Endless P Summer

Day 10

Danakyu

Elev. 7181 feet

Today we mixed things up a little. Sara and I have been thinking about what we were going to do after the Manaslu Circuit. A couple days ago we decided to just link it to the Annapurna Circuit and try to do them back to back. The start of the Annapurna circuit overlaps the end of the Manaslu circuit anyway. We don’t need a guide and we already have the permits, and since Mac can lend us a map of the Annapurna region and loan us some extra rupees there’s no reason to leave the mountains yet. We took Mac up on his offer since we wouldn’t see an ATM for awhile and cash is king in the mountains. Our original plan was to walk another 2 days to the end of the Manaslu circuit, Besi Sahar, and then catch a ride down to Pokhara, the nearest city, but we figure this plan is better. 

Today we walked from Bimthang to Dharapani. It was almost all downhill and it was pretty cool, we had awesome views of the big mountains early on then we got into a pine forest with plenty of pink and red rhododendrons in full bloom. We arrived in Dharapani around 3 PM which is where the 2 circuits join. Our friends would walk the rest of the way to Besi Sahar so we said goodbye to them in Dharapani; Mac was headed back to Kathmandu for a while then on to thruhike the Japanese Alps, Moist was trying to decide between going to the Everest region or going to Kyrgyzstan, and Gopal AKA Mountain Tiger was headed home to Kathmandu until his next guiding mission.

QB and I walked along a road, the first road we’ve seen since day 1, for another hour until we got to the town of Danakyu. We found a place to stay for the night, pretty much just picking at random. This should be interesting going without a guide and figuring it out on our own. We’ve done absolutely zero research on the Annapurna Circuit but how hard could it be? We have a map.

Day 11

Upper Pisang

Elev. 10,820 feet

I think everybody gets sick eventually in Nepal. Today it was QB’s turn. Yesterday she started feeling lousy walking down from Bimthang and it progressed throughout the day and overnight. She’s tough though and once she got on the Imodium train this morning she started feeling better. Maybe not 100% yet but she’s getting there.

The weather wasn’t great today plus with QB’s bellyache it didn’t look like we’d have much of a day. Still crushed though. There was a decent climb from Danakyu to Timthang then walked a couple more hours to Chame. A German guy Alan walked with us for a while and that was a breath of fresh air, someone new. He stopped in Chame where he was meeting a friend and we carried on. For lunch we got to this lodge in Brathang that looked totally out of place. It looked more like a farmhouse you’d see in the Montana mountains than a tea house in Nepal, and it was actually called ‘The Farmhouse.’ All of a sudden there were lots of other trekkers around. I think a lot of them were actually starting here at The Farmhouse. The Annapurna Circuit is much different than Manaslu for a bunch of reasons but for starters there’s a Jeep road on Annapurna that goes almost all the way around. This gives people the option to start in all different towns.

We walked a couple more hours after lunch, sometimes on the Jeep road and sometimes on trail, until we got to Upper Pisang where we’ll spend the night. There’s a big group of Russians here and another group from Israel. Including us and the locals there’s four different languages being spoken in the dining room but I can only understand one.

Day 12

Gunsang

Elev. 12,952 feet

Well, today was awesome. Yesterday we had a choice; take either the low route or the high route. The high route was longer and had more elevation gain but left the road and had incredible views. The low route stuck down on the road and would have been easier walking, albeit less scenic. Naturally we went high.

Shortly after we left Upper Pisang this morning we were admiring the beefy Annapurna II from across the valley. I was alternating between looking straight ahead where I was going and turning to get another look at this gigantic mountain when suddenly I saw a massive amount of snow break off from near the top of the peak and pick up steam and more snow as it tumbled down towards the valley. AVALANCHE! The natural phenomenon that until this point I had only heard about. It was incredible. Thankfully it didn’t reach the valley containing Lower Pisang and I don’t think people climb that side of the mountain. I hope not anyway. Check out below for a video or see it on my instagram @endlesspsummer.

 

The rest of the day was cool but nothing happened as exciting as a Himalayan avalanche. From Upper Pisang we had a steep climb up to Ghyaru, an ancient village looking over the valley. We contoured along the side of a mountain for awhile and got to Ngawal. The villages for the most part seem much bigger in the Annapurna region than over by Manaslu, probably because most can be accessed by a road or at least close to a road.

Eventually we rejoined a road and had to stop at a police checkpoint, and for whatever reason QB’s permit has her listed as Algerian but the Nepal police didn’t question it. I wasn’t about to say anything, that would just slow us down. We got lunch at a really good spot in a tiny village called Manchi then made our way to the big city in the area; Manang.

Manang is literally the end of the road, it will be all trail from here until we get over the pass. Because of this we figured we better stock up on coconut cookies and other goodies before the prices jump when we get higher in the mountains. Lots of trekkers usually stop in Manang for a night or 2 but we strategically wanted to get a little higher for acclimating purposes. We walked another hour uphill to this place Gunsang that is pretty much just one active hotel.

After taking a few minutes to get set up we came out to eat and the kid here was like, “My parents just left and will be back in an hour or two.” It’s 5:30 and we’re both wicked hungry and it’s not like they just ran to the store or something, the nearest anything is an hours walk in each direction. Whatever, at least the kid here made us some tea and I guess we just eat late. It’s weird though, I would have thought they would have told us they won’t be around to cook for awhile. Anyway our room tonight is incredible, I mean there’s nothing to it but we have a view of some of the most gigantic mountains I’ve ever seen and it will probably only cost something like 3-5 dollars.

Well I just learned that the reason the parents ran out is because they went to check on one of their yaks that was bitten by either a snow leopard or a wolf(I didn’t know there were wolves here but who knows). I guess I can wait for my food, sure hope their yak is ok.Sweet $3 view!

Day 13

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Today was a short day for miles hiked or for hours hiked but we did put ourselves another couple thousand feet higher and should be good to go to get up and over Thorung Pass tomorrow. Ideally we would just walk all day and be on the other side of the pass tonight but that’s not the way things go out here. Clouds usually roll in every afternoon and the chances for lousy weather go way up later in the day. Thorung La(or pass) sits at something like 17,500 feet and I’ve never been up that high, I’ve also never slept as high as I am tonight. I think getting acclimated the last couple weeks has got me and QB in good condition and we’ll spend most of the day resting, eating, and drinking mint tea. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be nice and clear and we’ll be able to get it done. Even though we only walked about 4 hours today the hiking was pretty rad. We walked higher and higher through a valley all morning and had views of some incredible mountains ahead of us and behind us. At one point along the side of the trail there was a dead goat or a blue sheep carcass and we watched as about a dozen Himalayan Vultures(not sure what the real name is for these birds but they’re massive) fought and picked over the dead meat. It was quite a sight. 3rd coolest thing I’ve seen in 2 days: avalanche, a dog sliding off a roof that a girl caught that we saw in Manang, and these vulture fights.

 

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We got to Thorung Phedi around 11 and our only other option for today was to go another hour and another thousand feet to sleep at High Camp. I’m comfortable here. Excited about tomorrow and a little nervous.

Day 14

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Well today didn’t go as planned. We woke up at 4:30 am and were ready to crush it up the pass. Overnight the weather turned to shit and it was already snowing down here below 15,000 feet. We decided to wait until 6 and if it didn’t improve we’d wait it out a day for safety’s sake and try the pass tomorrow. It didn’t improve. Not the end of the world though, it was nice just laying around, resting, reading, and beating Sara in Chess.

Then around noontime my stomach started doing somersaults. Over the next few hours my condition deteriorated. I’ll spare you the details but if you look back to my entry for day 3 of this adventure you’ll get a good idea of what I went through again. Things aren’t looking good for getting over Thorung Pass. If by some miracle I’m 100% by morning and the skies are clear we might go for it. Otherwise I think our best option will be turning around and hiking down to Besi Sahar(our original ending point for the Manaslu Circuit). It will probably be about 4 days of walking either way, hopefully between the 2 of us we’re carrying enough Imodium. Thorung Pass and the Annapurna Circuit were never part of the original plan so I won’t be too upset if I don’t get up and over it. Sure would be cool though.

Day 15

Besi Sahar

Elev. 2500 feet

The skies were clear and the weather looked just about perfect to go up and over the pass this morning. The problem was I was completely drained. I wasn’t so much feeling sick and nauseous anymore but I didn’t have any energy at all, I was dehydrated and I’d barely eaten anything in the last 24 hours. Neither of us slept well the last 2 nights. Going over the pass would be a poor decision. QB and I decided to head back down the way we came and in a few days end up in Besi Sahar, which was the town we were originally aiming for before detouring over to the Annapurna Circuit. In just a few hours of walking quickly downhill we were back in Manang, the town where the trail meets the road and vice versa. We walked another couple hours and were just getting through the town of Humde when a Jeep pulled over with a deal for us: 8,000 rupees for the 8 hour ride to Besi Sahar. Deal! I’m only in Nepal for so long and I don’t need to see the same things twice.

There were already seven other Nepalis jammed into this thing so Sara and I jumped into the back and it was an enjoyable first couple hours. At one point a couple got out and they told us to come sit in front. I just do what I’m told. The road got wicked bumpy after that and the ride was slow going and treacherous. It’s beyond me why people go 4 wheeling for fun. After a long day of traveling we got Besi Sahar and will stay here for the night. Tomorrow we’ll either get another Jeep or a bus to take us into Polkara where we’ll regroup, do laundry, take showers, have internet and come up with a plan for the rest of our trip.

It’s been a great couple weeks in the Himalayas. A very different style of hiking than I’m used to and also for the most part very enjoyable. I’ve switched from coffee to tea and gave up eating meat for my time in the mountains. I also had 2 separate and very extreme cases of getting sick. I got sick more times in the last 2 weeks of hiking in Nepal than in almost 10,000 miles of long distance hiking in the States. Maybe I’m just unlucky. I broke my no shower record(not sure if my hygiene contributed to me getting sick but I diligently used hand sanitizer before I ate and I treated all the water I drank). I climbed to the highest point in my life multiple times on this trip and also slept higher than I’ve ever slept before. Most importantly I got to see a part of the world that is simply incredible; people living with a backdrop of arguably the most spectacular landscape on the planet.

Day 5

Pewa

Elev. 5700 feet

This morning we left the Yak Hotel in Lar and started walking back towards the Manaslu Circuit from Tsum Valley. The first hour or so was pretty cold until the sun came out. It’s weird, daylight and sunrise aren’t even close. It gets light out way before the sun shows itself over the mountains. Once the sun does show itself the temperature rises considerable. After we walked through Chhokang Paro the trail dropped steeply for awhile and we had to redo the dicey spot where the trail got real narrow and the footing was soft due to a previous landslide. I usually don’t like doing out and back style hikes but since I felt like death the other day it was nice to re-walk the same trail and I was able to enjoy it more. Same goes for the place we had lunch today in Chumling; 2 days ago I was throwing up in their bathroom and today I wolfed down a plate of fried noodles. From lunch we walked a few hours downhill to Lokpa and then a couple more to where we rejoined the Manaslu Circuit and the confluence with the Buddhi Gandaki river. We all went for an icy cold refreshing bath in a little tributary to the big river. It was so nice! I love cold water on a hot day. We returned to the circuit and everything was new again.

The trail stayed right alongside the river for the rest of the day and in the early evening we got to the tiny village of Pewa where we’re staying the night. Gopal strongly suggested the dal bhat and since I’m a glutton for punishment I figured I should get back at it. It was good, I just hope I don’t suffer the consequences again. The bed here is comfortable and directly next to the loud soothing sound of the river, really hoping for a nice peaceful night sleep.

Day 6

Lho

Elev. 10,425 feet

Today was great day! QB celebrated her 25th birthday and what better place than smack dab in the middle of the Himalayas. I was finally able to lighten my pack and unload her present, a dark chocolate bar that I’ve been carrying for a week.

After breakfast we walked on the side of a cliff along the river for most of the morning. There was only one relatively gnarly spot where the trail was damaged from landslides but we got through no problem. I’m not too crazy about these landslide sections but they’re never as bad as they seem and so far so good, 100% survival rate (knock on wood). For lunch we made it to the little village of Gap and pigged out on some fried noodles with egg. Today there’s been lots of other trekkers from all over the place but none going a similar pace so we usually just exchange niceties and what not and don’t see them again. After lunch the trail went through what I guess would technically be called a jungle and we were suddenly in the middle of a bunch of big trees. The river got smaller and faster as we climbed higher and at one point it caused this really cool arch in the rock. We also saw more monkeys and blue sheep this afternoon. Around 3 we got to Namrung which was home to the fanciest hotel I’ve seen up this way. We aren’t staying here but as luck would have it they were selling pieces of chocolate cake and we were able to have a little birthday ceremony for QB. the Birthday GirlAfter Namrung, Gopal suggested we hike for a few more hours and of course we were all in so we crushed the rest of the day with steep climbs all the way to the village of Lho. People are always asking where we are coming from, it’s like the main topic of conversation out here, and one local villager said to Mac, “Even Nepali people don’t walk from Pewa to Lho in one day.” I guess we really are crushing. Lho is almost 5000 feet higher than where we slept last night. The lodge here is bigger than usual, has a wood stove to keep the dining room warm, a sit down(western)toilet, and some really good food. I got Swiss Rosti which is some kind of delicious fried potato and garlic pancake with eggs and cheese on top, my favorite dish of the whole trip. We also were able to get WiFi cards and had a little bit of service for the first time in a week. I mean a real little bit. Everybody had just enough service to get a message back and forth to their folks.

Day 7

Samdo

Elev. 12,700 feet

Today for breakfast I had a huge delicious apple pancake. I have to give it to the place in Lho for food, best so far on the Circuit (in my opinion anyway). It was cloudy when we got in last night because this morning we got our first look at Manaslu Peak. What a beefcake! 8000+ meters and the 8th tallest mountain in the world. After we ate breakfast we quickly climbed about 500 feet to Ribung Gompa and had ourselves a little look around. This monastery was bustling with monks, I think there was a school there and they were all sitting outside studying. From the monastery we walked through lots of pink and red blooming rhododendrons and then the trail climbed steeply through a forest until we got to the town of Shyla. Mountains in every direction. Another hour of walking and we were in Samagon, one of the largest towns we’ve been in. I thought the villages would get smaller as we got higher but I guess since we are getting closer to the Tibetan border the villages draw people from Tibet. From Samagon the trail was really flat for a couple hours as we walked through a huge valley until we got to Samdo.

The plan is to go over Larke Pass(16,900 feet), the main obstacle of the Circuit, in 2 days. We’ll stay in Samdo(at 12,700 feet the highest place I’ve ever slept) tonight and tomorrow and do a couple of hikes around here to get acclimated. Mac’s been over 20,000 feet before, but the highest the rest of us have been is 14,500. I don’t want to mess around with altitude sickness, so I’m really hoping things go alright and we get through the next few days ok. This afternoon Gopal, Mac, QB, and I climbed up to just over 14,000 going up a peak right outside of Samdo. Moist wasn’t feeling too hot so he stayed down low to rest.

On our way down we stopped and watched a festival going on. I guess we just missed an archery competition but there were lots of people dancing and a soccer game at 12,000 feet. The prize for the winning team was standing by, a live goat to be slaughtered. We watched the game for a little bit then got some supper and early to bed. Tomorrow we plan to climb a pass that goes to the Tibetan Border. It would be cool to make it to Tibet but I just heard there’s a decent snowpack so maybe we’ll just get as high as we can.

Day 8

Samdo

Elev. 12,700 feet

Right after breakfast today we walked to China. Well we walked to the Nepal/Tibet border and since Tibet is an autonomous region under Chinese rule, we technically walked to China. From Samdo we walked west toward Larkya Pass then cut north through a valley that went towards Tibet. The trail was steep, rocky and awesome. We saw tons of marmots, yaks, a few blue sheep but sadly no snow leopards. I guess this was the place to see the elusive snow leopard but it just didn’t happen for me. Moist rebounded nicely from feeling lousy yesterday and joined us for the first couple thousand feet. He turned back at 14,700 and the rest of us continued. Gopal, Mac, QB and myself got to the border after about 4 hours.

Lajyang Pass, right on the border, sits at 16,392 feet and is the highest I’ve ever been before. At that elevation I could see my house, just kidding. I definitely felt the effects, a little bit of head pressure, but nothing serious. I’ve been drinking lots of water and took a couple of IBs around 14,000 feet. The border itself is just a small fence that goes along the pass in between 2 higher mountains. Gopal said that since it is not patrolled until a 2 hour walk into Tibet, and it was ok to step over and take pictures. I’ll leave it to your imagination whether or not we did that. People on both sides of the border bring their yaks back and forth to graze with special permission from both governments.

The way down was quicker and we were back in Samdo around 2:30pm. Our plan is to get an alpine start in the morning and get up and over Larkya Pass tomorrow. I’m definitely getting another rosti for supper and hoping to get to bed early.

Day 9

Bimthang

Elev. 12,146 feet

Today we woke up a couple hours before the b-crack of dawn and started walking at 3:45 am. Our goal was to get to the top of Larkya La(La means pass) before the clouds roll in usually around 10 or 11. We all started with our headlamps except for Mountain Tiger, he has night vision so he led the way.

The sky was awesome as we walked through the early morning hours. First the stars were incredible and as the sun began to come out it lit up the very peak of Manaslu and then gradually the surrounding mountains.

We got to the tiny village of Dharmasala at 6am. This was an option as a place to stay last night and I’m glad we didn’t do it. Dharmasala sits at 14,700 feet and has 1 long room where they serve food and a bunch of semi-permanent tents where everybody sleeps. I guess there were around 60 people here last night and when they all tried to get breakfast at the sane time it was just chaos. By the time we got here most were already gone and we stopped in for a quick cup of garlic soup and some black tea. It was cold, at 6 am we still weren’t in the sun so even though I was warm from walking my water bottle was starting to freeze.

Once we left Dharmasala we were in direct sunlight and had a pleasant 3 hour walk to the top of the Pass. It was a beautiful morning and I was feeling good so I was able to crush the couple thousand feet to the top of Larkya La at 16,800 feet. Today felt like a long gradual climb and besides the elevation it was pretty easy. I felt like climbing to Tibet yesterday was a more difficult pass and getting up high definitely prepared me for today.

There was a ton of people on top of the pass and we all hung out on top for about 45 minutes until the clouds started to roll in. The descent was kind of lousy, it was super steep and there was a fair amount of snow. Thankfully QB and I had been carrying micro spikes this whole time and were glad to have them for this section.

Eventually we got below the snow line and walked a few more hours until we got to a tea house in Bimthang around 1pm. We still had lots of daylight left but everybody was content to just chill out and stay here the rest of the day.

Our plan is to hike the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal with a side trip out and back to Tsum Valley. It will be QB and myself plus Mac and Moist, two friends we met last year while hiking CDT.

Mac, Me, Moist

I did my usual next to nothing for preparations but luckily Mac, a full time hiker and traveler, is on it and took care of just about everything. All we had to do is show up. Mac took care of getting the permits, vetting and selecting a guide, and organizing a Jeep ride for all of us for the 8 hour trip from Kathmandu to Arughat Bazar.this should get us there no problem

Manaslu Circuit is a trail that goes around Manaslu Peak (the 8th largest mountain in the world at over 8,000 meters). We’ll be topping out at 16,900 feet on Larke Pass. It usually takes people between 2-3 weeks for the hike (or the trek, they call hiking trekking out here). The circuit requires a couple different permits; one for the Manaslu region and one for the Annapurna region which we’ll be crossing into. We also are required to have a guide which will be a new experience for me. With everything it was a little over $300 USD to get started.

Instead of camping which I’m used to, we’ll be stopping in villages every night and staying in tea houses or lodges which are really just very basic accommodation. Instead of carrying food we’ll be stopping to eat all our meals at tea houses.

While you are reading this blog don’t get too hung up on spelling, the Nepali certainly don’t. Same goes for elevations; I’ve seen plenty of different numbers for the same place, I think the numbers are just a general estimate and I have to convert from meters to feet which just complicates matters further.

Getting here:

From Vegas on the 13th, QB and I took an overnight flight to New York. We spent a couple days with her family there and my folks came down from Massachusetts for the weekend. Monday morning the 16th we were scheduled to fly from JFK in New York to Kathmandu, Nepal. Due to a storm on the east coast we were delayed about 4 hours but it ended up being no big deal.

The first leg of our journey was a 12 hour flight on Qatar air to Doha, Qatar. This was the biggest, most luxurious airplane I’ve ever been on, and they fed us real well. Plus there was a person missing in our row so we had even more space in our already oversized seats. Exactly what I could have hoped for on a flight around the world. Hamad airport in Doha was gigantic and state of the art. Because of the weather delay, Qatar air provided all of the passengers a lunch voucher which was a nice touch but more importantly there was another flight going to Kathmandu in a couple hours so even though we missed our transfer we were still good to go.

After a 5 hour flight we arrived in Kathmandu around 7:30 pm local time. We cruised through customs quickly and were greeted by our welcoming committee, Mac and Moist. From the airport we took a taxi to our hotel in Thamel which is the main tourist district of the city. For supper we went around the corner and got some falafel wraps for like 200 rupees which translates to about 2 USD. Amazingly after losing 9 hours and 45 mins due to traveling, QB and I both crashed out around 11 pm and woke around 630am. Right on schedule. We got on a good sleep rhythm right away.

The following day we explored around Kathmandu and took care of any errands that needed taking care of. We also checked out some of the local attractions, like Monkey Temple and Durbar Square.

4/19

Arughat Bazaar

Elev. 1665 feet

Gopal our guide met us at the Norbulinka hotel at 7:30 this morning and Visal the driver showed up shortly afterwards in a Scorpio SUV.

We hit the road right away and for about 4 hours we were on paved roads going through crowded urban areas and getting jammed up with traffic all over the place. Visal was a very popular guy because everybody that saw him beeped at him and he beeped at everybody too, I mean everybody. Driving through the city was crazy, I can’t believe we didn’t get into a million accidents. Around noon we stopped at a little road side pull-off that catered to tourists and filled up a plate of food and sat by a river.

Back on the road there was only another half hour of the good paved stuff until we crossed a river and were on bumpy, muddy, dirt roads the rest of the way to Arughat. It didn’t take long for our 2wd Scorpio to hit some deep mud and get real stuck. We created a bit of a traffic jam, and then bus behind us with about 50 passengers also got stuck. Now there was a huge crowdand a whole lot of watching as everybody gave their opinion, pushed in different directions, did all kinds of stuff and eventually the trucks all became unstuck and we were able to move on. This went on for a couple hours though, it was quite a scene. I guess it happens all the time on this road and was no big deal.

Once we got going again we still had about 3 more hours of driving this wicked bumpy road through farming villages and down into and out of a jungle. We made it through sections of road that had rivers running right through them and other situations that were just as muddy as when we got stuck and then at one point the driver even got pulled over and got a 500 rupee ticket ($5) for some silly rule but eventually we made it to our destination, Arughat Bazaar. Even though the traffic was miserable, and the road was probably the worst I’ve ever been on, it was still an enjoyable ride and was leaps and bounds better than our alternative; being crammed into the bus. The Scorpio was comfortable, the company was fun and Visal was a good driver. When we got to Arughat we got set up at a guest house and got some food. The room even has a toilet and a fan.

Day 1

Dobhan

Elev. 3850 ft

We got up this morning around 6 and ate breakfast at the hotel in Arughat. Fresh eggs from their chickens, toast, honey they harvest from the bees on the roof, and a miniature banana from a tree nearby. And black tea, I’m trying to switch from coffee to tea while on this hike, so far it’s going ok.

The first half of the day we were on a road and had cars, trucks, and buses still coming by. We got to Arkhet Bazaar which was a pretty busy bustling community and bought a soda and a snack. As we get into the mountains the prices of goods increase but things like lodging get cheaper. For instance: a bottle of coke that was 60 rupees in Kathmandu was 100 rupees when we got stuck in the mud yesterday and then 180 rupees at Arkhet Bazaar and going up. The lodging on the other hand goes down, I think. The room at Arughat was 800r and tonight it’s 300r but also we don’t have electricity or a bathroom in our room. No need.

After Arkhet we walked the road for a couple more hours, it was fun and there was an awful lot going on, we even saw a wedding procession. We got to a little restaurant that overlooked a waterfall, a suspension bridge, and the river. The Buddhi Gandaki River. The same river we followed all day. For lunch we got noodles and vegetables kind of like chow mein. We learned that if we all order the same thing the meal comes out way quicker.

The road ended at the restaurant so we dropped down onto the trail that went right alongside the river. The valley we are walking through got steeper and the trail became narrower. Nepal suffered an earthquake 3 years ago and since then this section of trail had some serious landslides. Part of the trail was pretty dicey but I’ve got faith in Gopal and he was pretty confident we’d get right through. I guess most of the other trekkers took a long cut way out of the way but we did fine.

The trails here are used everyday by the people living here going village to village and just doing their thing. It’s amazing to me how some people live their lives. Later on this afternoon, after we got through the landslide section, we got to Tatopani (tato: hot, pani: water) and cleaned up a little, these weren’t ideal for soaking but good for rinsing quick in the water coming out of the spring.

An hour later and we got to Dobhan, our home for the night. Dobhan is a tiny little village and we’re the only trekkers at this guest house. For supper I had dalbhat for the first time, a traditional Nepalese dish, and loved it. Dalbhat is lentil stew and rice, paired with curried vegetables and some other pickled stuff. It’s a staple in people’s diets up here. Gopal eats it twice a day everyday and I can see why. I think we’ll just eat this every night and I’m cool with that.

Day 2

Lokpa

Elev. 7200 feet

Today was awesome. We ate breakfast and walked out of Dobhan around 7 this morning.

The trail climbed for an hour or so before passing through a village right next to the river where they were drying out some pork in a smokehouse and a little girl was throwing rocks at a dog , pretty standard. Right after that there was a bridge fixed to the side of the rock wall above the river for about a tenth of a mile. That was a first, most of the bridges we go over are these big wobbly suspension bridges spanning the river.

Shortly after the fixed bridge we got to Jagat and this is where we officially enter the Manaslu region. Jagat is where we need to give our permits to the police. Actually we didn’t do any of that, Gopal was in charge of talking to the police. Another couple hours after Jagat we got to the village of Phimel for lunch, this was pretty high up above the river and had some incredible views.

For the first time we could start seeing some big beefy mountains. There was a view of a 7000 meter peak that was the biggest mountain I’ve ever seen in my life to this point. Nepal uses the metric system and they also use hour as a unit of measurement for distance. Instead of miles or kilometers everything is either an hour here or two hours there. So a couple hours after Phimel we got to the confluence of the Buddhi Gandaki river and the Siyar Kohla river where we took a right to go out to Tsum Valley. This is an out and back route off of the Manaslu Circuit that we chose to add on to our trip to spend a couple days seeing Tsum Valley.

After we turned the trail ziggy ziggy’d (Gopal’s term for switchbacks) up for awhile and we got to the little village of Lokpa where we are spending the night. I got dal bhat again and I learned a couple things about it: first of all it’s not the same from place to place, I mean it’s pretty much the same basic ingredients but they are always a little different, second of all it’s customary that dalbhat is free refills as much as you want. This is a game changer. I’m probably eating dal bhat for dinner the rest of my time here.

While we were talking about trail names Gopal told us he also has a trail name: Mountain Tiger. I’ll probably be referring to him in this blog as Mountain Tiger from now on. I didn’t know why he didn’t tell us right away but I guess he’s more well known in the Everest region and they all call him Mountain Tiger over there.our fearless leader, Mountain Tiger

Day 3

Chhokar Paro

Elev. 9975 feet

WARNING: This post gets a little gross

Well maybe I won’t be eating Dal Bhat every night for the rest of this hike, but I’ll get back to that.

Last night I saw the biggest spider of my entire life and it was in my room. QB was coming in and just about to latch the door when this monster appeared right next to the latch. Now neither of us would consider ourselves spider scared (if you read this blog you know that I’m really afraid of snakes) but after we got visited by this guy we both were definitely scared. Mountain Tiger said it was not venomous but that still didn’t make me want to share a room with it, the thing was as big as my palm.

Shortly after the spider incident I fell asleep then woke up a couple hours later with some horrible nausea. I was up the rest of the night rolling around with a belly ache. Still had to hike though and the trail was tough, lots and lots of climbing.

I felt a little better at first but around noontime when we got to Chumling I didn’t think I could go on. I told Mountain Tiger I was struggling and he encouraged me to go to the toilet and make myself throw up. Now the toilets here are squat toilets. Basically just a little outhouse with a hole in the ground outlined with a piece of porcelain. Throwing up in one of these was quite an experience and not a pleasant one. I did feel a lot better however and was able to eat some garlic soup on Gopal’s suggestion.

Good thing I was improving because after lunch we had about 4 hours of difficult hiking. The trail climbed steeply up to the village of Chhokar Paro where we’d spend the night. Along the way we saw a bunch of monkeys and a couple of blue sheep. Chhokar Paro was a nice place, because of reconstruction after the earthquake it seemed newer than the villages down low and had great views of Tsum Valley.

Stupa

At dinner I started to feel a little rumble in my stomach. This is when the diarrhea started. I rested a little bit then made it down to dinner and tried to eat a some soup. First I took some Imodium, then QB had an antibiotic for this situation so I started on that, Mac gave me some pill to help with my fever that was developing and Mountain Tiger had me eat a huge garlic clove and whipped up a magic potion for me to drink. I left dinner early to crash out.

A couple hours later I woke up and had an episode of the most spectacular diarrhea of all time. My system was completely flushed, it was another very unpleasant situation. QB took care of me and put me back to bed and I was able to sleep soundly the rest of the night.

Day 4

Lar

Elev. 10,500 feet

Miraculously I felt really good this morning, not great, but really good. My system was completely empty so I had some porridge and black tea for breakfast and I was back on my feet again. Good thing too because today was a beautiful day.

We walked north into Tsum Valley which had big green fields and even bigger white mountains all over. There was lots of Buddhist shrines or Stupas along the trail and we stopped at Rachen Gompa (Gompa: monastery) to check it out. This place was cool but it seemed relatively modern, newer than I expected anyway for a Himalayan Monastery.

From there we walked a little further to the village of Lar and had some lunch at the Yak Hotel (it would have been more fitting if I threw up at this place). Since we’d be staying here tonight we dropped off most of our stuff and went with light packs the rest of the day. From Lar we walked further into Tsum Valley towards Mu Gompa. I knew we were getting into the good stuff because for the first time of the trip I saw Gopal take out his phone and take a few pictures.

Along the way we saw a ton of monkeys raiding a potato field and a lot more Stoopas and Mani Walls(These are Buddhist prayer walls in the middle of the trails, stay to the left if you come to one).

Mu Gompa is the real deal, it’s a 700 year old very authentic feeling monastery that sits around 12,200 feet. The monks there showed us around and served us some tea. It was otherworldly. They don’t talk much but one of them really liked QB’s tattoos.

We walked back down a few hours to the Yak Hotel and it was a very enjoyable day. After the night I just had I felt very lucky to be able to hike comfortably today.

4/10…..Boulder City, NV

Since we finished the Arizona Trail a little ahead of schedule we decided to rent a canoe and relax on a river for a couple days. Last fall QB and I took a little trip out to the southwest and as we were camping at some hot springs near the Hoover Dam we met some people that just canoed to them. Good idea! There’s a canoe rental place in nearby Boulder City, NV so for short money we rented a canoe and a shuttle down to launch in the river.

The only potentially tricky part would be traveling the 225 miles from Kanab, UT to Boulder City without a car or a bus ticket. This proved to be no problem at all, luckily for us we have been perfecting the art of the hitch.

After a good night’s sleep at Lynn and Richard’s house, Lynn cooked us a big delicious breakfast with fresh veggies and fresh eggs from their chickens in the yard. We ate on their porch looking out at Kanab’s Vermillion Cliffs. After we ate, Richard gave us a ride downtown and we started hitching west. We weren’t there long when ‘Aunt Patty’ picked us up and drove us about 10 miles to the next town: Fredonia, AZ. A couple minutes later and Sujin, a tourist from Thailand, picked us up and he was heading all the way to Vegas. Sujin works as an electrical engineer building the subway in Bangkok. He encouraged us to visit Thailand, and then told us a bunch of scary snake stories like how one time he had a king cobra in his toilet. Once we got to Vegas we thought a hitch would be pretty difficult and instead of waiting out in the hot sun we got a relatively inexpensive Uber to Desert Adventures(the canoe outfitter) in Boulder City. We got all squared away to get on the river tomorrow and then walked downtown and got a room at the Best Western for the night. Downtown Boulder City is a nice little town and after walking around exploring for awhile we went out for sushi then back to the hotel to hangout in the hot tub for awhile. From the hot tub we watched a family come into the pool area and baptize a baby in the water. I’ve never seen anything like it, I mean I’ve seen babies get baptized before but never at 9:30 on a Tuesday night in a hotel pool. Lynn and Richard’s yard AKA Chateau Relaxo

4/11…..Arizona Hot Springs, AZ

This morning we walked downtown and ate breakfast at The Coffee Cup(probably my favorite breakfast place of all time, we found out about it last fall when we came through here and made sure to come back). From the restaurant we walked about a mile to the outfitters and stopped at the dollar store to get some flip flops along the way. These things proved to be essential for the river.

Desert Adventures, the canoe rental place, drove us to Willow Beach at 10:30 and after we got the rundown about do’s and don’t’s on the river and what not we were in the water and paddling upstream. Willow Beach is about 14 miles south of the Hoover Dam and the whole Black Canyon of the Colorado is something like a 63 mile section of river between Hoover Dam and Davis Dam(I think). It’s all within Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This is what river people call ‘flat water’ and although there’s a current it’s not too severe so you can paddle up or downstream. We were going up and aiming for the Arizona Hot Springs to camp. The wind was at our backs so that cancelled out the minimal current we were going against and we were able to make decent progress. I’ve done some paddling here and there but nothing serious and the bulk of my canoeing experience comes from when I was a kid canoeing the Bearcamp River in Ossipee, NH. QB on the other hand was a Girl Scout and went to summer camp so she knows what she’s doing. We took turns in the front and the back but it didn’t take long to figure out that’s she’s better at steering and was quickly designated the stern woman and I would be the bow man. Canoeing the river today was great. Check out the pictures below of the huge rock walls, emerald cave, and some other cool stuff like catwalks and old cable cars. It was about 90 degrees today but the river stays 53 degrees year round(supposedly) so whenever we got too hot we stopped and swam. We also saw about a dozen bighorn sheep running down some steep cliffs to get a drink at the river. I felt like I was inside a National Geographic program, check out the video below. We got to the beach where the hot springs are around 4 and had a really nice night. There’s a bunch of other people here but only a few were up at the springs. The springs themselves are inside a slot canyon probably no more than ten feet wide and are sandbagged creating 4 different pools that get hotter as you go up. They’re about a quarter mile from the river and a little tricky to get to even including climbing a 20 foot ladder but well worth it. We went back and forth a couple times from the cold river to soaking in the hot springs and as I lay down tonight my body feels like melted butter.

4/12…..Arizona Hot Springs, AZ

Today was awesome! This morning we wanted to get up river a couple miles and check out some hot springs at Boyscout Canyon. We gave it hell for about 45 minutes but we were going into a headwind and the current was working against so we decided to turn around. Boyscout Canyon is only accessible from the river or by doing a 300 foot rappel and I don’t have those skills yet. Going back down river we stopped at the Arizona Hot Springs again and had a nice long soak. We got going around 11 and had until 4 to get back to Willow Beach where we’d be picked up. Today was much easier to float downstream so we really could just relax and steer and we still moved a lot faster than yesterday. I mostly relaxed while QB steered. We explored Emerald Cave again and it was better today because the afternoon light was showing off the green water. Just north of Willow Beach is an old historic site that has the remnants of the river guagers house so we stopped there and took the trail up to it. The best part was when we were up there we had a great view looking down at the river and a huge bald eagle soared just above us. What a treat! We got back to Willow Beach shortly after that and asked the driver to drop us off at the trailhead to the AZ Hot Springs. From the trailhead we took the White Rock Canyon trail about 3 miles back down to the river. We ate some noodles, setup our tent then walked back up to the springs and had a nice long soak. Tonight was a much clearer night so we could look up above through the slot canyon and see a sliver of the starry sky, it was so cool.

Tomorrow we’ll hike out and hopefully find some petroglyphs along the way that we heard about earlier. Our plan is to hitch to Vegas then get a flight to NYC tomorrow afternoon, after a morning soak of course.

4/13…..Boulder City, NV

We took a nice bath this morning and met Mike one of the caretakers of the springs. He walked out with us and gave us a guided tour of the petroglyphs and took us through a slot canyon where we had to scale a short wall. Mike was learned in the world of botany and gave us all kinds of info on the plants growing in the desert. Once back up at the trailhead, Abby who we met down at the springs, was going our way and gave us a ride to Boulder City. We’ll be moving on from here so stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted. To see more pictures from this trip follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and if you like what you’ve been reading subscribe to this blog.our guide MikeSpiderwoman!

Day 29…..22 miles…..AZT mile 712.4

Today we walked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon and it was awesome! I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile now and it absolutely lived up to the hype.

This morning we caught a couple of buses to get from Mather Campground back to where we got off the trail yesterday, the South Kaibab Trailhead. Starting down the South Kaibab trail it was steep but the trail is very well taken care of and graded for mules so it switchbacks nicely for about 8 miles to the Colorado River. We cruised down and then took a nice break in the shade of some cottonwoods at Phantom Ranch. On the north side of the river the trail turns into the North Kaibab trail and for about 6 miles follows a relatively mellow trail through a very impressive canyon. We took a little detour to check out Ribbon Falls and found a sweet little swimming hole. It was about 90 degrees in the bottom of the canyon and a quick dip in an icy cool bath felt so good, I definitely recommend a side trip to these falls if you’re exploring the canyon. From Ribbon Falls the trail started to climb rather steadily and for the next 7-8 miles we were crushing switchbacks uphill to the top of the canyon. We walked over to the closed North Rim CG and found only four other hikers who were in the middle of a 2 day rim to rim to rim hike so we set up our tent and ate supper with them. For whatever reason the north rim of the canyon is all closed up for another month but this keeps the crowds on the south side. Plus there’s no mule trains on the north side so instead of smelling mule piss while I walk the only foul smell over here is my own scent, a combination of b.o. and sunscreen. I think one of the true joys of thru hiking is you can find yourself in some amazing places and have them almost all to yourself.

Today was a lot of fun. A few years ago I hiked from the north rim to the river and back then last fall QB and I hiked from the south rim to the river and back but I had yet to make it across the canyon in one shot. Today was the day. I’m glad it worked so nicely into my thru hike of the AZT. Ultimately I think I’d like to do a rim to rim to rim hike in one shot but that seems super tough. We met a few people doing that today and I think some were doing better than others. When I got to the end of the day though I didn’t really have a sudden urge to do it all over again. Someday though, probably or maybe. mule trainthis guy Tach told us he’s hiked down to the river and back 113 times plus a bunch of other stats about himself

Day 30…..27 miles…..AZT mile 744.1

What a difference a day makes. While yesterday we walked through what is arguably the most beautiful famous hole in the world, today we walked a paved road for 20 something miles.

From the north rim CG we walked the half mile back to the North Kaibab Trailhead and the AZT. Going north we heard reports that the trail had a lot of snow so after checking it out we realized a better but more boring option would be just taking the road for awhile. Although it’s probably a few miles shorter than the trail there’s a closed highway, rt 67, that is more or less parallel to the AZT so we walked that for about ten miles until we were outside the national park boundaries. The further north we went there seemed to be less snow so we would check the trail whenever it came real close to the road. After an almost all day road walk we rejoined the trail and walked patchy snow postholing here and there until we got to the edge of a major burn area. It was super windy all day and looking out towards the burn it appeared that the weather was about to make a nasty turn. We decided to camp in some pines south of the burn about an hour before we usually stop and I’m glad we did because while I write this the rain is starting to beat down on the tent.

Day 31…..29.3 miles…..AZT mile 772.4

Holy mackerel! The weather last night went crazy on us. While we were eating our supper of cheese and rehydrated beans we got our first taste of an Arizona thunderstorm. The thunder and lightning was one thing but the wind was the real issue. I’m not sure that a tornado didn’t touch down nearby, I’ve never camped through a more intense windstorm. After an hour or so it settled down but around 2:30 this morning the storm returned with a vengeance and was off and on for the rest of the night. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared. At least it wasn’t thunder snow, it was pretty cold and we camped close to 9000 feet. I did get some sleep though and this morning I woke up happy to be alive and enjoyed another day of hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail.

For the first ten miles of the day we walked through an apocalyptic looking burn and the skies were clear but a cold wind was still whipping. Eventually the burn ended and we walked through a pine forest for half a dozen miles before getting to a road that led to the town of Jacob’s Lake. This is more like just a little inn that has a diner and gas station but it was worth hitching into. We crushed a couple of cheeseburgers and each bought 4 big cookies to go. Outside the store we met a handful of hikers going west on the Hayduke. The Hayduke is high on my list. It’s actually less of a trail and more of a suggested route that goes through southern Utah and Northern Arizona(seriously if anybody is considering doing this soon get in touch with me). After a couple hours at Jacob’s Lake we started hitching back to the trailhead but didn’t have much luck and walked about mile until an Arizona State Trooper pulled over and gave us a ride the rest of the way(not my first hitch from a trooper, once in CO a trooper drove me about 60 miles east of Denver). Back on trail QB and I walked fast the rest of the day and put in another ten miles before we found a campsite at sunset.

Day 32…..17.1 miles…..AZT mile 788.5

Made it to Utah today and the last day on the Arizona Trail went super smooth. All morning we hiked through pinyon pines and juniper trees until the last 3 miles where we dropped down a couple thousand feet and had views looking into the red rocks of Utah. After 800 miles my legs and body are feeling really good and I feel like I’m just hitting my stride. If there was another couple thousand miles ahead of me, I’d be alright with that. This summer I’m doing things a little differently though and I’ve got some other stuff going on, so I won’t be walking to Canada from here.

We didn’t see anyone all morning until the very end of the trail where we met a couple Hayduke hikers walking south, Twinkle and Ping Pong, who were just starting out on something like a 2 year trip around the world. We talked to them for awhile and now I really want to hike the Hayduke, as well as travel around the world for 2 years. A little further on and we made it to Stateline Campground, home to the northern terminus of the AZT. We high fived of course and took a few photos with the sign. Our plan was to get to the town of Kanab, Utah. Since there was nobody at the Stateline trailhead we walked another mile and a half to the busier Buckskin Gulch trailhead. There we met a photographer, Jay, who was exploring Southern Utah and capturing it on film. He went out of his way and drove us an hour to Kanab. We ate a meal at the appropriately named ‘Trails End’ restaurant and got in touch with some local trail angels Richard and Lynn. These two are both recently retired teachers from Moab and put us up in their beautiful home looking out towards Kanab’s Vermillion Cliffs. Hosting hikers is a relatively new hobby for them and they are really good at it. Throughout the trail QB and I have been reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey and Lynn and Richard not only knew him Abbey from Moab but Lynn is really good friends with his widow Clark. Small world right?

From Kanab QB and I are planning to hitch west for a few days and squeeze in a small adventure before we fly to the other side of the world for a month. I hope you liked reading about my Arizona Trail hike, I certainly enjoyed sharing this trip. Stay tuned for more and feel free to follow me on insta @endlesspsummer for more pictures.

-Endless Richard and Lynn’s backyard

Day 25…..20 miles…..AZT mile 612.8

Our stay at the Travelodge last night gave me all the rest and strength I need for this last stretch of trail(I hope). This morning a couple of our friends, Hoho and Chicory, who had recently moved to Flagstaff had us over and cooked us an incredible breakfast. These two hiked the Arizona Trail last spring as well as both of their dads who were in town, Van Gogh and Pops. Hoho and Chicory have hiked a bunch of the same trails as us and usually the same years so we know lots of the same people and it was fun to talk trail for a few hours with all four of them. They gave us a ride back to the trail around noon and armed with new pairs of sneakers that we sent to their house, QB and I put a good beating on the trail all afternoon and evening. We hiked through a beautiful ponderosa pine forest then saw the first aspen trees of the trail as we got up to 9000 feet. This I think is the high point of the trail but that’s not based on much. While we were up around 9000 we walked by the Arizona Snowbowl that people are still skiing into April and there was still a bunch of patches of snow on the trail. This must have inspired QB to start and then quickly lose a snowball fight. We walked into the evening and as the sunset produced an alpenglow in the sky we found a place to camp in the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks.

Day 26…..30.8 miles…..AZT mile 643.6

Queen B saw a bobcat this morning. Or a lynx but let’s just say bobcat. She was about 50 yards away and had a stair down for a full minute with the beast. Look at the picture below to see the blurry image she captured. I’m so jealous, I was ahead of her for about an hour and had just stopped to dig my morning cat hole when she got out ahead and had this awesome wildlife sighting. I mean I’m happy for her and everything but I really wish I saw it too. I’ve yet to see a big cat in the wild, and I know a bobcat is more like a medium sized cat but still. I guess I’ll just keep walking until I do.

The rest of the day was fairly mellow. Early this morning we got out of the pine forest and dropped into a high desert with juniper trees and scrub bushes. Eventually we were out in a wide open range with big views of the San Francisco peaks whenever we turned around. All day was spent on flat fast forest roads which made the miles easy and by the time we got to the last water source of the day, a cow tank, we easily had 30+ miles. Blurry bobcat

Day 27…..31.3…..AZT mile 674.9

No bobcats today, we did see a coyote though, probably my favorite animal. Once again the trail was pretty mellow. We crossed into Kaibab National forest first thing this morning then followed a combination of single track and forest road for the rest of the day. It was a relatively uneventful day, we saw a couple horses that might have been wild or just lost. They didn’t have any saddles on them and there were no people nearby but sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not I’m on the outskirts of somebody’s ranch or way out in the wild.

We’re getting seriously close to the Grand Canyon. This afternoon we came across Grandview Lookout which is a 7 story fire tower that we climbed and had our first views of the canyon. I was disappointed to find the top of the tower locked and closed but still had a pretty good view from up there. From the tower we took a left and the rest of the afternoon pretty much walked parallel to the GC but in a forest and far enough away that we didn’t have any views. Right as we were looking for a campsite, we saw a little coyote running through the woods then out of sight. I wish I had a frisbee with me, or at least a tennis ball.

Day 28…..20 miles(est)…..AZT mile 690.6

This morning we walked for a few hours until we got to the little town of Tusayan Village. This place is just south of the Grand Canyon and seems to exist solely to cater to the National Park visitor. It was good for us because there was a breakfast buffet at the Mexican restaurant in town. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either, this was definitely a quantity over quality situation and we did our part in putting a dent into their food supply. After breakfast we walked another couple hours into Grand Canyon Village. We picked up a box of food at the PO that we sent a month ago then secured ourselves a site in the hiker/biker section at Mather CG. From here we took a bit of an alternate from the AZT. Since we’re planning on doing a rim to rim hike of the canyon starting at the South Kaibab Trail tomorrow, we figured we would set up our stuff and take light packs south of the trailhead and walk along the rim for awhile today. This probably added 5 or 6 miles but was well worth it. Walking along the rim of the canyon is awesome, the views are indescribable to anyone who’s never seen it. As much as the natural beauty of the canyon is so incredible, sometimes the people watching in the park is the real national treasure. I’ve never felt more like an adult than today when I had to tell these three knuckleheads to cut the shit because they were throwing rocks over the side of the canyon. It’s not my favorite role and I’m sure I’ve been on the opposite side of similar conversations more than once but seriously how stupid could these kids be? Anyway a more entertaining thing we saw today was this full grown man intensely practicing tai chi right next to the trail, just behind him was(I can only assume) his wife and 4 kids hitting a dead log on the ground with sticks. It was quite a scene. After we tried not to stare at this martial artist we walked past the South Kaibab trailhead out to Yaki Point for the main event of any day at the canyon, sunset, and it was of course spectacular. From Yaki Point we had to walk back a ways to catch a bus and then another bus that brought us to the supermarket where we ate a bunch of food and charged up our phones and batteries for the next section. Like any of the big National Parks, Grand Canyon is an amazing natural wonder but the village here is very commercialized and draws lots of people. I’m a person too so of course I can’t complain about too many people being here(since I’d be part of the problem), but it’s always weird to go from being almost all by ourselves in the middle of the woods to a major outdoor tourist mecca. Still though, I encourage everybody to see the Grand Canyon at least once.

Day 20…..9.6 miles…..AZT mile 470.2

Today was a really nice relaxing day in town. The cabin we rented behind THAT Brewery was super comfortable and after sleeping in a couple extra hours, QB and I split a box of Lucky Charms and explored the town of Pine. I guess this place is becoming a vacation spot for people from Phoenix and it was a perfect little pit stop for a thru hike. We got a pizza for lunch, did our laundry, resupplied at the market, got a couple Reuben sandwiches at the deli and headed back to the trail around 3:30. Once back on trail the miles were smooth and easy as we walked through a pine forest, a nice way to get back at it after pigging out all day. Just as we started to look for a campsite we saw a couple of elk browsing for leaves in the woods. The first elk jam of the trip!looking up at the Mogollon Rim

Day 21…..26.7 miles…..AZT mile 496.9

This morning the trail rolled through a forest for about a dozen miles until we got up close to the edge of the Mogollon Rim(Mogollon sounds nothing like the way it looks). We then climbed steeply for about a mile until we were up onto the rim. The Mogollon Rim is something of a geological feature that I can only describe as a plateau that goes on for miles and miles until we reach the south rim of the Grand Canyon(I think). You’ll have to check Wikipedia for a better explanation of what the Mogollon Rim actually is and you might even learn how to pronounce it. Anyway, now we’re up around 7000 feet, the trail has been relatively flat and we’ve been walking through a legit forest with big pine trees overhead all day. It has been very enjoyable. It’s a little colder up here though, I anticipate a 3 dog night but I don’t have any dogs. I did have a big hot bowl of macaroni and cheese for supper and that was a first for me. Instant mac and cheese is a supper time staple in the thru hiking community but since this is my first season using a stove I’ve never had it on trail before. It was pretty good, at least the first two thirds of it were good and it definitely warmed me up. Hopefully warm enough to sleep through the night on this pine needle tent site we found.

Day 22…..30.5 miles…..AZT mile 527.4

I was right about it being cold last night, even some of our water froze. This morning it was cold for about an hour of walking then all of a sudden it warmed way up and was an absolutely beautiful day. The trail has been flat and easy since we got above the rim and we clicked off miles a little quicker than usual finally having our first 30 mile day.

At the beginning of this trail we met a fair amount of thru hikers, I think something like 20 in the first 200 miles but until tonight we hadn’t met another thru hiker since Superior, 230 miles ago. It’s weird, I guess we started at a popular time to start this trail then got ahead of the bubble and remained in a little pocket without crossing paths with any other thru hikers. Tonight at camp though we caught up to Roadrunner and Pumpkin, 2 women who’ve been just ahead of us for awhile now. It was refreshing and fun to eat supper and camp with other hikers. These 2 are both former PCT hikers and Pumpkin actually started the same exact day as both me and QB in 2015. Crazy! We’ve got different schedules for the next few days so we might not see them again but it was fun to meet them.

Day 23…..27.7 miles…..AZT mile 558.1

Last night Roadrunner and Pumpkin were talking about their plans to go into the little town of Mormon Lake today to get a meal. QB and I hadn’t planned on stopping but this put the bug in our ear and some town food seemed like a really good idea, plus Mormon Lake was on a road that ran parallel to the trail so it wasn’t all that far out of the way. What a good decision. Mormon Lake is more like a village, it’s actually just a road that has mix of little cabins and semi permanent trailers along the side of what once was, or maybe sometimes is when it rains a lot, a lake. It was a pretty cool place and the best part was the pizzeria was open and serving breakfast. QB and I stuffed our faces real quick and got back to walking. We had both been low on food and without going into Mormon Lake we probably would have lived but we would have had to ration our snacks until we got to Flagstaff. After breakfast we walked the road north for awhile until it met back up with the trail. Even though it was parallel the road was probably a few miles shorter than the trail(notice the discrepancy in my numbers at the top of this post). Once back on trail we walked on top of a mesa following a series of forest roads and then a comfortable dirt path through juniper trees. In the distance we had a good view of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s tallest mountain. Another time HP. Tonight we walked past Lowell Observatory, I guess some famous research place, then found a spot to camp and called it a day.Lake? this is supposed to be a lake Hawk!Lowell Observatory

Day 24…..19 miles…..Flagstaff alt mile 11.6

I’m in Flagstaff today in what will probably be our last major town stop of the trail. This morning we walked about 7 miles to where the trail meets the Flagstaff Urban Trail. We took the Flagstaff Urban Trail north for about 5 miles to where it crosses old scenic rt 66 and got a room there at the Travelodge. There was an awesome Mexican restaurant next door, Agave, and we had ourselves a nice Easter Dinner. They had my favorite food, sopapillas, that I’ve only had one other time in my life but it happened to be just down the street on rt 66 in Grants, NM last year. Still my favorite food though, if I’m ever to be executed that’s what I’ll be requesting for my last meal, a never ending plate of sopapillas. After lunch we dropped off most of our gear at our hotel room and with lighter packs walked about 7 more miles on the Urban Trail. Flagstaff has a really nice trail system right in the middle of the city, ideal for hiking, running and mountain biking. We even saw a couple mountain bikers get into a fight with each other(most likely a domestic situation). Once we got to a trailhead that seemed like an appropriate distance for the day we put our thumbs out and the first truck that came by scooped us up and a mountain biker Todd drove us into downtown. This place has got a lot going on, downtown Flagstaff’s got a bunch of restaurants, shops and because of such a big outdoor community they had something like 5 outdoor stores in a square mile. Plus there’s murals on a bunch of the buildings just like Lynn, MA. We walked around for awhile running a couple errands like getting our food squared away for the next section then had some delicious Korean BBQ downtown for supper. Flagstaff is a great town, I’ll be back through here again for sure.

To read more about this adventure you can subscribe to this blog or follow me on insta @endlesspsummerIf you look close you can see a climber

Day 14…..26.2 miles…..AZT mile 327.3

Fueled up with a fresh grapefruit and some jerky that Ron and Diane gave us, QB and I walked about a mile from the motel in Superior to a gas station where I got the rest of my breakfast; a coke and a microwaveable beef and bean burrito. From the gas station we put our thumbs out and got picked up in a couple of minutes by another guy named John in another pickup. John drove us the 5 or 6 miles back to the AZT and said he wrote a novel about the next section of trail called ‘The Search’ by John Henderson(his full name). I’ll look it up and maybe read it, unless it’s a horror story involving hitchhikers.

Back on trail we cruised through about 10 miles of open range desert with a lot of cows under a hot sun. We had a beefy climb for a few miles and the clouds came out to block out the sun which was nice. Once we were up a few thousand feet higher we were out of the saguaros and getting ourselves into a pine forest. We crossed into the Superstition Wilderness, had another serious climb, then had some really nice miles through the forest along Reavis Creek. It was an uneventful day but definitely not unenjoyable, the weather was nice and the trail was pleasant.

Day 15…..23.7 miles…..AZT mile 351

Today was tough. From our campsite the trail descended steeply for awhile and then rose steeply after that. It seemed to do this repeatedly all morning. The trail was narrow, steep, and full of loose rock with cholla, yucca, and prickly pear cactus attacking my legs from both sides. We each took a little spill and I had countless close calls. For the first time of the hike I was thinking that this trail kind of sucks right now. Later on in the day it didn’t get much better, we walked down a steep rocky wash and then descended steep dirt roads full of slippery loose rock. With a slow pace we were making minimal progress but eventually we got to Roosevelt Lake where we had mailed ourselves resupply boxes. We picked up our boxes at the marina and they had a little bar there where we could grill our own burgers so that was nice. While grilling burgers I saw the biggest carp ever looking over the side of the dock(check below for a picture). Leaving the marina we had 4 days of food and as much water as we could carry so our packs were about as heavy as they get. We walked along the road for a little while going over a suspension bridge with a view of the Roosevelt dam before rejoining the trail. The trail rose steeply from the road but the weather was nice and we had incredible views of the lake and enjoyed a nice climb. We met a section hiker, Ross, and walked with him for a couple miles then found a pretty sweet spot to camp for the night. Today was tough, for the most part the trail has been really awesome and I imagine it will be again tomorrow.

Day 16…..29.5 miles…..AZT mile 380.5

I felt powerful today. We started the day with a series of big climbs into the Four Peaks Wilderness. Once we were up a few thousand feet we contoured around the big beefy Four Peaks while walking into a serious headwind. I saw a few bighorn sheep up in a ravine jumping from rock to rock, it was pretty amazing, they were jumping like 10-15 feet from one rock to another, landing gracefully, changing direction and jumping to another rock. One misstep meant sudden death. There were no missteps(check out the video below). Halfway through our day we got to a little spring and realized we had about 15 miles to our next water source and 5 hours until the sun goes down. It’s not that I can’t walk in the dark, I just like to end my day at sunset. The trail turned into a dirt forest road up on a ridge for awhile so the miles were easy but every so often some four wheeling enthusiast in a Jeep or a side by side would come bombing by. At a crisp 3 miles per hour all afternoon and evening we got to this little spring right at sunset and set up for the night.

Day 17…..26.8 miles…..AZT mile 407.3

An owl hooting woke me up this morning, I didn’t see that loudmouth anywhere but I know he was close by. About twelve minutes later I was packed up and walking down the trail. The first dozen or so miles were up and down over rolling hills through open range desert(when I say ‘open range’ I usually mean just a big wide open area with cows around). We then passed under a highway, rt 287 I think, and a few miles later walked through a big canyon where I saw two ring tailed cats chasing each other. I would describe a ring tailed cat as a cross between a raccoon and a squirrel and it happens to be the official state mammal of Arizona. The trail climbed for much of the second half of the day and eventually we were back up high contouring along the mountains. This evening we crossed into Mazatzal Wilderness. If you’re reading this at home all these different Wilderness names must get confusing. It’s confusing for me too, I usually don’t know where I am until I see a sign but other people always seem to know the names of these different Wilderness areas. People will say things to us like, “are you excited about the Mazatzals?” or “the Catalinas sure are nice this time of year” or “when do you think you’ll be in the Superstitions?” Since I never really know what they’re talking about I usually just say something like, “Oh yeah that will be cool!” or “yeah I’m really looking forward to getting up there.” The truth is I didn’t do too much research on this trail and neither did Queen B. Finding ourselves in all these different mountains and wilderness areas has been a mostly unexpected treat. I know that up ahead is Flagstaff, The Grand Canyon, and Utah and that’s pretty much all I knew going into this trail. That being said ‘the Mazatzals’ are awesome. We climbed up onto Mazatzal Ridge and found an excellent little tent site tucked into some pines with an incredible vantage point to watch the sunset. If you ever hike the AZT, try to camp at mile 407.3 and watch the sunset. Oh yeah we passed the halfway point today so that was cool.

Day 18…..27.2 miles…..AZT mile 434.5

Besides each other, QB and I didn’t see another human being all day. I know the world didn’t end because I saw airplanes but I still think it’s pretty crazy. We’re relatively close to Phoenix, a major metropolitan area with millions of people, yet we walked for 27+ miles in the desert and the forest and didn’t see one other person. Anyway today was tough. This morning we walked along the Mazatzal Divide Trail and half the time it was around 70 degrees and then the mountains would block out the sun and the temperature would drop to something like 40 degrees(all estimates of course). No big deal, it was neither too hot or too cold I just couldn’t find a happy medium. And the trail was rocky too. Loose grapefruit size rocks all day that I kept tripping over. Maybe that’s why nobody else was walking out here. It was very scenic though, whenever I looked up from the rocks I was tripping over I could see forever and there were rocky mountains all over the place. This evening as we were walking out the last few minutes of sunlight the campsite selections were getting slim. We found a spot that’s flat and soft but it might be just a little bit in the middle of the trail. Nobody will mind though.

Day 19…..26.1 miles…..AZT mile 460.6

Town day! Although hiking today was a bit of a slog, knowing that a cheeseburger and a hot shower wait for me at the end of the day will always make me hustle. This last section, 160 miles from Superior to Pine, was particularly difficult and getting into town tonight felt very well deserved. I’ve heard a handful of times about hiking the Arizona Trail that the first half, Mexico to Pine, is super difficult and then the trail gets pretty easy once it gets up onto the Mogollon Rim all the way until Utah. We’ll see if this proves to be true but I will attest to the fact that the first 460 miles were relatively difficult hiking. Not all the time, but some of the days were rather tough.

This evening we got to the cozy little vacation town of Pine and I love it already. We stopped at THAT Brewery and Pub(THAT’s how they spell it) on the edge of town to quickly stuff our faces. A few days ago, actually 75 trail miles ago, we ran into a trail runner, Ed, who gave us his info and told us to get in touch if we need anything in Pine. The very first people we see in the brewery are his wife, daughter, and son in law who recognized QB’s pink braids and told us who they were. Ed’s daughter ‘No Bad Days’ and son in law ‘Waldo’ are thru hikers themselves and although we never met them, they were also on the Colorado Trail in ‘16, the same year as us. Small world I guess. Ed’s family was super nice and offered to help us with anything we need while in town.

After eating burgers and a bunch of elk meat covered nachos we got set up in the 1 room cabin behind the restaurant that the Brewery rents out. Absolutely perfect! I just took one of the best showers of my life, at least top ten, and am about to crash out in a bed for the first time in a week. for more pictures follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and for more stories subscribe to this blog