Journal Entry- October 10th, 2021
We finally made it to the trail. Already it feels like an adventure and it is only the first day. There’s snow on the ground in Arizona. I thought I was prepared for this trip but camping in 18 degree weather is a new kind of cold to me. As we set up the tent in the snow I am suddenly aware of how completely alone we are. Something about the fact that we had to fly on the plane to get here makes it feel even more remote. ‘Am I crazy, this is crazy’ keeps repeating in my head. “How cold is the coldest a person can survive?” I ask Bobby. We laugh together and say “we’re fine”, a lame attempt at reassuring each other that this isn’t our first time backpacking. I am however painfully aware of my limited experience of thru hiking in the winter. What the hell Arizona, I thought you were suppose to be a dessert?? How neiave was I. Durning my planning of this trip it felt more “safe” that Bobby was with me, verses thru-hiking alone. Now I’m realizing my only “emergency contact” is on trail with me and I mentally kick myself for not getting the emergency GPS and SOS device. I make hot coco to fight off the sting of the cold weather as we sit on the dryish spot amongst the snow and trees.
It feels unreal that we are finally here and the magnitude of the trip before us is more than daunting. This is only the beginning, what if it gets colder? Is it going to be this cold the whole time? What if one of us gets hurt? “Do you want to light up that cigar?” Bobby’s question pulls me from the mental trail of fear my mind had begun to trek. Earlier that day when Bobby’s dad dropped us at the start of our trail, (it didn’t feel real then either) he gave us cigars. “My father used to smoke these” Rob says, with a bit of nostalgia resting in his voice. We light them up at the trailhead as we take in the snowy forest of Arizona.
“What say you old man? Bobby asks. “Go for it” Rob says through the haze of our cigar smoke.
Bobby holds out the half smoked cigar to me, and the memories of earlier brings me out of my mental onslaught of ‘What ifs’. “We just have to make it to The Grand Canyon” I say, “Yup, then after that to Flagstaff”, Bobby says and winks at me. We both understand the need to focus on smaller goals, the 600 miles between us and the end being too far to fathom. I remind myself of the feelings from earlier as the cigar smoke swirls around us. We have high quality camping gear. We have each other and I am confident in my physical strength.
I may not be a great backpacker but I’m really good at walking.
Journal Entry- October 16th, 2021
There is frost inside the tent. Never have I ever woken up to frost sneaking its way across the bottom of my sleeping bag. As I climb out of the tent the moisture from the inside the fly turns to frost. The idea of filtering water in this weather is painful. Actually the act of filtering water in this weather is excruciating. Bobby and I take turns packing up the tent. Each of us taking a moment to furiously blow air into closed fists. An unsuccessful effort at warming our hands. We chug some instant coffee, and try not to break our teeth on frozen cliff-bars as we walk in circles moving to stay warm. The act of eating and drinking feels like a chore in this cold weather. We just want to hike, knowing that will be the only thing to warm us.
We hike 6 miles, stopping occasionally to bask in the sunshine. I feel like a badass as snow crunches under my footsteps. This feels like the truest adventure I’ve ever had. I realize this is our first fall in over six years (we used to live in Florida) and I am at once grateful and thankful to be here. Once we stop shivering our pace slows to more of a hike and less of a march. I am warm enough now to enjoy the frozen landscape. The frost on each blade of grass, the snowy covered pine trees all mixed with the brilliant colors of fall leaves. We are in the middle of somewhere and nowhere. A place far from everything. There is nothing except one single goal- just hike. The air is crisp, and tastes of pine forests, and mountains. It taste like freedom, like I can actually breath out here.