Dream Teamin on the AZT Part 4

As suspected, the Mazatzals were brutal. The incessant rocky terrain wore away at my feet and my spirit. For what felt like an eternity, but in reality was probably around fifty miles (ymmv), we were waking on exclusively rocks – ranging in size from golfball to grapefruit. My new shoes and insoles helped, but not enough to save my feet from an absolute pummeling.

In Payson, I made a few bold choices to save weight for the long food carry ahead. I shipped home my stove, I have done the thing I never said I’d do, and I’m never looking back. I also bought a lighter sleeping pad in a last ditch effort to save weight and space.

We limp into Pine. While my attitude was slightly improved from the great bitch fest in the Supe’s, it still wasn’t great… until we saw Team Patagonia’s van at the trailhead. Team Patagonia is comprised of Matt and Rose – a couple who we had been leapfrogging with since we met them in Patagonia – they had reached out a few days prior to see if we wanted to meet up in Pine. They had made the call to end their hike early, but weren’t leaving the state for a few more days. Absolutely, we’d love to meet up! They made us a wonderful dinner and took us to a nice dispersed camping area to wind down for the night.

We hit the trail hard the next day. We were set to climb to the Mogollon Rim which was the recent place that fear mongerers far and wide were hyper focused on. We had met some older women who were section hiking who had warned us about the dangers of the Moogs, high water and snow! Frozen nights and poisonous snakes! We can’t go up there! The canyon is closed, why even continue then?! To make matters even more comical, we found a laminated note in the trail register rambling on about more of the same nonsense. Fuck that, we wanted to see and decide for ourselves.

The Moogs were nothing like described. The snow was minimal and the mud wasn’t even that bad. I actually enjoyed the change in pace. I wouldn’t say the terrain on the Mogollon Rim was boring, but it was certainly a lot of the same, so when the trail was a literal creek, I didn’t mind that much because at least it was something different.

Mormon Lake, however, was worse than expected. The store had recently reopened so we decided that we’ve been such good kids that we deserve some junk food and a Coors Light. Once we arrived, though, we found the place to be completely infested with gnats, so bad that I resorted to covering my face with a bandana to avoid ingesting any of them.

Billy has made a habit of giving me more tattoos with a sharpie during breaks. It’s a fun way to break up the day and keep things light. It is also a fun way to start a conversation with people we meet – oh, him? He’s just a rootin, tootin, slithering sonofabitch. Thanks for noticing.

We arrive in Flagstaff and I am quickly overwhelmed about how this is our last town stop on this trail. Our plan is to stop at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and return to finish the last hundred miles once the closure is lifted. We’ve had a completely continuous footpath through this whole trail, and we aren’t about to let a closure screw that up.

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