My thighs and quadriceps are burning.

My calves are burning.

I feel everything that happened yesterday.

It feels fantastic.

Except for the ankle. It’s not too bad, but it is worse, as you would expect. After stretching, it feels alright. Enough to walk.

So many rules

After I pack up the tent, I walk to the camp registration office to pay for last night; it’s 1/2 miles down the road.

The ankle is actually fine. I don’t have to worry about...wait, there it is. There’s the discomfort. Is this causing permanent damage? I should probably rest today.

At the registration office, I wait in line patiently. One man asks a tall gentleman whether he plays basketball.

An older American woman tells a Russian man what Russian people are like.

Another man is loudly arguing with another about how golf is not a sport.

I remind myself: this is why you generally carry AirPods to public places. My headphones are buried deep within my pack, so I continue to wait patiently.

The tellers can’t get the new system working.

I could have just walked on, and not paid my camping fee. This entire process is training me to do that in the future.

But I wait.

The system says I shouldn’t pay. They figure out a work around. A man types in my information into this “damned new computer system”. Slowly. He hates me for having a long email address.


I move on to the general store, and get a Chai Tea. At the post office, I pick up my resupply box - 5 days of food I mailed to myself a week earlier.

And I wait.

For my ankle, I guess. Not sure how long.

I should be walking. Elsewhere.

But I wait. And stretch.

How long should I wait?

Well.

I’m going to make use of the time. I walk over to the campground laundrymat and wash my night clothes. For $2 in quarters, you can take an 8 minute shower - my first in 7 days. After another load, a woman notices my USPS resupply box, approaches me, and asks:

“Arizona trail?”

Yes! Have you done it?

“No, but I’ve done the PCT and CDT. When do expect to be finished?”

At the rate I’m going, 2025.

“Well. Keep at it.”

Yep.

Showered, clothes cleaned, and food bag full. Water refilled, and I’m back to the trail.
But first I should visit the restaurant. 2 meals later, I’m back on the trail.
Luxurious trail

This area takes their trails seriously, as it’s completely paved and tailored. It’s only about 5 miles to get out of the Grand Canyon national park, which I need to get out of in order to camp legally.

The sunset is fast approaches, and my ankle is getting really tight again. I break out the trekking poles to pull me along. It’s getting cold.

About 500 feet past the park boundary, there are several RVs parked and a tent off by it’s lonesome.

I don’t know if this requires a permit, but I’m going to risk it. The existing tent has chosen the ideal spot, so I’m circling it trying to find a good spot for myself.

The tent owner pulls up on a motorcycle, and finds me close to his tent.

We look at each other.

You’ve got the prime spot. I’m looking to get in on this action.

He nods.

“I’m thinking about starting a fire right over there, but I didn’t want to do it just by myself.”

I down with that.

“Cool”

I set up my tent and he starts his fire. I wonder if he has marshmallows.

For the past month and a half, Robert has been road tripping to all the national parks in the lower 48 on his motorcycle.

He’s impressed that I’m walking Arizona.
We search for sticks to keep the fire going, and the couple from the nearby RV walks over with perfectly dry fire logs.

“We have wood!”

Welcome!

Philip and his wife are from Holland. They’ve traveled everywhere, and I mean everywhere. As they got older, they converted from backpacking to an RV. He is unimpressed by my base weight.

Their favorite place is Botswana, because of the wildlife. Elephants and lions walk by on the regular, but you have to store your food elsewhere, or the elephants will try to take it from you. They’re peaceful, but they’re also hungry.

Elephants are the African bear, I guess.

They have some tiger balm that they offer for my ankle, and bring us glasses and drinks.

So luxurious, they are happy to offer what they have. We talk about traveling, and the national parks, wilderness, and learning languages fluently. They speak 4, and are working on the 5th.

I’m working on my 2nd.

저는 그렌이에요 .

As they head off to bed, Robert and I exchange horror stories of bears, mountain lions, ghosts, and demons in the San Juan mountains.

We are both terrified of bears and mountain lions; particularly the scream they make that sounds like a woman being murdered.

He wonders if the screams he heard in the San Juan mountains were from a ghost from a plane crash, even though he doesn’t believe in ghosts. There didn’t seem to be anything around. The snow was everywhere. The scream was coming right from where they were standing.

$#?! there it is again. Where is it? It’s right here!

A third scream, right where they are standing.

That’s it. They’re done. They take off with haste and report it to the ranger.

The next summer, they revisit the area with trepidation to discover wreckage of a crashed Cessna from the 60s.

Guess who is never hiking that area again?

Robert, that’s who.

And me neither.

Maybe you will, and can see the screaming woman.

We retire to our tents. Robert yells at his tent:

“How did you develop condensation? I haven’t even been in you!”

He mumbles periodically.

I drift off to sleep in the moonlight. It was a good night. I’m glad to got a few miles in, and it’s nights like these that make me feel like I’m supposed to be out here.

Meeting people, without pretense, without any other knowledge getting in the way of who you are, or who they are. You meet them in the present moment, without the bull$#!% that life normally brings along.

Unless you’re like the two people dressed in all white from another story that was told. The people that walked around your tent many times while you were asleep deep in the woods and left deep tracks of footprints you only discovered the next morning.

Report it to the ranger. Move the #?!% on.

Quickly.