The plan was to leave Flagstaff and be on the trail by 6.

Of course, that didn’t work out. I picked up some burritos for the trail, and was walking by 9.

The day began with a reasonable temperature, but cold winds. Lots of tall yellow grass billowing in the wind, the trail was relatively flat.

Oh. Spoke to soon. The trail became a rocky, steep uphill climb of monotonous switch backs. Eventually, it flattened out enough to be uphill without switchbacks. Throughout this time, no water was to be found.

A piece of civilization popped up in the form of an observatory, but there was no water access, and it was all locked up.

Fields of rocks abounded.

And then I saw it - one of the most serene views I had seen on the trail. It was picturesque.
So. I took a picture. Several. None of them quite captured the beauty of the moment.
A strange weed displaced from a Detroit ecosystem

Then the golf carts started. Men carrying weapons in search of elk, unable to go past certain gates.

It seemed the playing field had been leveled, in that neither the elk nor the golf carts could go through gates.

The uphill trail and tall grass was replaced with a weaving forest of crumpled over trees and rocky ground.

I’m not putting up my tent here.

It was getting late in the day, so I started to run. I didn’t want to be caught in this section as the sunset arrived.

Several miles up, the landscape became somewhat less rocky. I could probably get another 2-3 miles in before...oh!

There’s another hiker camped.

I waved, and followed the accepted social norm of being friendly and opening conversation.

His trail name was Mowgli, and he normally doesn’t camp this early, but his feet had other plans. He had been hiking in zeros, which are effectively sandals without toe protection.

I camped across the trail from him and we began a conversation of all things thru-hiking.

Mowgli hiked the both the AT and PCT, and has never stored food anywhere but the tent, except in the areas required by law to do otherwise.

But YouTube says...

“The YouTubers are there to entertain”

So you don’t think...

“Look, if you want to practice ‘safe’ food practices, go ahead. I won’t knock you. I’m just saying I’ve been doing this all my life, and I’ve never done it. Just don’t be an idiot about it. Put it in a scent proof bag, and don’t eat a snickers and leave the wrapper out at 1 in the morning and you’ll be done.”

“3/5 thru-hikers will probably tell you the same thing”.

“Maybe I’ve just gotten complacent because nothing has ever happened.”

“Plus, it’s so cold out here.”

Huh.

That night I slept with my food in my tent.
I can’t guarantee anything about the next night.