area I am a little leary of what animal of the night may greet me. I was told once though that it took energy not to pee. It took heat from ones body to hold instead of release. So it’s a choice, be cold or go outside and pee.
Today marked the beginning of what was to become a daily struggle, that of staying hydrated, having water to drink, and remembering the importance of eating, fuel to carry on. . It was something I was continually aware of. To be honest, it was the one thing I was fearful of out there as I had never really had experience with searching out water sources . I found I kept passing sources as I thought I could find something just a little cleaner. Being inexperienced I didn’t understand that there may not be something cleaner. It led me to ponder later on how we as Westerners are always looking for something better, instead of realizing that what lies directly in front of us may be exactly what is needed at that moment.IMG_8026IMG_8023
My feet were a concern before the journey, as I had surgery this last November on both feet to remove the painful neuromas that wouldn’t dissipate after many cortisone, then alcohol injections. The surgery left me pain free, however, the hard nodules on the bottoms of both feet due to scar tissue was a bit of an annoyance. My feet were fairly tough though. My friend Tatu Joe , my mentor for the Pacific Crest Trail had taught me how to prep my feet for a hike. The only blisters I had began on this day and lasted throughout the rest of my trail. The blisters formed on the bottoms of both feet, due to the oversized shoes I had and my feet perpetually sweating. They were quite painful and continued to be throughout the trail. I know I should have taken my shoes off and let my feet breathe at rest stops, but what I know and what I do can often be quite different.
IMG_8035I was searching out a water source as I had missed a crucial source earlier. When I came upon a windmill, a tank and solar-power with a spigot , which was reported to have full and good water, I was elated. Sitting my weary, thirsty body down, removing my pack and preparing to fill all water bottles. Huge dismay filled my being as I turned on the spigot and nothing came out. I cried. I was thirsty. I sat for about 10-15 minutes and realized I needed to move on. Gathering my things I headed down the trail. Arriving to a wash with a sign, and arrow, I followed. I walked for at least an hour before I came upon another tank, another windmill, solar power and spigot. Elated yet mystified as it looked exactly like the one I had left over an hour ago. The closer I got, I could hear water pouring from the spigot. I was back. I had left the water turned on. It was pouring forth delicious, cold water. While I felt remiss in leaving the faucet on, and somehow, returning to the same tank, I reveled in the water. I drank and ate ,and then fell into concern. Where did I go wrong? How did I return to the same spot, yet not cover the same ground? I walked back out and started in a different direction, realizing very soon I was headed back to where I had originally started. I sat against a feeder for cows, pulled out my maps, my data book, my GPS and cried. Once I finished I began trying to figure it out. I had myself going in circles. I couldn’t pull out of it. I ate a bar. With a deep breath I began again. Walking back towards the wash, I realized the sign had many arrows, going in many directions. I followed as my map directed ,which was finally the right direction. I hadn’t wanted to use the GPS on this trip. I wanted to learn navigation via the maps and my intellect. However this trail was ill marked. I couldn’t make it without the GPS. P1000146
I was heading into town. As I wandered off the trail onto the road, a car passed. I was too exhausted even to put out my thumb for a hitch. The car stopped up ahead and pulled back. A lovely woman named Jen and her autistic son, Wally saved me from walking the 5 miles into Patagonia. We chatted and formed a bond from the start. They brought me to the post office where I picked up my re-supply. Jen was an amazing woman who has devoted her life to Wally and other autistic people and their families. They delivered me to the Hitching Post and she gave me her card in case I needed a ride the next day out to the trail.
Patagonia is a one street town. The motel was perfect as was my meal and stay. I enjoyed a big juicy burger and a beer. Town stays aren’t as relaxing as one might imagine. Clothes needed to be washed, body cleaned, blisters and other ailments attended to, messages answered, resupply evaluated and any shopping to supplement the resupply. I had decided here not to blog. It was tiring and time consuming and I really needed a bit of rest. I never sleep so well in towns either. I awoke with a bit of anxiety. I had a delicious breakfast and called Jen for a ride back to trail. We discussed life on our drive out. She felt a deep connection to me after only a brief visit. As she drove away I expressed such gratitude for her kindness.
The trail couldn’t be found. I wandered amongst tall grasses and was totally confused. I had assumed that where I got off the trail, I was to get back on in the same place. As I sat and pondered the map, I realized, the trail went right thru town, and I was to embark back on the journey at the other side of town. I started walking and decided to see if Jen was available. She returned immediately. It was quite a drive, thru town then up a winding dirt road for about 8-10 miles. I stopped a Border Patrol and he led us to the trail. Once again Jen and I parted company.
P1000175The trail began up a rocky, dirt road. I was sure it was wrong. This was the beginning of a very difficult day.My GPS had stopped working. I didn’t realize that they do go out from time to time depending on satellites or service or whatever they need to function, so it was me, the maps, and the very unmarked trail. Nothing was making sense. I began a climb up a very steep, rocky jeep road. I got to a gate, with no markings. The map wasn’t helpful. I sat looking at that gate, the map and my intellect and decided it was all wrong. I made my way back down to a trailhead I had seen. I began walking up it. Again, it didn’t feel right. I consulted the data book, and the trail guide. Seems I was going the wrong way. The only other option was back up where I had just come from. As I climbed I began feeling depleted and began questioning the universe on every subject imaginable. Arriving to the gate once more, I threw it open in anger, and continued to climb. None of it felt right. But, I had no other option. So I continued. As I got to what felt like the top, but was a false summit, I sat, I cried and left a message for the man I started this hike over. I cried in the message, questioning everything from trail markings to why he couldn’t love me. It was a real meltdown. I truly don’t know know if I had ever experienced something like this. My full mind, body and soul were immersed in question. It was difficult. He returned the call with a very calming, sweet message. I gathered myself and began upward. But first I looked to the skies, as I often do. I talked with my late husband Michael. I felt his hand on my back as I rose from the ground and began walking up the trail. He spoke to me and said, “Lo, you can do this,” and he left.
I finally arrived to a trail sign and at the same time my GPS began working. I was in fact on trail. Wandering on I came upon two women on horses pulled up to delicious water source. A clear, beautiful spring ,which was flowing as a creek beckoned me. I removed my shoes and let my feet soak in the healing waters, filled my water bottles and chatted with the two women. They carried pistols. Their home was in Patagonia and their destination was Utah as well. One of their horses was acting sick, so they were stopped for the day. They offered me coffee and conversation, but I needed to move on. I was invigorated and confident. That night I slept amongst the cows. The ground was too hard, and I was too tired. I cowgirl camped for the first time . I do love sleeping underneath the stars, watching them dance across the skies, feeling close to my loved ones who have passed on. It’s a comfort really, to know they are out there, watching over me. I listened to cows mooing love songs to each other and coyotes howling in the distance.IMG_8111IMG_8093
The next day was as all the others, varied, intense and full of lessons. Walking up a jeep road again, I heard a car behind me. A red wagoner, old model jeep pulled up. A rustic looking man in his 60’s, a war vet asked me if I was okay. I thought it was an odd question. I replied “yes, thankyou!” He said, “ you have to be careful our here.” I again thanked him, and asked him,” careful of what?” He smirked, and proclaimed,” ya just gotta be careful,” as he drove away. Of course it frightened me, and I started walking at a quicker pace. I assumed he was trying to scare me, and it made me angry, but my thoughts all day into the next wandered back to his warning.
P1000308My thirst intensified during this section. I could never quite quench it. I was evaluating my food, trying to discover which would dry my mouth more, and which would provide some sort of fluid. I started tripping, and slipping a lot. I felt a bit unstable, and almost confused. I began a routine of a sip of water at the top of the hour and a Pro Bar Bolt at the bottom of the hour. I began feeling intensely lonely, and began questioning my ability or my desire to continue.
IMG_8060I cowgirl camped at the top of a beautiful ridge. I had a room with a view. I wasn’t eating much at this point. I found myself licking the inside of my empty water bottles and wanting to sleep so I could have a sip of water the next morning. Dogs howled at night from the cattle ranches below, which made me fear a mountain lion may be near. I fantasied a cowboy would ride up and sweep me away, feed me an incredible meal and care for me, then send me on my way, the dreams of a dehydrated woman.P1000332
I started early. I wanted to hike in the cool of the day. I was so thirsty. The tripping and slipping on the trail continued. My lips were cracked ,my mouth so extremely dry. Because of my ill knowledge about water sources and the importance of taking whatever you came upon, I passed some sources by. I came upon one very small puddle, which I almost delved into, until I realized a cockroach was dead on the surface. So much of this journey is relevant to life, the ways in which we deal with roadblocks and uncertainties and difficulties. This was tough. I didn’t know how I was going to make it. Once I realized I had hit 100 miles my spirits soared a bit. I began cutting into the prickly pear cactus, sucking on the pulp a little at a time, to make sure it wouldn’t make me sick. It provided relief. Every time I cut into one, I apologized to the plant. I felt as if I was making it bleed. It hurt.P1000280
I was a recipient of big kindness and compassion today. The trail was beautiful. Winding through desert land. Flowers of high intensity shouted out to me to look, and be amazed. I was. The brilliant shades of various intensities of greens were abundant. But my thirst overshadowed much of the awe I may have felt. I ran into a mountain biker. He was resting under the shade of a rare tree. He invited me under the shade and shared his grapes along with water and the promise of meeting me after his ride to share more. On I wandered. I ran into two more mountain bikers taking a break and photos of some of the flowers. They were so kind and amazed at I was undertaking. They offered me Cliff Jell Shots and water. They really shared a large quantity of water and after they rode off I guzzled the water and ate a whole package of the jell shots. I probably should have saved some of it, but thirst overcame me. IMG_8105
As I was gathering strength under the shade of an overpass, I heard,” Grasshopper, up here.” I looked up and those mountain bikers had gone back to their truck and began looking for me to give me a gallon of water they had in their truck. I was so grateful.IMG_8045
That night I asked the universe, “Please, give me some sign as to whether I should stay on this trail.” My thoughts wandered to a friend who loved star -gazing. As I was thinking of him a comet burst into my field of vision, going very slowly at first as if trying to gain my attention and then gained speed hurtling across the sky. I took it as a yes. Not even considering it was a message saying I should leave the trail. I was as I often am when I receive messages from the universe, or my guiding angels. P1000335
I was anticipating the next stop. I was eager for a shower and good food. Vail it appeared didn’t have motels. The only restaurants were fast food. I wandered into a horse facility that catered to the public. They had just finished a big barbecue. They were out of food except for brownies and ice cream bars. I indulged. I camped that night with a group of young conservation workers. They invited me to share dinner and conversation. I bonded with a young man that had hiked the Appalachian Trail and was eager to hear about my current hike. When we parted he gave me a gift of candy. I was offered a Harley ride into town to get some groceries at Wal-Mart. I declined, deciding to make do with what I had. The trail was definitely taking its toll on me. I was exhausted. I was feeling as if I couldn’t continue. That night I slept under the stars. It began to rain around 3am. I quickly gathered my things and ran up to the bathroom under the shelter from the rain. I was able to spread my bag out and fall back into a bit of sleep. I had been offered if it rained to knock on one young mans tent for shelter, but I had forgotten which tent was his, and the bathroom made for a fine shelter.
IMG_8095The desert is beautiful. It is a stark reminder that we need very little to survive. As I was wandering along the trail, absolutely craving a root-beer float and gazing up at the expensive looking ranch houses on one side and a major freeway on the other, I thought, I wonder if they would share, just a little something to keep me going. Dreaming again of possibility. Your mind plays games with you out here. Crazy thoughts and illusions cross your mind. Fantasies of rain pouring down onto me, and my pours opening and accepting all water. Thoughts crossed my awareness on how very easy P1000195 would be to perish out here.
IMG_8079The Saguaro National Park, beautiful, majestic saguaro cactus rising above. They are quite whimsical in their shapes, and sizes. I ran into an elderly man that was out for a short hike. He was gently massaging his sore tired feet. He was utterly amazed at my journey and honored my attempt at following through. I had made a reservation at the Grass Shack Campground. I had a long walk ahead of me and it was already late in the day. Mica Mountain was beautiful. It was a long winding trail up, up the mountain. Mother Nature is simply amazing. I was exhausted and the mileage seemed incorrect. Every step, every turn I wished I had reached my destination. But the trail was relentless. It was becoming difficult to see the magic, the mystery that surrounded me. I met a trail runner. I exclaimed how amazing it was he was running up and then back down this crazy, hard trail. He looked at me in amazement, and proclaimed, “I can’t believe you are walking to Utah!” That inspired me a bit but my body was worn out. I was tired. Sleep hadn’t come easily during this hike. Once I finally reached the Grass Shack campground it was almost dark. Bear lockers at each site. I hadn’t considered this. I quickly set up my tent and stored all food and first aid kit in the locker. I ate a bite of peanut butter and some chocolate, and into my tent for the night. My sleep that night was restless, and I awoke tired. I had 4000 feet of descent in front of me. IMG_8064
As I left camp my second breakdown occurred. I stopped after about an hour to eat something. A core bar, with almond butter spread on it. It was windy and cold. I decided I was finished. When I got to Tucson, I was done. I called the man I was falling in love with, who by the way was an incredible support throughout my journey. He responded with what I am calling tough love. He told me I needed to re-focus. I needed to remember what this journey was about for me. If I was quitting it needed to be for reasons that made some sort of sense. Not for the reasons I was giving him. He asked why I was having such incredible mood swings. I told him I felt like I was bi-polar out there. I was extremely high then desperately low. I screamed at him because he didn’t get it. As I got off the phone though a strange calm came over me. He was right. I needed to re-focus. I needed to figure out what was going on. I connected with an ultra-running friend. His suggestion was merely that I had to eat, whether I wanted to or not, whether I was hungry or not. He thought I was probably experiencing low blood sugar along with the dehydration. My hike changed. I began to eat. I began to get out of my head, and onto the trail.IMG_8050P1000377
My thirst wasn’t quenched that day at all. Once I finished the descent, the trail was dry and rolling. There was a strange hum in the air, which began to cause some anxiety. I think only because of my weakened state. I decided then to hitch into Tucson and recharge my internal batteries. In looking at the map I saw one exit. It was a mistake. There was another a bit down the trail, the hitch easier and shorter, but I neglected to see it. Water jugs had been left by trail -angels at the exit point. I was completely dry, so it was greatly appreciated. Some ATV’s drove by and guaranteed a ride would be easy. I sat for ½ hour and decided I had better start walking. It was 15 miles down this road into Tucson, and it was already 3:00 in the afternoon. Walking I kept my thumb out, without looking back. A truck, a big black truck came barreling down the road, skidding to a stop. I asked for a ride without even thinking. I got in. The music was blaring some metal type raunchy tunes. Empty bullet cartridges were scattered about. He was heavily tattooed and had the looks of a crazy guy. He drove very fast. I thought damn; I hope I make it through this one. I decided to engage him in conversation, friendly conversation about his life and family, what he did for work etc. All of a sudden he swore loudly and it scared me. I asked what was wrong. He said he was getting a flat. Of course crazy thoughts went through my mind. Perhaps it was an excuse to take a turn off the road. He pulled over to check it. I jumped out as a small pickup was making a U-turn right in front of us. I asked him for a ride. He was an elderly man and eager to help. I thanked the guy and jumped into the other truck. I had angels watching over me that day for sure.
I spent the night in Tucson. I got the much desired root beer float. I was feeling a bit re-charged. I decided not to quit. My friends and family had been such an amazing support up to this point. They continued daily to offer words of encouragement. The realization that my mood swings were a result of lack of food changed my hike. I realized I wasn’t caring for myself in the best possible way. If I wanted to continue, I needed to eat and be smart about securing water. Its time to let the trail heal me, I had decided, and time for me to heed the lessons she was trying to teach me.
IMG_8073Because of the scary hitch the day before I decided to jump ahead ten miles on the trail. I had more than made up for it in the many wrong turns I had taken thus far. I didn’t want to be anywhere near where he may be. He really scared me. I got a ride to the trail by a sweet girl that worked at the hotel. She was very kind. Heading up the trail I ran into many people. It was nice for a change. A group of four was spread out on the trail. All of them overweight and breathing hard. They said,” how come you have chips in the back of your bag?” I told them I was walking to Utah. One of the women immediately pulled out a half eaten super green protein bar and offered it to me, the kindness of others. I ran into another couple that were pretty exhausted from the climb they had just done. They asked where I was going. “Bad-ass”, they replied. I laughed! IMG_8074
The trail today was beautiful. The skies were a brilliant shade of blue. It was an enjoyable walk. The landscape was always changing. However, I got off trail and I climbed a very steep trail to a saddle. It was lovely, but the day was getting late and I needed to move on. Down I went, realizing my mistake, I ventured on. The oak tree studded forest was a big change. The problem was the millions of little bugs. Swarming my body, into my eyes, ears and nose. As I was continuously swatting them away, I fell off trail and heard the dreaded hissing and rattling of the biggest black rattler I had ever seen. He was really mad at me and wouldn’t stop rattling until I was down the trail. Once again, I found myself off trail. This time however, I didn’t freak out like I had in the past. I felt I must have been recovering from the dehydration. I felt my experience on the trail must have been turning around! I knew I had a big climb the next day and wanted to set myself up for an early start, before the sun hit the mountain, so I camped right below the trail head. I put up my tent, as clouds were rolling in and thunder looming in the distance.P1000427P1000425
One of my most very favorite sounds on this trail is the sound of running water. Whether it is a stream, a spring or a faucet. I recognize ever so clearly, more than ever before in my life, the life sustaining force of water. Another thing I grew to love on the trail was the way the wind blew across my face. It seemed to blow away worry and fear and helped rejuvenate me right at the times I needed it most.IMG_8076
I had realized also that I was beginning to understand the maps and how to read them. I also began looking at footprints and the way plants or scrub was pulled away from the trail. I looked at where the sun was in the sky and how it was moving to get my bearings instead of using the compass.
P1000438What an awesome day! I tackled the mountain early morning just as the sun was rising. I realize I like the climbing, the mountain landscape much better than the desert floor. I feel much more alive. My physical strength back I climbed with no reservation. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy climb, but I loved this kind of physical exertion. Thoughts running through my head, that I can indeed finish this trail. After 11 miles I hit the small mountain town of Sommerhaven. Everyone said the pizza was a must and I was totally looking forward to it. I ordered a big slice of pizza and a root beer, and totally devoured it. I had the biggest chocolate chip cookie for desert. I could only eat a very small portion of it and carried it for energy that day. A flicker of an idea was forming in my head. I had heard that my friends Brianna and Jabba had climbed the same 11 miles then jammed the 14 miles down Oracle Ridge into Oracle in one day. I thought…if they could do it, perhaps I could as well. I came upon a field of wild lupine. I sat and cried at the memory of Michael’s and my marriage up Mt. Hood in Oregon. He had picked me wildflowers as we walked the trail up to where we were to be married. The flower that dominated was the beautiful wild blue lupine. Feeling energized, mind, body and soul away I went. I was on my way to the 200-mile mark. P1000447
I had heard Oracle Ridge was difficult. It was. The winds were the strongest yet. The footing extremely difficult, Scree and rock adorned the trail. My least favorite surface is scree. When my friend Whynot?! And I were hiking in Patagonia South America we climbed a very steep scree slope; it was the most frightening experience of my life. Memories of that loomed in the forefront of my consciousness. At 7:00pm I arrived at the junction into Oracle. I called the trail angel and asked her to pick me up. I ran the remaining 3 miles to the pick-up point. Even though it was a long day I was totally rejuvenated, feeling stronger than ever.P1000452
I decided to zero in Oracle. I was a bit tired after a number of 25+ mile days. I knew the next section would be challenging. A one hundred mile stretch in which water was scarce, more food needed to be carried and I would be back in the flatter desert section. I wasn’t feeling well all day. I ate and drank and chilled. I think I was beginning to worry about the dehydration returning. I realized my fear of dehydration was so big that I would carry large amounts of water and not even drink, for fear I wouldn’t find water down the trail. I would gingerly sip water, but not near enough. I had a big dinner that night in town. The local Mexican Diner was reported to have a “to die for” rib eye special. I went for it. I could eat very little. I was getting worried my mind was starting to take control again. My sleep was restless. I awoke early in prep for the day.
P1000509The trail was hot, dry and lacking shelter. The reality of my strength seemed to dampen my spirits. The long very hot walk began to take its toll. I was trying to control my water intake, as water sources weren’t common on this section. I noticed I was peeing a lot. I would sip water, and a very few minutes later would have to pee. I wasn’t retaining any liquid. My thirst very quickly became un-quenchable, mouth dry, lips cracked. It amazed me how quickly I went from feelings of strength to feeling s of not being able to complete this trail. P1000521P1000538
The trail was a jeep road for many, many miles. I had a lot of water, but I wasn’t drinking. I don’t really know what was going through my head when I denied myself water. It was very strange. I walked all day. It was probably 28 miles or more. I ate and then looked for a campsite. I nestled myself off the jeep road amongst the cactus and set-up cowgirl style so that I could watch the stars. Nestled in my bag, the birds flew right over my head. They didn’t notice me as my bag and body blended in with the environment. It was kind of cool, to feel a part of it. Soon, however I heard a jeep. My fears rose. It was almost dark. Would they see me lying there? I froze in a kind of terror almost. My mind was playing un-relentless games again, and I was listening. As they drove by I jumped and pulled my gear further into the cactus environment. I slept uneasy all night. The stars, though, kept me company as they do, and a sort of peace filled my soul.P1000496
I arose very early once again to beat the heat of the day. I realized I could make Superior in 4 days with my mileage instead of 5. That invigorated me a bit. However, the feelings wouldn’t disappear, that I was becoming dehydrated again, and perhaps losing way too many electrolytes. I was having headaches for three days. I had been sodium imbalanced before and I know how serious it can be.
P1000484I was able to be on the trail and not let outside influence affect my presence on the trail. This was good, however, I was declining once again. The absolute precious quality of water was all I could really think about. Thinking of water was a lesson in itself. Thinking of flow and how much easier life is when we go with the flow instead of against. Not easier in an easy/hard scenario, but easier because I realize less suffering, self-induced suffering occurs if we go with the flow of life. I don’t mean following others, I mean flowing with the energy, and the current of life. So much suffering is self –induced and I see this more than ever on this trail. So much of my suffering, in life, has been self-induced. We want, we can’t have, we suffer, and this seems to be the way of the Western mind.
P1000258I began to realize I had nothing to prove to anyone out there. I was completed wiped out. I was physically depleted. My inner reserves of motivation, of desired outcome had changed. I realized that perhaps what I came out here for was just this. The understanding, the awareness that life is, as it is. That acceptance is the key to happiness. As John Lennon sang,” there are no questions, only solutions.” I came to the realization that the solution was acceptance. I came out here very unprepared for this journey. I was told it was too late to begin. I wasn’t physically prepared for the intensity of this trail. It would be too hot, too dry. I didn’t know the desert well enough to attempt this journey solo. I set out for the sole purpose of inner reflection. It became a journey almost of survival. But in that survival mode, I learned so very much, about my life.
The awareness on a surface level, that of signage, trail markers, footprints, water sources, logistics and weather improved daily for me. Then that deeper awareness of living a life in relationship with the flow of what is. Struggle is so prevalent in our lives. However, I have come to realize that the struggle is also self-induced and we perpetually continue to create this war within ourselves, letting others determine our happiness, our joy, and the meaning of out lives. Nature it seems is expert at this. It dies or withers and it returns as seasons change, as tragedy such as fire destroys it and as water becomes scarcer. But nature returns, it survives, so must we. IMG_8078
As I continued along what was to become my last day on the trail, I felt no regret. This trail for me was to go as far as I did. I had no doubt in my mind I was finished. I had some folks who suggested I rest for a few days. While this would have been a great idea, I was done. It would continue to get hotter, the water would continue to dry up, and I knew I would continue to whither. The elements humbled me in a very big way. The illusion of no-control was so evident. I also reflected on the way we are always looking for something better. I could have wandered off trail a number off times for water. Because I was so tired I decided to wait until something presented closer, easier. This could have been a dire mistake. It was a dire mistake. I wasn’t educated in the ways of the desert. It should have been common sense, but at that point I was beyond making wise decisions.P1000475
I got a ride into a strange town called Globe. I got a room in a nice motel, but creepy. I think I was the only one there. After continual pressure from my brother and dad, I went to the local hospital to get an IV. It was a strange place as well. The front door had a sign which said.” No weapons allowed.” I didn’t know at that time that Arizona was a state that allowed one to carry weapons. But it put me very ill at ease. I got an IV. My weight had dropped 10 pounds from when I left home, less than 2 weeks ago. The next morning I got a ride from a girl I had met on a hiking face book page. She offered to come and get me and take me to the airport. I was continually blessed by kind souls such as Tami. My flight took me from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. While sitting in the airport drinking a glass of wine my thoughts wandered back to the trail. The truth is, the trail rattled me, to the core. It truly felt like a life and death situation out there, because I wasn’t prepared. Will I attempt that specific trail again? Perhaps I will, but not solo. Did I learn lessons from the desert? The desert was a very insistent and difficult teacher. It demanded attention. My attention wandered when I became dehydrated. I didn’t play the game smart. I learned many lessons from the desert as I always do when I venture out in nature. The greatest teacher in my world, I look to her for answers, and through the course of my time with her, answers arise. She guides me to my soul, to the wild depths of my soul, and helps me through her life sustaining virtue to find the answers from within.
I value this journey deeply. I wouldn’t have changed it, for without the things I experienced, I wouldn’t have recognized the purpose for my walk. I have such gratitude to all my friends and family that provided so much support along the way. I was sorry I couldn’t bring them all along further down the trail through my videos, but my time out there was complete. The folks who reached out in Arizona, folks I didn’t even know to provide support just amaze me. I recognized the absolute goodness in people and it makes my heart shine.P1000512
I will walk on.
With so very much love.

my arizona trail…

Thank you for following my blog. This trail has been so physically and emotionally challenging. I have decided to not blog during this journey. I will write about it once I get home. I would like to invite you to like my facebook page, thishikerspath … and my personal page Laura Biondi Williams. On both of these pages I post photos, videos and wanderings of my mind as I meander thru Arizona and of course some of the wild experiences I have encountered .

imageI walk on…with love