Williams to Flagstaff

I returned to Williams from The Grand Canyon, and while I was actually eager to get walking to Flagstaff, the forecast promise of snow made me step back and decide to hang tight in Williams. Safeway had a Starbucks that I could hang at and try to do outreach to get me inside in the dry.

Thursday evening I found a bar that offered Karaoke, and it was fun to hang out there for a few hours. I knew the spot I had camped two nights under some trees by the railway was relatively protected and easy to reach – even after dark. So I could relax, have a glass of red wine and enjoy myself. To my relief Saskia came through this evening with a connection to Klee in Flagstaff, given the weather and the hopes I had for interesting connections in Flagstaff, I was stoked. That night was incredibly windy but the tent held up well and I was fine. The next day I got up early as snow had been promised and I wanted to get packed up and into Safeway before it hit. Klee spent the day working to reach out to Williams contacts so I could get inside, but was not successful. At the end of the day Klee offered to get me a hotel room so I could get inside while the snows passed. I was so touched and grateful for this offer. As I got to the hotel – not only was it nice and warm inside with a soft bed and white sheets – it had a hot tub. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

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Snow slick roads in Williams.

I had to stay one more day in Williams to let the snows melt as well as get some money and groceries for the 4 day walk to Flagstaff where Klee and his friends were waiting for me. That evening I decided to go to the Wild West Junction for my glass of wine. The Wild West Junction was a charming bar, restaurant and hotel with themed rooms. It is owned by Williams’ mayor  and in this bar I met Dana, my next Road Angel. Dana was helping around the hotel and when she heard my story she offered me the extra bed in her rooms for the night. Given that I knew it would be an incredibly cold night I was grateful for the offer. We had a nice evening together and the next morning spent some more time getting to know each other over breakfast. That morning the forecast showed 30% chance of “scattered snow showers” the following day, and I thought that was an acceptable risk. I figured even if I did see some snow, it wouldnt be much.

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Dana in front of the hotel.

As is typical in hosting situations – it takes a while to get on the road in the morning, but finally around noon I was on my way.

About 1-2 miles outside of Williams a man in a brown van pulled over and ostensibly initially offered to be a road angel. I introduced myself and my walk, but immediately had a feeling that it was important I continue to walk. It was time for me to move on for one thing, but something felt odd. I started to talk to the man to find out if maybe he would be a host at the end of the day’s walk, but it felt all wrong. During the conversation he kept insisting I get in his car so I he could take me to his place. He was vague about where he lived, and also wouldnt give his name. It didnt take long for my initial hesitancy to become all out alarm and I decided to move on. He didnt give up easily though, and kept insisting I should get in his car. When he noticed I was starting to move on he held out a $100 bill and told me he would give it to me if I got in the car. Now, my alarm was all out fear. I texted Maureen, took the cap off my bear spray and moved on. Maureen and I stayed in very close contact for the next several hours.

This wasnt an easy day. The map kept trying to send me down roads that were only partially paved and filled with wet snow. Each time I turned around because it was too hard going with the heavy Cadillac. I ended up walking on I-40 which I really do not like. At the end of the day I had only moved 5 miles but was exhausted and I could tell it would be a cold night. I pulled over fairly early at 4:30 because I wanted to get in the tent early and use my body heat to get my sleeping bag nice and warm. The trail is sometimes complicated. Just as I finished setting up my tent a couple of Sheriff’s stopped. They were Officer McKinney and Officer Morrison – two female cops. Morrison was obviously training McKinney. Apparently it was illegal to camp within 1/4 mile of the highway, and I was too close. I couldn’t move further in because there was a fence, and I couldn’t get over the fence with my heavy pack. It was now past 5 pm and it would take me at least 20 minutes to pack up my camp. This means these two erstwhile cops were trying to push me walking in the dark on the freeway, because it was “unsafe” to camp among the trees. (Yes, this makes a whole lot of sense – right?). I argued that it was much too dangerous for me to walk in the darkness and it was important for me to heat up my tent before it got too darn cold. Officer McKinney had all the idealism of a young person and tried so hard to help me get a good resolution – Morrison on the other hand was so uptight I heard it squeak when she moved. Soon after Officer EJ with the highway patrol stopped in, and another cop with a good heart joined the fray. Morrison was the only one who was adamant I get moved – EJ and McKinney were of a mind to leave me there. Eventually Officer EJ suggested he move me one mile down the road to an exit with some decent camping and I agreed. Of course, I was there after dark and it took a little longer to get things heated up for the night. In spite of that, I was fine that night. This is quite amazing, because I later learned that this night it got down to between 5-8 degrees outside. That is approximately -15 degrees celsius – for you Danes.

I woke up the next morning to tent walls encrusted in ice and it took a while to get started. Just as I got out the tent – the snow started – and I crawled back in my tent. I figured it would be a quick sprinkling and I would still get on my way. 5 hours later, it was still snowing heavily, and while I was warm in my tent and sleeping bag, I wasn’t exactly having fun. I tried to reach out to Officer McKinney to see if I could still get a ride to Flagstaff, but that was no longer offered. (I heard Morrison in the background, and I am pretty sure I know who said no; squeak, squeak). That evening, when I finally couldn’t hold the need to pee any longer I stepped into about 4-5 inches of snow.

The next morning I woke up to lots of snow on the ground, fear of snow slick roads as I was walking on the freeway and a crushing backache. I needed out of there, and would have started to walk regardless, but I was really worried about cars slipping and sliding on those slick roads. It was clear to me I needed help by now. Soon after Officer Curtis noticed me and offered me a ride to Flagstaff. This was a 25 mile cheat, and one I felt was absolutely necessary and vital for safety. I could not walk safely on those roads.

I was relieved to be out of the snow, be inside, and start to meet some new folks.

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