My daughter Brooke walks the Arizona Trail (AzT).

The long, winding ribbon of a path leads her up — then down — only to climb up again.

I watch her progress daily from the SAT phone GPS coordinates she sends me each morning and evening.

Who knew a series of numbers and letters could be so comforting?

Here in Rim Country, a good chunk of the AzT winds its way through our beloved vistas. Seems the architects of the trail sought the take the hiker over as many mountains as possible — and Rim Country has those in abundance.

I find my daughter has an interesting reaction to the ups and downs of the trail.

Determination.

Chastisement.

Judgment.

Acceptance.

Peace.

And I?

I’m elated and terrified.

Proud and anxious.

Confident and falling apart.

Mostly, I’m in awe and in love of her.

I look at her and my heart melts as it did when she came into my life, headstrong, independent, physical and deeply thoughtful.

As I watch her make progress through her daily SAT phone updates — I’m stopping here — or — I’m starting here — I get to know the person I saw behind her squalling as a baby because she was cold and uncomfortable.

Guess what?

She’s still a cold sleeper. She complains almost every night on the trail that she’s freezing.

I wish I could just wrap her in warmth, as I did when she was tiny enough for me to draw her close sharing my warmth.

But now, she’s an adult I can’t cuddle. So, I buy her a Merino wool base layer, give her a hug and drop her off in the middle of the desert.

I had no idea how profoundly painful, yet exhilarating that simple act would be.

We drove to a lonely stretch of dirt road. Suddenly, the single track of the AzT crossed its path.

The only sounds? A quail and a cactus wren competing to sing the best song.

Panic set in.

What am I doing?

She’s so young, frail and vulnerable!

It’s so ... lonely out here.

Saguaro, cholla, prickly pear ... they’ll be her only constant companions — for how long? Weeks.

Deep down, I know this is her journey. She has rushed pell-mell through so many things. Always in a rush. Always believing the grass is greener just the other side of the septic tank.

But the AzT has taught her, in a way I never could, this is her journey. She can choose to take it as she would like.

She’s decided it’s not a marathon to her, she’s just going to saunter.

She’s taking the time to stop at streams to write in her journal.

She’s learning the word humble.

She changes her plans based on what she needs.

She’s trusting in herself.

She’s putting one foot in front of the other continuing the journey despite the pain.

And you know what? I see changes. I see awareness dawn in her that life has the same qualities as what the trail provides.

Up and down.

Stunning beauty.

Drudgery.

Moments of joy.

Moments of anger.

Moments of clarity.

This trail that gains popularity every day has so much to teach.

If we can only let go and trust that the silence, the beauty and the challenge will allow the hiker to discover life.

Or maybe this lesson is just for me to learn as I love my daughter through the transition to adulthood.

contact the reporter at: mnelson@payson.com

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