Hiking into Pine is a special moment for any thru-hiker on the Arizona Trail. The mountains have been rugged, the footing rough, and after 400 miles on the trail, it’s time for a break! And Pine/Strawberry is the perfect Gateway Community for it- the locals have really embraced the Arizona Trail and all the hikers, bikers, and equestrians it brings to their small mountain towns.
I had a Gateway Community event on the night of the 3rd, but first I had to hike the remaining 12 miles into Pine. My dad and I went out for breakfast, and as I was leaving…I twisted my ankle!! Not on some remote, rocky trail- but in town! It didn’t feel too bad at the time, so I continued with my hike as scheduled.
The event at That Brewery (brewers of Arizona Trail Ale!) was so much fun, the weather was perfect and the Mother Road Trio from Flagstaff provided the entertainment. All sorts of folks came up to me, asking how my ankle was doing. News travels fast in a small town.
The next day was the third annual Pine Strawberry Trails Day- a full day of hikes, demonstrations, trailwork and activities! I tagged along for the Llama hike with Joyce Bittner and her llamas from Fossil Creek Creamery.
The next day was a much-needed day off, only a big chunk of the day was taken up by interviews and planning for the next leg of the hike. See the interview I did in Pine here. I was able to get an amazing massage from Vivian Seville and visit with my husband who came up to see me.
The next morning my dad dropped me off at Washington Park so that I could hike the 17 miles back into Pine. I was on the Highline Trail, an old route taken by the families who settled here underneath the Mogollon Rim many years ago. There are parts of it that remind me of Sedona- exposed expanses of red rock.
About 5 miles into the hike, I heard something go buzzing by my ear. I wear a hoody with a baseball cap and my first thought was that a fly had gotten stuck in my hood. Then I realized it might be a bee and freaked out. You see, I have a large local allergic reaction that causes pain and swelling that last for up to two weeks. I whipped my hood and hat off and took my hair out of my braid. “zzzz…zzzzzzzzzzz…zzzzzzzzz” was all I could hear in my left ear. Maybe it’s in my shirt! I took my shirt off- no bee. I was flailing my head around, hoping to dislodge the bee without getting stung. It was getting angrier and louder- “zzzzz…ZZZZZ…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!”
So now I’m whipping my head around like some crazy woman, hoping no one comes by because I’m in my bra, but also hoping that someone comes by and helps me get this fricking bee out of my hair! While I was trying to get the bee out, another bee bumped me in the chin. This is not a good sign, it means that they are trying to get me out of their territory and that there will be more bees on the way.
Finally it gets quiet and I gather my things and run like hell. I get about a quarter-mile away and finally let out a sigh of relief that it is over. Only it’s not over…”ZZZZ…zzzzzz…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. The bee was still in my hair! More flailing around, trying to get it out. I took my shirt off and there it was, attached to the shirt, stinger pulled from its body. I brushed it off and ran again.
Another quarter-mile away, I put my pack down, ready to take a break after over 15 minutes of terror. And to my horror, I hear “ZZZZZ…zzzzzzzzz…ZZZZZZZZZZZZ!” Are you kidding me? A second bee had been stuck in my hair on top of my head!! One last round of whipping my head around to free the second bee and it was finally over.
People often ask me, “Aren’t you scared of all the animals out there?” and truthfully there is nothing that scares me more than the idea of a bee attack. The episode was terrifying, knowing that if there were enough pissed-off bees in the area that I could have been seriously hurt or died. I am so lucky that I escaped without even one sting. I was also glad that I’d added an epi-pen to my first aid kit for my thru-hike.
By this time I was exhausted from all the energy I’d spent on the bee encounter, but I still had 12 miles to go. I tried to enjoy the expansive views on the Highline of the Mazatzals and 4 peaks and saw several groups of elk.
There are great places to relax by running creeks on the Highline and I met fellow thru-hiker Nate and his dog Bandit at the Geronimo Creek trailhead. I stopped for a while and soaked my feet and told him of my crazy day so far. He told me of a much worse encounter he’d had with bees while climbing that made me realize it could have been much more serious.
After a nice break and chat with Nate, I continued on the trail. I was hiking along, fiddling with something in my backpack hip pockets when all of a sudden I found myself on the ground, and could feel blood dripping down my scalp. It all happened so fast it took me a minute to realize what had happened. There was a tree down in the trail, head height, with several branches broken off. I had hit the tree with my head and two of the branches cut my scalp.
I got my bandanna out and sure enough, I was bleeding. I reminded myself that scalps bleed a lot and tried to assess the damage by taking head selfies to try and see the cut. Assured that my brain wasn’t coming out my head, I stopped the bleeding with some pressure and took a bit to gather my composure. I sent a text to my dad that I’d hit my head and trudged the remaining five miles to the trailhead. I couldn’t believe the day I’d had- such an emotional rollercoaster! So lucky that I didn’t get stung or knock myself out cold when I hit my head.
I was happy to see my dad waiting at the trailhead for me and know that this crazy day was finally over. Thankfully I was able to take the next day off from hiking and rest up. I had given myself whiplash when I hit my head, completely negating the wonderful massage I’d had before the hike. I did venture out to Fossil Creek Creamery to feed the baby goats and got sent away with some delicious goat milk fudge and goat cheese for my travels.
I will continue to fill in the entries I didn’t have time for during the hike and I’m also keeping the fundraising campaign open until the end of June. To date, the Arizona Trail Trek has raised $17,800 toward the goal of $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association- Click here to go to the donate page!