Payson to Pine

April 27-We have been doing solid miles each day and wanted to take a little “CDT vacation day.” Most days last year after New Mexico were long days and big miles. We have two months to complete this trail and will be hitting the half way point today. So we decided to hike a shorter day to spend the afternoon hours hanging out at camp. 

It was nice and chilly this morning as we cruised North. Everything is green and blooming in Arizona. We took a nice breakfast break where we ate sandwiches we packed out from Safeway. We passed two donkeys grazing in a field. Lots of water running today which meant I never carried more then a liter at a time. 

The trail began climbing up from the desert floor or the frying pan we call it. We crossed the same stream many times, walked up dry washes, and climbing up rock steps. We took one break at a stream watching a hummingbird bath and drink from the water multiple times. There have also been many huge butterflies with various colors flying about. We also came across a huge snake sunbathing right next to the trail. We couldn’t tell what type it was so he tapped near it with his hiking pole. The snake slithered into a hole deep in the ground. I would guess he was 2 1/2 feet long and he did not have a rattler. 

We entered the Mazatzal Wilderness area. We passed an old mining spot dug into the rocks. I peeked inside, but didn’t want to rain exploring as old tree branches were holding up some of the sides. We passed the 400 mile marker today and are more then half way done with the trail. 

Some of this area burned in 2012 so there are lots of big trees burnt, but that are still standing. We hiked a grand total of 13.1 miles climbing over 3,000 feet before we found a spot in a dry wash to set up our tents. We even took 3 decent breaks during the day and made it to camp before 3. Today was one of those lovely days where the hiking rewarded us with new views. We lounged around our campsite for a bit when I surprised him with an early year anniversary gift. Tomorrow is our one year, but tonight was appropriate for the gift. I handed him a baggy with six Jack Daniel whiskey nips to his surprise! So his relaxing evening got even better as we shared memories for a lifetime. “Actually, the best gift you could of given her was a lifetime of adventure!” – Lewis Carrol 

April 28-

Last night there was something wandering around our tent. We both heard it, but did not bother to look as we just fell back to sleep. We walked a fast mile to a water source to eat breakfast before beginning a climb towards a ridge line. 

For the first time since day one I was chilly when we climbed uphill. I had goosebumps all over my legs and even thought I was sweating I was chilled. I’ve been hiking in spandex shorts since they prevent chaffing and a think spandex long sleeve shirt. I really considered putting on my pants. The sky was eerie as many dark clouds were overhead. We would be climbing to over 7,000 feet today. The trail was beautifully switchbacked winding up towards the top. I came to log that looked like a place to tie up horses and took a short break. We walked together as the trail came to a pine forest. This is still a burn section from many years ago, but the forest is coming back to life. We took a short snack break before the last big climb to 7,100 feet in the Mazatzal Wilderness. The ridges do not have names, but this section was gorgeous! At the top, we had extraordinary views as expected and we could see where the trail went for miles.

We did not stay on the top of the ridge long since it was cold up there. We zoomed downhill from a treeless area back to a pine forest. We took a quick lunch break here. It reminded us of a typical CDT day when it was too cold to take long breaks. After a short uphill, we could see the trail for many miles and cruised downhill.

I ran into Southern and would meet his partner Data later at camp. It was nice to see thru hikers again and they are also triple crowners. All of us camped at Horse Camp Seep. We hiked a total of 19.1 miles at 6,114 feet elevation. It got chilly tonight and it felt nice to crawl into our tent. I had been asking for colder weather and clouds! I certainly got that today.

*Happy one year anniversary to my hiking partner, my Bub! I am so fortunate to have you in my life. In the past year, we spent 7 months living in the woods on a long distance trail together, 2 months in a long distance relationship as I was homesteading in the UP of Michigan with my family, and 3 months in a small town in Maine living indoors! You have never seen me in a dress or heels, we haven’t done any fancy dates or even a typical date night, we don’t need to blast our love on social media or buy gifts to show our love. We have a unique relationship and I wouldn’t want it any other way. In this past year, I have felt feelings I have never experienced before. There is so much love and affection that we share for each other. We know everything about each other and keep no secrets. There is never a moment of awkward silent after all these adventures. You have given me faith that true love is real and I may have found my life partner. The way you support and encourage me on trail is unbelievable. I am so lucky to have you in my life. I know you do not read my blog currently, but one day you might and I want to express my current feelings. Thank you for being you and loving me! ❤️

April 29-

This morning I started hiking with my fleece hat, gloves, and down jacket. I did not make it up the climb all the way before undressing. It was windy and cloudy during the morning hours. We had epic views all morning and the afternoon views were even better. We wanted to take our breaks in the sunshine today which is a change from a week ago. 

After 6 miles, I had a horrible pain in my ankle. It was swollen for sure and I walked 1.8 miles of the most excruciating pain of any trail. We took a break and he did an exam. Another perk of hiking with a physical therapist. It’s my damn posterior tibialis that was swollen and sore to the touch. After an hour break and two Advil, it was stiff, but felt better as I walked. We had a nice uphill that rewarded us with views for miles and the first sighting of Mt. Humphries which is the highpoint of Arizona. We are still around 135 miles by trail from that point so you can imagine how big this view way! I would of stared at it all day, but the downhill on rocky terrain needed my full attention. My pain slowly went away and I just need to keep an eye on it.

We took our last long break at a water source before one final uphill of the day. At the top of the hill, I could see LF Ranch about 2,000 feet below us. The downhill was so smooth and quick that it felt like I was flying. I waited for him at the bottom and we walked together the rest of the evening as I shared my Podcasts with him. 

We passed the entrance to LF Ranch and made our way down to the East Verde River. This is the largest river so far that the trail crosses. We could of tried to walk over the rocks, but I carry crocs for many reasons. I tore off my stinky shoes and slipped on my crocs. I was in the water so quickly and it felt wonderful. I could see the deep spots and got water up to my upper thigh. A free bath! It felt so cold and refreshing. I walked to the sand on the other side to drop my pack before wading out in the water. I hung out on a rock letting my legs and feet soak. It’s healing! When we get to the next town, it will have been 175 miles without a shower so I take what I can get. If it wasn’t almost 5 I would of gone swimming for sure. We dried out our feet and kept walking.

We headed down to Polk Spring surprised to see a few rose bushes. It is labeled as a great large campsite. We were disappointed to find a couple had took over the campsite. They are out for a few nights or longer as they had so much stuff. We chatted a minute, collected water, and decided to keep going since there were no other spots. We found nothing until we dipped off the trail to investigate a wash. We found a spot the tent would just fit without the rain fly and quickly set up. We met another couple thru hiking and will likely see them in Pine. We both cooked and relaxed before climbing into our home. Without the rain fly, we could see the stars and the sliver of the moon. It was a clear night and after 19 miles it was wonderful to stretch out in the tent.

April 30-

I was chilly this morning when I crawled out of the tent to do my lady chores. It is a woman thru hiker’s least favorite time of the month. I use a diva cup on trail and in real life for many reasons. On trail, it is much easier then packing out tampons. I just make sure to clean my hands before dumping and replacing the diva cup. I did my chore and jumped back into the tent and it was around 5:30. I tried hard to convince him to relax longer in the tent instead of packing up. I won! We slowly took our time eating inside the tent then packing up for the day. 

As we climbed out of the wash to the trail, the sun began to shine on us. We had a steep uphill on loose rocks to warm up. I was sweating within 5 minutes of taking off my jacket at camp. We reached the top of the mesa looking back on where we were yesterday. It was a gradual uphill mesa walk for many miles this morning. We stopped at a water trough to fill up and eat second breakfast. 

We both zoomed out to Podcasts as we cruised along the mesa for many morning miles. The trail was covered in igneous rocks that you had to maneuver around. I also managed to get some of those prickly grasses and some cactus thrones in my ankle. It was what I call mindless walking. There was a steep rocky uphill at one point, but overall just a day of solid walking. We joined dirt roads, crossed many barbed wire gates, walked a forest service road, and along the power lines. We slowly climbed uphill for 13ish miles to be back in the land of ponderosa trees and prickly pear cactus. The last mile was steep on rocks as my feet were pretty sore from all the rocks. 

We made it to Oak Spring where we planned to camp. We saw our first bear track of the trail near the water. We filled up and found a flat spot to set up camp after 18.1 miles of hiking. We are under 4 miles from the town of Pine! It was a relaxing evening spent together. 

May 1-
This is the first time that we woke up to the sun shining on our tent. We did not begin walking until 7:15 which was a nice treat. We were exactly 3.8 miles from the Pine Trailhead. It was nice and warm as the sun was shining down on us. We did dip down to a chilly wash before a steady uphill climb that allowed us to sweat a bit this morning. We still could not hear the sound of the highway which was a nice treat. Before we knew it, we were passing civilization and a forest of ponderosa pines. We walked quick and a bit before 9 we were at the trailhead. We both used the port a potty before walking towards the highway. We walked 87 and stopped at the Brewery in hopes to pick up my box, but the woman did not respond. 

So we walked farther into town towards all the good stuff. We stopped at the Early Bird Diner. We chatted with a few other hikers here as well. We hung out for a bit at the market before checking in early to our cabin. We stayed at the Pine Cabins for $90 a night. It was worth the price and included a jacuzzi bath. We showered after 175 miles which was lovely. We did laundry as well. I walked back out of town to pick up my box from one of my best friends, Kelly. I had given her a list of food ideas and she filled the box with everything I listed I believe. I’m so lucky to have such good friends!! Thanks again Kelly. The rest of the day was spent lounging around and a quick dinner at the Mexican restaurant. It’s margarita Monday so instead of $5 it only cost $1.79… damn. This might be a nice town to retire to and rent at the RV park is super cheap at $250 a lot, but you have to be over 55. Maybe someday. We soaked together in the tub watching comedy shows. We drank a few of the Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery. 5% of each purchase goes town the AZTA. We then submerged my sleeping pad in the tub and it took some time, but I found the leak that needed to be patched. So today was a lovely Nero into the town of Pine. Happy May!

May 2- 

Our bodies are accustomed to waking up at 5:30 everyday even in town. I was able to fall back to sleep for a little while. We grabbed a Mexican breakfast next door then packed up our bags. We spent an hour at the market then another hour or so at the Early Bird Diner where I had a humongous burger! We are just busy doing online chores today and getting the rest of the trail plans squared away. Life is good in Pine! We headed out of town to That Brewery cabin to lounge for the rest of the afternoon. My ankle is wrapped, elevated, a beer in hand, and lots of yummy snacks next to my love! ❤️


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