Somehow I survived the howling gale that buffeted my tent and no trees fell on me in the night. Phew. I was well rested and ready for my final day of hiking. Since I cut the trip short, I would no longer need the last full day of hiking, and at that point I was pretty fine with that. My feet. My poor suffering feet were so completely done.
I was reluctant to leave the lovely McFarland Canyon. It was so incredibly idyllic. I took my time with breakfast and spent a little time checking out a short exploratory mine shaft and photographing rusting metal mining tools.
As I was packing up, a middle aged couple hiked in with what looked to be very heavy packs. They told me they had recently retired and were working on doing the whole AZT section by section. They were having a great time learning to backpack together and exploring the state. They marveled that someone my age with a toddler was able to get away for 5 days to hike this far alone. That just wasn’t something they would have thought was possible when their kids were little.
Leaving McFarland Canyon, the surface water became less abundant but the evidence of a record setting winter was everywhere. The desert was exploding in shades of green and the profusion of flowers was a sight to behold. At one point I rounded a corner overlooking a grassy field to hear so many crickets you’d have thought I was in Louisiana or something. It was amazing.
With the trip almost over I had some time to contemplate this journey. To think about my experience and reflect. I chuckled a bit inside remembering how nervous I had been about launching this thing. Especially the navigation part. Navigating 100% on my own really gave my head a spin. But why? I guess we all have our things that we are less confident about, for me navigation is it. Maybe its because I can never remember if you add or subtract to adjust declination when going from map to physical world, or physical world to map. Or maybe its because I spent the previous 9 years partnered with a man who seems to have a GPS chip implanted in his brain. Seriously, his ability to know exactly where we are in space and precisely where to go without so much as a consult of the map or check of the compass is something to behold. As much as his skills are impressive, it can leave a girl feeling pretty inadequate in that department. But now, coming to the end of it, I find my confidence has risen. I trust in myself, as I should have all along. No, I may not be a human GPS, but I do know what I’m doing. Apparently I just needed to prove it to myself.
The last 4 miles were the longest 4 miles of the trip. Not only was the scenery a bit less remarkable, but after hiking 12-13 miles per day, 4 miles SOUNDS like basically nothing. I mean, I was practically done right? Yeah. That’s a head game that does nobody any favors. As soon as you decide you are basically done, you just want to be done. So the last miles stretch on fooooorrrrrr evvvverrrrrr.
When I finally arrived at the end of the passage, which ends under a highway bridge, I found another hiker basking in the late afternoon sun. We struck up a conversation and found that we had met once before in our hometown and had some friends in common. We spent a pleasant evening chatting and comparing destroyed foot stories from our respective hiking adventures. Once his ride arrived, I set up my tent to go to sleep. Yep. Right there. By the highway bridge. For some odd reason the trailhead is really not near where the passage actually ends and there is no signage to indicate which direction on the highway the trailhead is. I was tired and all done with thinking. I figured a night by the bridge like a hobo would refresh my senses so I could think straight the next morning. Plus, finally having phone service, it WAS kinda fun to text a few friends to tell them you were spending the night under a highway bridge.
Turns out, oddly enough, that a highway bridge isn’t exactly the most restful place to spend the night. Even though my tent couldn’t be seen from the road, and this particular spot was quite far from city centers (hence, interactions with other humans was unlikely) it was unnerving to sleep alone with the sounds of humanity so close by. As a solo female hiker, I’m not worried about bears or mountain lions. It’s other humans, particularly in the places where frontcountry and backcountry intersect that makes me nervous. It didn’t help that every time I was about to drift off to sleep a long haul trucker would clatter over the bridge and startle me awake. Oh well, live and learn.
The next morning, after coffee, a quick check of the map made clear which direction to walk along the road to get to the trailhead for my pick up. It was funny how much I struggled to see it the night before when it was quite clear now.
As I rested in the shade waiting for my ride it occurred to me; I am not particularly special. I’m not a sponsored athlete. I’m not especially fit or fast or noteworthy in any way. I won’t be setting any particular records for anything. I’m just a regular person. I’m a mom with a job and a mortgage to pay and chronic health issues that hold me back in a big way. But yet I’m here, doing what I can. Making it happen. But maybe that is precisely why I actually am, kinda awesome.
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