Grand Enchantment: Phoenix (2/25)

Lost Dutchman Trail, Superstition Wilderness, AZ (2/25)

The van swings down the dirt road. Its headlights flash through the darkness lighting up Saguaros. They stand there with their arms held toward the sky.

“So what makes you want to hike 700 miles from Phoenix to Albuquerque?” the driver asks.

“I’m not sure,” I lie. 

Earlier, the flight out of Tampa rose up over the bay and I pressed my face against the window to stare down at the water. I thought of the day I crossed the bay’s mouth in a kayak and the giant waves that almost caught me. Three miles from land and they had me just an inch short of flipped.

There was a reason the only other boat out that day was a thousand foot freighter.

But I didn’t flip. I held on. I slid up and down those giants until they let me escape. Then I laughed and cried and felt alive.

“You do it for health?” the driver asks.

“Na,” I say.

Though maybe he’s right. A doctor offered me Prozac seven months after the kayak trip ended. I’d come in worried that I felt tired all the time, that I couldn’t sleep, that I was anxious and could barely face the days.

I turned it down. I knew I didn’t need Prozac. I needed another trail.

“I like the challenge, I suppose,” I say. 

The van stops in a dirt parking lot. Swirls of dust rise through the headlights around a sign that reads, “Superstition Wilderness.”

“This is it,” I say.

I drag my pack out of the back and lay it in the dirt against the sign. I thank the driver and watch the van’s taillights retreat back into the night. The sound of gravel grinds under the tires fades into the still desert air.

Last year disappeared on me. I lost hold of it piece by piece, one “I’ll do it tomorrow” at a time. When New Year’s Eve came, I wondered where the year went, how days of excuses turned into weeks, how weeks turned into months, how months turned into a year.

I should have known better. Piece by piece, that’s how seven thousand mile kayak trips get done and how a year slips by. 

I started writing three different books, but never finished one of them. I thought of hiking the Sierra High Route or the Te Araroa or the Pyrenees and Camino, but they always seemed too far, like unreal concepts that didn’t exist. I felt paralyzed and lost and defeated day after wasted day. The guilt of each stacked on top of the last, heavier and heavier. 

“How did I let this happen?” I wondered as New Year’s fireworks burst in the sky.

The van’s lights disappear and all that’s left of civilization is the glow of Phoenix against the night sky. I think of the driver’s question again.

Why am I doing this?

“To burn away that wasted year and every heavy day with it,” I answer. “To burn it all away over the next 700 miles.”

21 thoughts on “Grand Enchantment: Phoenix (2/25)

  1. So good to read your writing — and you’re honest self-assessments — Daniel. Your thoughts about where the last year went give me a little pause as I think about the possibility of retirement. Would I do the same thing with my days? I wonder.

    Walk on, man. Walk on into the great unknown, the luxurious unfolding of days, the unexpected lows and the nearly unspeakable highs, the grand spectacle of the natural world.

    We say, those of us who follow your blog, that we are with you. But we are not. We are at a keyboard or a smart phone reading a blog. We just want to be there with you.


  2. There is no thing as a lost year. Look at what you learned. Life teaches us things in unexpected ways — we need to get better at understanding it. To greater heights D in your own consciousness and thanks for providing great mirrors for all of us.

  3. Dannyboy, Frank (?) and Wally: North country is rooting you all the way to the end. Let us know if you need anythings, we’ll chopper it down and drop on sight! Enjoy the treck. Keep you wit about you.

  4. Has it been a year already? Welcome back. Reading your postings is literary prozac for those of us who (for a myriad of elusive excuses) cannot or choose not to just go. “Lay on, Macduff! And damned be he who cries, “Hold, enough!” — Mike

  5. Bring it on. At the age of 81 I can only dream of an adventure like yours. Thanks to your colorful and creative writing I’m living the excitement as though I’m really there doing the trek step by step, mile by mile – pain, euphoria and all. Every day’s chapter is my fix for the day.

  6. Happy to see you on the trail again. Think you will love this one. I lived in Phoenix at one time in my life and still head for the area every time I go west.

    The El Camino would be a grand hike for your next adventure, definitely not a wilderness walk, but with a lot of history included and Spanish being the local language you would get more out of the adventure than most.

    Am pleased to be able to see you writing again where I can read it. Hope you post a blog often. I really look foreword to reading them.

    You mentioned the saguaro cactus so if they interest you, after reaching Albuquerque head back south to Tuscon and do a walkabout in the Saguaro National Monument. Camping permits can be acquired at the Ricon District headquarters just a few miles out of Tuscon. Just carry plenty of water.

    Lots of luck with your new hike, and hope you are able to enjoy every step of the way.

    Anxiously awaiting your next GRAND ENCHANTMENT blog
    Go For It,

  7. Daniel, It is good to hear from you and your new adventure. Too bad not by Little Current for a hot chocolate and movie again.

    May your journey wash away any thoughts of wasted time or guilt thereof. Life is a journey and all of the journey is pieces of time, all of which moulds us into our own uniqueness. May you discover yours sooner then most to continue the journey and transformation together.

    Be safe, stay healthy and enjoy!

  8. I wish I could click ‘like’ on several of the comments. Yeah for you! I eagerly await your posts. I wish I were there.

  9. Dear heart! Remember me, I’m Coni’s Mama in Prescott Wi. We think of you often and wonder where you are, so glad you’re back ‘posting’ again. I’m in Apache Junction now, near Phoneix, so if I can run lunch up to you, just give me a holler. 🙂
    Godspeed, my son!
    You always give me hope to carry on!

  10. “It isn’t enough to have dreams, you have to sacrifice for them, to wake up early and go to bed late, to pry them out of life. No one will hand them to you. They don’t come easy. They come hard. But that’s why they’re beautiful.”
    Quote from a friend named Daniel Alvarez
    I saved this one, printed it out and put it on my grandson’s bulletin board. All the best, Daniel

  11. Sweet! Both the first blog for this trail, and the beautiful and supportive comments coming in from your friends. I am so happy for you to be out of order in the wilder places again and sharing it with us!

  12. Daniel: In case you did not know, Minnie Minoso died. My heart really felt it as I read the news.

  13. Daniel, been wondering what you are doing since you left Manitoulin Island in the North Channel, I knew you had gone back home for a while, glad to hear you are back “on the road”. Gary (from Slomocean) currently in Marathon Florida on a sailboat.

  14. Danial
    Imagine my surprise when, on March 2nd, while in a hotel in Phoenix, I read yor week old blog and find out that our paths very nearly crossed again! Harriet and I are just finishing a two and a half week trip exploring Arizona. Glad to see that you’ve found something to do but somehow I doubt that your last year was wasted. At least your walking should be easier now that you don’t have to carry or drag a kayak! Good luck on this journey.

    Wim, from Thunder Bay, Ontario

  15. So glad you’re sharing another adventure with us, Daniel! As always, I will look forward to your posts.

  16. If you want another reason to do it, do it for all of those (us) who can’t.

    Thanks for sharing another journey. Looking forward to your posts.

  17. Hi Daniel,
    We wish you well on your new adventure; you are an inspiration to all of us. Stay safe!!

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