Dream Teamin on the AZT, Part 2

We bound into the unknown. This next section is long and challenging but we’re both feeling rested from a day off in town.

JD is relaxing at a picnic area near Collosal Cave and we’ve got time to kill. He tells us about his mannequin head, Deborah, and Billy  bonds with him over it. When I first met Billy last year, he had a baby doll hanging out of his pack – I thought it was the strangest site as we crested Muir Pass to see someone with such a heavy item, and an odd one at that. Her name is Beatrice, she is not on this trip, but her army is.

We all eat plants that JD has learned from a book, a mountain biker leant him it, but we aren’t sure if the biker is coming back for the book as advertised.

Camp is a measly 6 miles away, because of camping restrictions in Sagauro National Park, it is the nearest we can camp to the boundary, and I’m not complaining because my pack is heavy with food.

The next day we enter Sagauro and are harassed by a ranger, she is very serious and says we can’t smell like weed here. We apologize and then decide fuck this park, we’re going through it in a day to avoid further harassment.

Mica Mountain is an absolute beast, but we make it over. A bit battered after gaining nearly 6,400’, we arrive to camp, just in time for the wind to pick up and whip us around all night – the wind persists into the next day. Mica Mountain kicks my ass and I feel somehow energized by it. The stinging sustained winds burn my face and turn my attitude sour, it drains the life out of me.

Finally, a break in the wind! Sabino Canyon takes my breath away. Mount Lemmon takes my breath away in a different way. Again, we are ahead of schedule and that isn’t always the best. We hit the climb up Romero Pass after already having hiked 16 miles, and I am in a state of despair as we reach the top, I tell Billy I’m fucked up and we’re taking a zero in Kearny.

We dip into Summerhaven and enjoy some much needed food, I am wiped out from Mica, the wind, then Lemmon. Team Patagonia beckons us from the porch of their cabin, and we oblige. It’s great to see Matt and Rose again, we exchange info in hopes of running into them in the next town.

Oracle is a days hike away, so we also go there, I am insanely hungry and can’t pass up some town food. We meet a man with blue paint in his ears who is from another planet. He tells us he’s an ex FBI agent who is going to the Vatican to stop pedophila. But wait, there’s more! He also gives us a stack of books and a cotton sweatshirt because the temps were supposed to drop to 17 below zero, but thankfully he gets distracted with his harmonica – Billy and I make a clean getaway without this man’s well intentioned but very cumbersome gifts.

The next day, I am very sore from the Mica and Lemmon jamboree and self doubt takes hold. I tell Billy about how I’m feeling and why. As a sickly child, my default was always that I was too weak or frail to do hard things, and that’s the place that I go to when I’m not feeling 100%, and this day I was feeling about 60%. Billy tells me that battling self doubt is a lifelong process and nobody ever really kicks it. I find solstice in this fact, and it’s felt good to say my feelings out loud. I take a moment to be thankful to not only have such a great hiking partner, but also such a great friend.

I awake the next morning feeling like a whole new person. I feel strong and capable, but more importantly, I feel positive. We goof around for most of the day, it’s getting hot. There is word of trail magic up ahead so we haul ass to the alleged location. It is there! Moonjuice and his family are an absolute treat, and the snacks, cold beverages and great company are more than I could have asked for.

I cowboy camp for the first time. I’ve been admiring Billy’s minimalist set up and gear and have been inspired to try new things. I fall asleep to the vastness of the universe staring me in the face, I feel small, I feel like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment. I feel happy.

The temperature rises abruptly, we are in a heat wave and our hiking style requires adjustment. We wake up early, siesta during the hot afternoons and hike into the night. We become more and more feral, climbing boulders, and wasting away under the rare desert waterfall. In awe of the amazing new creatures that come across our path. Bathed in golden hour rays, sleeping under the stars.

After ten days, we thrust ourselves back into society. It’s time for a break. Kearny is amazing, the people are friendly and all our friends are here. I love the people that we meet and I love the person I’m becoming. I’m falling more and more in love with this life I’ve chosen every day. I would choose it a million times over.

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