Hello! I’m writing from Flagstaff, Arizona. The last two weeks have been really busy as I haven’t taken any zeros and have just been pushing miles to get up north. Toward the end of this post I’ll copy and paste all of my daily updates that I wrote on Instagram incase you haven’t seen those and want to get a detailed day-by-day account of my experience on trail.
This will be day 3 now in Flagstaff. I’ve enjoyed the time off trail with my friends Adam and Becca. I wasn’t planning to stay this long but a combination of weather and Post Office schedule has kept me here. I’m waiting on a 65L Osprey pack which I can pick up Monday morning at the Post Office at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I’ll need to disassemble my bike and carry it on my back through the Canyon. That will be one hell of a hike as my bike is fully steel and weighs almost 40lbs. Then throw on almost 30lbs of equipment, food, and water and a almost vertical descent and ascent. Can’t wait!
Plus it’s snowing today in Flagstaff and super cold. It should be sunny and in the mid 60’s tomorrow, so, I think I’ll spend another day here relaxing 🙂
You can see updated video blogs at: http://www.couchtotrail.com/youtube
See daily updates at https://www.instagram.com/jackjoneshg
An Initiation into the Mysteries of Life
Why do I go on these journeys? I haven’t had a good answer until recently.
Last weekend I listened to a podcast(Mysterious Universe) about ancient rites of initiation practiced by various religions, cults, and indigenous tribes.
These various groups all practiced a similar technique. The initiate would spend months or years purifying their mind and body. They would be put into dangerous situations and made to wander through the wilderness in the dark in order to train their minds to handle fear, stress, pain, and all of the other experiences that we label as negative.
Then the initiate would be taken through a secret rite where an altered state of consciousness would be induced. Through fasting, hallucinogenic plants, and ancient structures designed to induce out of body experiences. The initiate’s consciousness would then experience the “other side” and come back as a “light being.”
This process was described to create enlightened humans. It created people who understood the true nature of reality. People who were no longer afraid of death. People who acted with impeccable integrity and morality because they understood the true nature of the human and the soul.
This is why I’m out here. At some intuitive level I’ve understood that the process of thru-hiking purifies the soul and is a process of initiation into the greater mysteries of life.
Ultimately that is the purpose of life. To purify the soul. To discover and understand the true nature of reality. To know your true nature.
Why? I don’t know. I don’t know why we come into life not knowing our true nature or the true reality of the universe. But it seems that in my core this is what I’m most interested in. I want to know who I am. I want to see the root reality and not the illusions that surround us.
I want to find what is REAL. Spend some time on trail and you’ll find that life feels “more real.” Every hiker has this experience. Life simply feels more real. I can’t describe it further, but that is the experience of anyone who spends a month in the woods. “Real life” feels fake and shallow and the hiking life feels “more real.”
So, somehow this process of a thru-hike is allowing me to see a deeper reality. Incredible!
Thru-hiking is also a purification, if you want it to be. There are certainly people who come out and will not experience a purification. If you spend all day listening to podcasts and music, drink and smoke in the evenings, and party it up in towns and always surround yourself with other hikers I don’t think much purification will happen.
But if you intentionally set out for solitude and eliminate the vices of “real life” you will undergo a process of purification where you will be stripped of everything that isn’t truly you.
For me the most noticeable trait that has been purified out of my being is fear. I simply hold orders of magnitude less fear today than I did before I started thru-hiking. My first month on the Appalachian Trail I didn’t camp alone or walk after dark because it was scary. I think I’ve camped alone every night of this trip except for the first night. I’ve pushed my bike into the dark desert on multiple nights already with no treipdation and no fear.
It’s not that I’m better able to manage fear although that is also true. I simply have less fear.
This is a key characteristic for an initiate. An initiate must be able to face down the demons that reside on the other side in order to break through and experience the truth of who they are and see the true nature of reality. They cannot be overpowered by fear.
A Rite of Passage
It’s a shame that we don’t have rites of passage anymore. I think this lack leads people, men especially, to doubt themselves. “Am I good enough? Am I strong enough? Am I enough?”
We have entire generations of people who don’t feel like they are “enough.” I think this is at the core of why people are never satisfied with their material or worldly success. Because they’re ultimately trying to use material success to prove to themselves that they are “enough.”
But that’s a game you can never win because there will always be someone with more. And if they have more then obviously you don’t have enough.
The longer I’m out here the more I’m okay with who I am. I am enough. I have every capability to meet any challenge that can arise in life. The sense of peace that comes with this knowing is profound. The world would be a different place if every young adult could go through a rite of passage and then experience this peace.
Because when you are “enough” then you can work from a place of true intention.
We are all part of creation. There is no possible way to separate yourself from nature. When does the stream water that I drank stop becoming the stream and start becoming myself? When does the skin or hair that I lose stop becoming “me”? There is no possible way to truly find that line of separation. So then the logical conclusion is that there IS NO SEPARATION. We are a part of a whole. We are creation. And therefore we are creators. We are the little gods to the big God. We are one and the same. You are it. You are that which you have been searching for all of your life. The true illusion is separation. The true illusion is duality. The true reality is that we are one with everything.
Daily Updates from Instagram
- jackjoneshg#Arizonatrail Day 8 – Mile 140.8Yesterday morning I stepped outside my tent to pee and take a photo of the sunrise when to my surprise I saw the lumpy forms of two people snug in their sleeping bags cowboy camped about 100 feet from my tent.It was @shaungitlin and Alli! They’d pushed 23.5 miles that day and arrived at midnight at the same cow pond I pushed to.
These are photos of them filtering water and packing up to head out. I caught back up with them at a trailhead where they hitched a ride into Vail, AZ for tacos and icecream.
I spent half the day biking on trail and the other half biking on roads to arrive at the warm shower’s host that I’m staying with. His name is Bill and he’s a retired IBM engineer. He cooked me a spaghetti dinner last night. Dessert was buttered bread dipped in honey.
I’m taking a zero today to rest my knee, let my muscles recover, get caught up on videos, blogging, and get an upper body workout in.
The bike route actually cuts in close to Bill’s house(which I didn’t realize) so I’m just going to hop on and go from here rather than ride another half day back. It’s about the same distance mile wise. The trail would obviously be harder riding but eh, I biked here, I’ll count it!
- jackjoneshg#arizonatrail Day 10 – Mile 196.1This is me dead at 8k feet :DWhat a day!! Climbed #mtlemmon 26 miles, 5,863 ft of climbing. I weighed the bike before I left Tucson. The bike, fully loaded with 6L of water, 2.5 days of food weighed 82lbs. Add 2.5lbs for my camera, 14.5lbs for my backpack with an additional liter of water, and it’s almost exactly 100lbs.
100lbs up 26 miles with a climb that’s well over 1 mile of vertical distance gained.
It was UNRELENTING. Mile after mile after mile of a slow grind. I got passed by so many people on their unloaded road bikes. Still though it’s way better than pushing the bike 26 miles.
I’m really proud beause I peddaled EVERY FUCKING INCH of those 26 miles. Didn’t push the bike once! Of course I had to take lots of rest breaks, but still, no pushing!
All told it took about 8 hours of effort(including my breaks). Not bad right considering I was having cramps and having to push going up those small 1-2 mile hills in New Mexico just two weeks ago.
My knee held up great! No pain at all!
I think this is the perfect case study for the benefits of #strengthtraining I went into an activity that I’ve never done and in less than a month I’m adapting incredibly well to it. No way could someone just hop off the couch and then go bike up 26 miles up with a 100lb bike two weeks later. But if you have the strength in your muscles and connective tissues then it is possible to adapt that quickly!
I had a tire blowout yesterday. I aired up the tires in anticipation of quite a bit of road riding but didn’t account for the fact that warm asphalt would cause the gases inside to expand. About a mile out from my warm shower’s host my front tire literally exploded. The air just completely blew out from the tire. I couldn’t get it to re-seal using my little mini charger so I called up Ben at @bensbikesaz and he picked me up in a sweet Mercedes Sprinter van. He got me all set up and I was good to go!
Oddly enough I ran into Ben around mile 16 of the climb today. He was dropping off a section biker at the top of Mt. Lemmon and pulled over to say hi.
The adventures continue unabated. I’m having such a blast. This is what I was built for!!
- jackjoneshg#Arizonatrail Day 12 – Mile 216, 7:51am.I’m writing from the Chalet Village motel in Oracle, AZ.
I biked about 30 miles yesterday on dirt forest service roads to arrive into town at 2:30pm. I should have learned my lesson by now but it seems anytime I think a day is going to be “quick and easy” I should think again.What I thought would be “all downhill” was infact “some downhill and some uphill”. It took about twice as long as I anticipated. But the scenery was beautiful and at least the road was wide and mostly free of vehicles if not well maintained.
I bought a half gallon of chocolate milk(one of the best post workout drinks around, fyi) and an apple and orange from the gas station then checked into the motel. The owners are super nice people and very hiker friendly. This is probably the cheapest motel I’ll stay at this whole trip. It’s clean and comfortable and I had a great night’s rest.
We had dinner at a mexican place where I ordered a burrito and a cheeseburger and fries(because it was on special, oddly enough). Devoured them. I didn’t even feel especially full afterwards. It’s incredible the adjustments your body and appetite make on these types of trips. Joe paid for dinner for Kate and myself. He wanted to pay forward some of the kindness that others had bestowed upon him during his trip. Thanks Joe!
I didn’t grab any photos of them but have plenty of video which will be in the next vlog, which I will upload later today.
My plan today is to get a quick upper body workout in, buy resupply, hang out at the cafe for breakfast and finish my next #vblog.
By the way does anyone know if I can put punctuation at the end of a hashtag? Like if I hashtag #whatever. does that count as “whatever” or “whatever.”? Inquiring minds want to know. Anyway I better get to it if I want to get out of town at a decent time. Happy trails!
- jackjoneshg#Arizonatrail Day 14, Mile 273, 7:36pmWhat a crazy two days! The first 10 miles yesterday was tough. Took almost 7 hours to go 10 miles. I ran into Milton, a 66 year old biker who is doing a 2 week section around 3:30pm. He was pushing his bike and barely moving up a hill. He looked like he was in really bad shape.I talked with him for a couple minutes and shared some water with him. He was only about a mile from the next water source and told me that his wife knew to call the rangers if he didn’t check in. Milton is who Ben dropped off at the top of mount Lemmon if you watched my latest Vblog.
I got a bit of a second wind after the sun started to set and the temperatures dropped. The terrain also eased up considerably. I decided to push on ahead and see how far I could go in the dark.
Around 8pm I came to a trailhead and saw headlights approaching from behind me. They were two racers participating in the Arizona Trail race which started two days ago. Kate was doing the 300 mile race and hadn’t slept at all in 36 hours(and was in first place for the 300 race) and the other biker was doing the full 750 and had slept for 1.5 hours so far. The bike race is an annual event and it seems absolutely brutal. The 300 mile racers will have all finished by now and the 750 mile racers will finish after 7-9 days on trail. For some perspective I’m on day 14 and haven’t even reached mile 300 yet.
I was completely out of water when I reached that trail head where I met the bikers because I’d given some of mine to Milton. And as chance would have it the bikers told me that race sponsors had stashed caches all along the trail and there was plenty for me. So I loaded up on good clean water. No coincidences. Whenever you need help on trail help always arrives. #trailmagic
Inspired by the racers I rode on until 11pm. In total I did 30.1 miles of mostly single track. That’s a record for me for single track riding woohoo!
Today I had a rather late start and managed to make it to Kearney through a series of rough dirt “roads” and washes. I even took a side trip to explore a canyon off of the wash. That canyon is the last two pics.
- jackjoneshg#Arizonatrail Day 18, Mile 425, Cholla Campground on #LakeRooseveltYesterday I rode the Apache Trail. It was over 46 miles and lots of up and down. I started to overheat during a 1k ft climb in the afternoon and struggled to a shaded spot where I rested for an hour. I didn’t make it to camp until about 830pm at the marina on Roosevelt lake.The heat is becoming oppressive. But I’ll be in higher elevations in just a few days so no worries! The people who started hiking in April are going to be miserable though. The last 200 miles was hard with temps in the 80s and 90s. Now that the temps are getting closer to 100 I can’t imagine being out in that desert stretch.
The heat isn’t a problem for me today! I’m taking half a day to rest at Roosevelt Lake. I went swimming earlier and now I’m about to take a nap.
The apache trail is hands down the most scenic section I’ve biked yet. Even more so than #MtLemmon. One of the bike racers described it as a mini grand canyon. It reminded me a lot of Zion National Park in Utah.
Go see it!!
jackjoneshg#Arizonatrail Day 20 Mile 518 Pine, AZ 7:13pm.
I passed the halfway mark a couple days ago and forgot to make a post, so here’s a 500 mile post! Throwing my bike off a bridge is what I feel like doing after 500 miles 😂😂😂 Just kidding the riding has been great the last few days! Really starting to make good miles and since arriving in Payson last night the temperatures have been PERFECT. 70s in the day. Almost chilly going downhill in high winds.
Today I did 26 miles to Pine. It was hard going with several thousand feet of climbing on poorly maintained single track and dirt roads. I just got in and am eating at @thatbrewery. They have all you can eat fried fish!! They’re going to regret offering that to me 🤣
That’s all for now. I’ll ride back to the trailhead tonight and camp then resupply in the morning and climb the Mongolia rim, the last big obstacle before the grand canyon. Goodnight all!
- jackjoneshg#Arizonatrail Day 24, Mile 610, Off-trail in Sedona, AZ 7:18amGood morning! I made it into Sedona after about 60 miles of riding forest service back roads last night. After pushing my bike for two straight days I’m counting those 60 off-trail miles and no one can stop me 🙂 I see what all the fuss is about. Sedona is not to be missed! You’ll have to excuse me today but I’m going to absolutely spam you with pics from last night’s sunset.Because the push up the rim took about twice as long as I’d planned I was super low on food and had to stretch half a bag of Frito’s to last me the entire day of riding yesterday.
I was so hungry that I went into the first place I came across, some shitty Mexican fast food joint. They had a picture of a giant “Texas burrito” on their window so I mean you can’t really blame me.
However the Universe was kind. I was literally ignored for a full 5 minutes while I stood at the counter and I took that as a sign that I should eat elsewhere. Looking on Google I saw an Italian restaurant with 123 five star reviews just half a block over. I devoured a 12″ thick crust pizza covered in cheese, meat, and veggies and met a couple from Sacramento who bought me a chocolate cheesecake dessert. It broke my “no processed sugar” rule but hey clearly the Universe wanted me to have that cheesecake.
Once again I’m learning that when things don’t workout immediately it’s because the Universe is creating the conditions for an even better experience. One that I could have never conceived of with my limited consciousness. “This or something better.” So today I’m going to explore Sedona. Visit some psychics, talk to UFO people, meditate on a vortex or two. Then my friends Adam and Becca will pick me up and take me to their place in Flagstaff where I’ll spend tomorrow catching up! Adam and I were in the Army together. It’ll skip some trail miles but I don’t mind. The miles I’m skipping are one of the easiest sections. I think I’ve earned it after pushing up the rim for two straight days.
Latest posts by Jack Jones (see all)
- Continental Divide Trail Thru-Hike Day 1-41 from Glacier NP, Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, Big Sky Cutoff, Yellowstone, and Tetons! - August 19, 2018
- Stories From the Pacific Coast Highway, My Favorite Scenic Places, and a Very Creepy Warm Showers Encounter. - June 26, 2018
- Finished the Arizona Trail Bikepacking Thru after 33 days. Now on to California and the Pacific Coast Highway! - May 2, 2018