I had a very loose resupply strategy for this trip mainly because of the luxury of being an Arizona resident. In every instance I had a friendly and loving person bring a new box of supplies to me, usually enhanced with unexpected treats. I was spoiled silly. To decide which towns to rest in, I did a naive equal division of miles and whatever town-like settlement existed in the midpoints became my dubbed shangri-las… Mostly this worked out very well. My first rest, the rest of a mortally injured bitch-slapped initiate, was in the town of Patagonia, where my friend Tara had treated me to a night at a charming B & B. I would love to report on the town, but I didn’t see it. I crawled with dangling appendages into the room and wouldn’t leave it until I was dragged out by my expectant friends to the Velvet Elvis which is quickly becoming an AZT must-do… How much rest did I allow my shocked body? 12 hours. Mean.
Next resupply strategy was to get off the trail at Colossal Cave and stay with a Couchsurfing host in Tuscon, an overwhelming sprawl of heat and happy people. I still couldn’t really move, but because I had rebelled and brought pants with cotton in them (scandal #1), I had to make a visit to Summit Hut and get REAL THRU-HIKER pants… which I’m pretty sure are made out of recycled Happy Meal toys… Total rest time in Tuscon? 14 hours. Do I hate myself?
After that, everything went off the plan. After my near-death experience in the Rincons and the promise of more deathly risk in the Catalinas , the archangel Sirena picked me up at the Molena Basin Campground and treated me to a MASSAGE!!! A MASSAGE!!! Can you believe it??? A MASSAGE!! Total rest time before she mercifully delivered me to the safety of Oracle (I make my way back to the Catalinas later): 12 hours, but the massage made it seem like a week.
I stayed in Oracle another day. I deserved it. My body hadn’t had a chance yet to figure out what the hell was happening to it and was intensely postured in unyielding survival mode. Plus, my friends Chris and Bruce were coming down to share the adventure that was the The Chalet and take me out for sushi. And I had a big screen tv (I don’t even like TV but it was so novel), AND I had a “connection”with the 85 year-old volunteer at the Oracle library who kept slipping me extra hours on the computer. Who’d wanna leave? Total rest time in Oracle : a fat 24 hours
Next town, and I can’t emphasize enough the absolute NECESSITY of having some extended time in this town when you are thru-hiking the AZT, is the town of Superior, Arizona. It was a vortex of synchronistic weirdness that changed my life forever. And there wasn’t even any chocolate cake there (which turned out to be a real problem to solve).
One out of every ten buildings in Superior is in use. The rest are rushing towards relic status with charming vigor. At first glance, it seems as if there is an entire strip of seedy motels to choose from along the brief few miles of the town that lie on Hwy. 60, but you quickly notice that most are abandoned and graffitied or have been transformed into someone’s craft shop. The choice was to continue to camp or den at the Copper Mountain Motel. With a Dairy Queen and a Dollar Store nearby, the Copper Mountain Motel couldn’t have planned itself as a resupply hotel any better. And they loved hikers. Merlin, the owner of the motel, and I became fast friends and he put me in casita numero uno, quite simply because it was the best room and I am the Queen! The public computer was in his office and we chatted up about our lives, our beliefs, the history of the town (which I’m afraid is all it has left barring any incoming miracles), the trail, and of course gossiped about other hikers (all 5 of them currently known to be thru-hiking this spring). It seems the other thru-hikers were all holed up in this hotel right that very day, waiting out a big “storm” that was supposed to be coming in ( * Arizona “storms” aren’t real storms…more about that later). Shawn, whom I’d had considerable email contact with was there, Brian and Tyler, 2 college grads from Ohio who were quickly creating the most interesting trail stories were there, a German guy on the Grand Enchantment Trail was there.. It was almost a valid gypsy commune at the time! I booked two nights and invited my teenage son and his love to come down on night number two. Being a writer, I knew the town would fuel his passion for interesting characters and settings and it also was Easter Sunday. I love mama-ness and holidays and had to make him a fat Easter basket … which is what I spent my idle hours doing until his arrival … It was a lovely time that first visit to Superior and I couldn’t wait to report on the uniqueness, friendliness, and old west beauty of Superior… But Superior wasn’t done with me.. oh no… I thought I had left that vignette of Arizona Trail experience behind when my son dropped me off at the trailhead the next day… but there would be more…
As I mentioned earlier, I skipped the Catalinas. Those of you who have read my earlier posts from the trail know that the legendary Chris had hiked the Catalinas in 5 feet of snow with a pizza from Summerhaven poised on his hand, as told by Marny at the Village Chalet. But not yet being a “real thru-hiker”, I couldn’t handle it.. I moved on.. As soon as I possibly could though I had to get back and finish that segment… It was haunting me… And I took my first encounter with lots of snow up in the Flagstaff area as a great reason to head back south and knock that one out. The drive to the trailhead was 4 hours long with a heavy foot and I didn’t want to do it early in the morning and then start hiking. There would alot of ascent that day and I needed to be fresh. It would be wisest to stay the night down there and start hiking on first bat of eyelashes. Being brilliant, I had the idea to look up Colin, another thru-hiker from Scotland who had started 2 weeks after me and would likely be in that general area. We knew each other via preparation email exchanges and I thought it would be great to meet up and camp together a night or… guess what??? He was currently resupplying at my favorite motel in Superior! Holy yes! Perfect! I contacted him and asked to rent floor space and he agreed to accommodate me. Colin and I hit it off right away, with plenty of stories to exchange, matching umbrellas, and a shared insatiable need of sweets. We actually spent a good percentage of our day together on a quest for chocolate cake, even offering to pay the market clerk to bake one for us, to no avail. A Hostess pre-packaged one just wouldn’t fly. Defeated, we succumbed to the void of afternoon television watching when there was a knock at the door. Colin answered the door to find Merlin standing there. I immediately thought of how it was probably not okay that I hadn’t paid an extra person fee to the motel. I did go and say hi to Merlin earlier, genuinely glad to see him, and to let him know that I was back to finish a skipped section and what luck I got to visit him and his lovely establishment TWICE.. But I didn’t offer to pay the extra fee. Oops. My bad. Merlin asked Colin to step outside… and close the door.. Oh my this was a really big deal…
I wrote a cryptic post about what happened next earlier… but I wasn’t “ready” to really share it yet. It freaked me out and I didn’t know how to be with it. I can share now. It won’t seem as a big a deal to you, but I was mottled by it. I find it funny now. After about 10 minutes, Colin came back into the room… and shut the door. Now I didn’t know Colin well enough at that point to know what color his face usually was, but it was a funny shade of cabernet when he came back from his little time with Merlin. I couldn’t imagine how mad Merlin must have been to have upset Colin so much. Turns out, Colin was in danger, and Merlin felt it very necessary to warn Colin, who clearly had no idea WHO he was denning with. It appears that in the town of Superior, I am a favorite local “working” girl, posing as an Arizona Trail hiker, who latches on to foreigners for their money… If the local men see Colin with me, he will likely be beat up … Merlin doesn’t want this kind of trouble in his establishment and is genuinely concerned about Colin. He didn’t actually tell him he HAD to get rid of me, but discretion was clearly demanded. Colin and I just stared blankly at each other for a few minutes. Really? Did he really say that? He was kidding.. surely… Nope he’s not laughing yet… Should I defend myself to Colin now? Did a tiny little part of him consider the possibility that this was true? A favorite amongst the locals?? It was nice of him to add that… But what?? I do this all the time? He had also told Colin I had other men with me not that long ago.. Was he referring to my son whom I had introduced to him as my son??? Yikes really??? Wait, of course Colin couldn’t entertain it as a possibility.. He had seen my feet.. He knew there was real gear in my pack.. And the plastic pants and wool turtleneck just weren’t that sexy… Should he have punched Merlin?? Should I have completely gone psycho on Merlin??? It took long long moments to figure out what to do… I offered to move out of the room but Colin assured me it wasn’t necessary. I couldn’t let it sit and went to talk to Merlin. I didn’t want to create the kind of drama to get Colin kicked out of his room, being the only choice he had for the night, but I had to say something. I went to the office and met up with Merlin’s wife. Merlin wouldn’t come out and see me.
“You need to register your vehicle with us. We could have towed it.”
“Okay no problem. Do you want me to pay an extra fee for staying in the room?”
“No, that’s okay. But how do you know Colin?” (Was he their nephew now or something?)
“We’re thru-hiking the same trail. We’ve been in contact by email for months. It’s common for hikers to meet up with each other.”
“Oh, okay. Well you just need to register your vehicle. Good thing we didn’t have it towed. ” (the tow-yard was right next door to the Dairy Queen. I imagine they would have just pushed it there.)
I left it at that. I wanted an apology, but I left it at that. I didn’t want us kicked out of the room and honestly, it was somewhat flattering to have such a tale made up about you. I expanded it into giving myself the title of “Legendary Whore of Superior”. I imagined all future guests would be warned of my possible arrival. Imagined how future hikers would peek from behind their hefty resupply boxes for a glimpse of me.. wondering if they could resist the allure of my Merrill goretex boots and near dread-locked hair… I thought of writing Merlin a letter now, now that I’ve finished the trail.. But I didn’t want to close off the possibility of making yet another visit to the motel.. maybe next season.. unannounced and unaccompanied… really mess with his mining-chemicals-in-the-water-supply mind…..
Total rest time in Superior over 2 visits: 3.5 surreal days
(resupply towns to be continued)