Left Pine this morning feeling homesick. That seems to be what towns do to me. They are enough like home to make me think of home but are far inferior to my actual home.
Which is no knock on Pine, as fine a trail town as one could desire. I was greeted with a parade when I arrived (possibly not in my honor), and made my lodging in a small cabin operated by That Brewery.
Taking a zero at a brewery is pretty much the epitome of the Hiker Dream. I had inexpensive but very nice lodging literally just a few feet away from a dozen taps of excellent Arizona craft beer.
The only impediment to my complete satisfaction was the calendar – I arrived on their off-day, when the brewery was closed. However, Sidewinders Bar and Grill was open a little further down the road and it was dollar taco night. The locals were friendly and stood me a couple of rounds while I described the pleasures of hiking the AZT. They seemed to think my possible wolf sighting to be plausible. But there was also widespread sentiment that a pack of Sasquatch abides up on the Coconino Plateau. I was regaled with a litany of suggestive-but-never-quite-conclusive incidents and encounters in support of the Sasquatch hypothesis. I did my best to not be an obnoxious know-it-all PhD biologist, and we closed down the bar (at 9pm) on good terms all around.
I finished my town chores yesterday and had a very satisfactory Brewery Zero Day. The Arizona Trail Ale and other offerings were excellent, and the food was pretty good. However, the clientele was sparse and not nearly as garrulous as that of the Sidewinder and I closed the place down while still observing Hiker Midnight.
My leaving-town homesickness the next morning was quickly cured by walking, as are so many maladies. Within a half mile I was back in trail time, focusing on the present task of traveling down the trail but also letting myself be taken.
I added another day of hiking to my itinerary. Rather than hike the 75 miles to Sunflower in 3+ days I’ll do it in 4+. The Mazatzal Mountains are not only rugged and the trails barely maintained, but the days are getting short. A 20 mile pace did not seem realistic. I saw no upside to forcing the pace, it’s not like I have a regular job or anything.
And so far the trails have been pretty rough. Substantial stretches are just cross country routes through lava fields marked by cairns. Really can’t stride along here.
Camped now at 4500 feet, lowest I’ve been since the Grand Canyon. It’s warm (yay!) and there are birds at sunset and crickets at night to sing to me. I like it.