I'm up before first light. It's going to be a long day, and I need to make use of every bit of daylight. I filled up on water the night before in order to save time, and well before sunrise, I'm climbing.

Today I climb Mica mountain.

More than that, however, I'm going to go down the mountain, and across a national forest in which I have no permit to camp , and then many miles beyond that.

It's ambitious. I honestly don't know if I'll make it, but I'm motivated, because I've contacted a trail angel who has volunteered to pick me up and take me to the post office and grocery store. She even offered to host me, which I didn't expect, but I'm not going to turn down such hospitality.

It works out, because this is day 10 without a shower. I've been pushing myself farther and farther, for the purpose of learning how to sustainably maintain wilderness life.


You might think 10 days without a shower is a big deal, but at this point, it's not. I doubt you would be able to differentiate between myself and someone who had just spent a morning working in the sun. It took quite a bit of time to figure out how to manage my own hygiene out here, but I've worked it out.

I have less than one day of food left, and I've already eaten just under half of it this morning to make sure I have a good start for the day.

From cactus to rocks, and finally to towering pine trees - by 10:30, I've reached the top. Because I'm low on food and water, my pack is light, and it's much easier to move quickly.


Normally, at around 4PM, my watch notifies me that I've hit the 400% activity mark for the day. At 10:30, my watch notifies me that I’ve hit that 400%.

I sit at the top for a while.

I'm not exhausted. I feel fresh.

And I have peanut butter m&ms.

And down we go. It's much less steep, and there are portions of trail that are not very rocky at all, so I pick up the pace. I start jogging. I still have many miles to go, and I don't know what I'm going to run into, so I jog at regular intervals, stopping to snack every 30 minutes to keep my energy up, and slowing down for dangerous terrain when necessary.

I'm quite surprised at my pace; the scenery going down the mountain isn't quite as breathtaking, so there's not as much reason to stop.

Sometimes the trail seems to double back, moving in the opposite direction. I verify it with the GPS, and it’s correct. I’m annoyed.

I HAVE PLACES TO BE.

I'm making such good time that I don't notice a trail marker.

Unfortunately, I didn't notice it while I was heading down a steep incline. For 30 minutes, I essentially ran down the trail, so confident and happy about the time I was making.

So confident in fact, that when I checked the GPS at the bottom, I was sure it was wrong.

No.

Reset the GPS.

Restart the app.

NO.

!#@%.

I'm way off the trail. Like, miles off the trail. Miles of steep elevation off the trail.
!@#$. I am not going back up. I'll find another way.

There is some cell coverage, so I check google maps for a road or another trail. It's not ideal, but I find another road I can take. I'm low on water, and the sun is beating down, but I can make it through.

I can get back to the trail via a couple of dirt roads, or what looks like dirt roads on the map.

I'm a little concerned about being in the middle of nowhere with only a half liter of water, but I'm not walking back up that mountain.

I'm adamant.


Until I get to a sign that says "Private Property. This is not a public appeasement, do not trespass".

That wording means they're specifically saying no to hikers.

I could just ignore it and go anyway, but it turns out the roads I would use are all privately owned, and I don't want to be the arrogant punk that specifically trespasses. It’s their property. They can deny me access if they want.

So.

I'll climb back up the mountain.

I'm upset.

No, I'm angry.

I finally get back to the marker I missed, and it's marked as the Arizona Trail, but it's facing the direction of the private property. There are several directions it could face, and it’s facing the one direction wherein it serves absolutely no purpose. Whomever placed it was not thinking at all about the actual purpose of the marker.

I hate that person.

The detour has killed my schedule - there's no way I'll make it in time to be picked up. It's just impossible now.

I don't have a permit to camp here either. I could try to stealth camp, but I risk a fine. I look to see if I can call and get a permit - I find a number, but I don't want to call it.

I don't want to camp here. I want to finish what I started.

Forget the dumb marker. Forget the seemingly impossible logistics. I'm going to try to make it.

Sure, I only have a couple of hours, and I still have miles to walk that would normally take me an entire day of daylight, but I'm going to do this thing.

So I walk at a good pace. I can't really run because the terrain is too dangerous. I just walk. The sun is setting and I finally near the edge of the national park; I can camp here, and it's very flat and easy terrain.


I pass a sign that recommends I don't disturb the africanized bees. Apparently, they can follow you for 100 feet, and the only option is to run from them. Getting caught and stung 100 times can result in death.

Thank you for the recommendation.

I'm out of the park, but I still have many miles to go for the predetermined pick up spot.

No matter. I've accepted that I'll camp tonight and make it tomorrow. I still have a little bit of water and 3 ounces of rolled oats left. Maybe this is even better. I'm invigorated because I made it up a mountain, down a mountain, down farther, then back up, and across a national park.

Bring on the Africanized bees. I will destroy them by sheer force of will.

When I get coverage, I notify the trail angel, and she suggests a closer location that is accessible by road. It would require night hiking, but it's only 5 miles away.

The moon is shining brightly, so I can make that even without a headlamp.

I'm a little disappointed. I had adjusted my expectation and was looking forward to another night, and day 11 in the wilderness.

But now I'm thinking about ice cream.

So I run. Fast.

When I get close to the pick up spot, some bass birds take off, and I audibly yell and jump back.

I wasn’t even singing, you goober birds.

-

Something is running towards me. Fast.

Something white.

What is that.
!


It's a poodle.
It nestles in between my legs and prances.

The poodle belongs to Sandy, the trail angel that drove 40 minutes to pick me up.

We stop by Safeway and get some ice cream, and then she brings me back home to her remote home on a ridge, overlooking Vail and Tucson. It's a fantastic view.

Sandy and I get along well, and spend the evening eating tacos and ice cream, and talking well into the night. Many hours later, I lie down in the guest room bed.

Well, first we capture the massive harvest spider and drop him outside.

Then I lie down in the guest room bed.


Today, I crossed a mountain.

Today, I burned over 8000 calories.
Tomorrow, I will eat donuts.