Success, they taught me, is built on the foundation of courage, hard-work and individual responsibility. Despite what some would have us believe, success is not built on resentment and fears. – Susana Martinez
My bashful bear – or at least somewhat easily controlled bear – never returned. The food bag acted as a head rest and I was undisturbed in the silvery moonlight. The morning light is orange, coyotes yip and I have breakfast sitting on a log stripped of bark. The trail heads up onto a plateau looking back at fans and solar panels, a small community on a slightly lower mountain. I walk on white rocky sand around many blind corners, so I talk loudly and bang sticks hoping not to bump into a lion.
A trail crew works ahead, the first people I’ve seen in a day. One tells me gnats are rare as gnats swarm his face. The other tells me he knows my bear, a rascal who’s figured out how to open bear-proof garbage cans. A few more trail workers come our way with a wheelbarrow full of rocks. I ask if they might wheel me to Mexico and they tell me I’m not far now. Just what I needed as my energy was flagging. The gnats are not as aggressive today, but I’m really struggling with continuing. The desert is hard, perhaps more psychologically than physically, the wide open space open to the sun, the relentless up and down with little change in scenery and the lack of water requiring me to carry and slowing me down.
Or maybe it’s just after 2,000 miles, it’s tough to stay committed.
I come down steeply towards a road and there’s a spring crossing the trail. One of the trail workers inserted a metal piece to channel the water into a small falls where I can easily collect. I drink a liter and take a liter, plus a snack, careful not to sit near the fire ants. A small bit of shade is a nice break before a long descent and an even higher ascent.
A kind soul left a few gallons of water at the road, but I leave it for the next hiker and head up the mountain. I feel good on this long ramp, gently rising as it traces the ravines, in and out. The views open to the desert, then close allowing only a view of the tree-dotted mountain I just descended. Up and up I go, coming over the top into a huge plateau filled with trees, my tunnel through inviting back the gnats. I come up and out again after miles of trail, looking down on a community. My feet are dusty and tired, a huge red and black ant walks past too quickly for me to snap his picture.
I come down now on long switchbacks towards a paved road. Casa de Luna is the home of a trail angel in Green Valley and this is the last year they will host after two decades. When I get to the road, a truck flies past and a huge, plastic tank flies out of it, fortunately just missing crashing into me. He turns around to retrieve it and I offer to help as well as ask if he’ll take me into town. The answer is no to both, so I stick out my thumb as many cars drive past.
Finally one with a license plate reading ‘3 pawz’ stops and drives me faster than feels safe down the winding road. The driver has a doctor’s appointment, so leaves me at a corner and I find my way to the house. The television is blaring, but no one answers the door, so I have a snack on the porch until Terrie discovers me. I’m the first one here and get right into a shower. There is nothing better and I’m like a new person, heading to the local store with another hiker called ‘Brass’ for beer and chips to share.
A whole group of hikers collect and we set out tents in the manzanita forest filled with painted rocks by the hundreds of hikers who’ve come through over the years. A group makes a huge pot of pasta and garlic bread and I eat and drink far too much, happy to be clean, sit in a chair, and see my friends. Tomorrow will be tough with very little water if at all, but seeing others gives me courage. They’re on the porch talking as my eyelids get heavy and the alicoop calls softly for me to cuddle in.