Glenwood, NM

I couldn’t stop walking yet, so I am writing from Glenwood, NM. where I hope to hike 320 miles of the Grand Enchantment Trail- an amazing route that runs from Phoenix to Albuquerque. I am preparing to hike West Bound to Phoenix, but we will see how water and weather, not to mention motivation, treat me. Tomorrow I turn 30 and should find myself alone amongst pinons, under a crisp blue Arizona sky, stumbing and mumbling as I hike the rock strewn “trail” of the GET. Here goes nothing!!

 Safford, AZ

After ruining my knees on the first day of the Grand Enchantment Trail, then hiking for another 4 to reach Safford, I decided to end my hiking season and return home for a day of eating turkey, hanging out with family, and being inside for the first time in months. Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone and the days between being on the trail and off have grown to a week I feel like I am sitting in the bottom of the trash can my step-cousin-in-law cooked a turkey in a few days ago. I look up and see a round window of light, but don’t know what to do with myself. Walking is hard right now- messed up my knees pretty good on the GET- and it takes me at least a block of walking to warm up to more than a hobble. It feels so strange to move slow and with pain after so many months of motion- just 15 days ago I was practically jogging down the trail to Mexico, and here I am getting my daily exercise on wii fit in a living-room in the bay area. Haven’t even been outside today… Ok enough with the pity party already.

 Albany, CA (back home)

The Grand Enchantment Trail: WOWOWOWOW and Cow. I hiked from Alma to Safford via Eagle Creek. The day I spent wandering down Eagle was one of the highlights of my whole hiking season. I felt like I was on a rafting trip with all the fords (50+) and eating lunch on a sandy, sunny river bank. The only thing missing was the pringles and the roll-out table- and other people of course. Maybe my 5 days on the GET seemed so glorious because I had to work really hard to be there. My knees crapped out on the 18th (my birthday) and I had about 80 miles to go to get to Safford. The following 80 miles were pretty pain filled, but the extra challenge seemed to wipe the window clean and let me see amazing beauty in even the most overgrazed and barren places. The trail itself was amazingly hard to find and follow, providing me with a constant navigation challenge, which I LOVED. I kept thinking again and again that this trail was the most engaging and fun trail I have ever hiked.

I only saw two people in the five days I was out, but was not loney at all. I hardly listened to my ipod, where on the PCT I was plugged in for at least 8 hours a day. The difference was my brain had to be working constantly. Even when I could find the trail the tred was unpredictable, and I never knew if I was going to miss a junction or walk past a water source. Reading the maps was like reading a really good book- a fine work of liturature meets choose your own adventure. The GET has been trampled by cattle and ignored for years- maybe since the 70’s? but somehow all of these ancient trails, cow paths, and jeep roads meet together and led me through canyons, mesas, and mountains of extreme beauty. Most of the changes we humans have put on this landscape haven’t been able to alter the underlying truth of vast wild desert- But some have. The Morrenci mine is a HUGE hole in the ground to the east of the GET, and it was hard to ignore the terraced pink and brown dirt, the two-story high dump-trucks, and the sound of copper rich rocks being hauled and smashed and bulldozed. I was ~2 miles away as the crow flies from the big pit and could hear the mine loud and clear– weird to be alone on a juniper covered hillside on my way to pictograph covered bluffs and isolated springs and look out to see something you can see from space.

I slowed my pace down a bit to try to rest my knees, but it became clear to me that I needed to come off the trail when I was still walking backwards down a dirt road with 800mg of IB profin coursing through my veins. I hobbled into Safford, got a motel room, and began my epic journey back to the Bay Area. I miss gritty algae filled cow tank water and the sound of my feet on gravel. Here I am in a house, sedentary and strangely sad. Hopefully I will go play in the ocean later this week and that might boost my spirits. I knew this transition would be hard, and I usually enjoy challenge, but I think this is hard because it is so different from the reality I have been living in for the past 4 months.

Thank you to everyone who helped me this season! I can’t even begin to show how much I appreciate the kindness I have received. Everywhere I went I met wonderful people who went out of there way to make my hikes safe and amazing. From giving me a ride in a snow plow to wrapping up an extra maple doughnut in a trail worthy package, to talking to me about elk tracking or handing me a head of lettuce in the middle of a 6 day carry, doing two U turns in a kenworth truck in downtown Phoenix to get me to a bus station, scooping out extra ice cream or putting a late night burger on the grill- I have been well cared for by perfect strangers. I have seen people at their best, and will always carry with me the glow of kindness that these interactions have ignited.