We loved these past two days. Yesterday (Friday) we had a leisurely morning; most of the boys rose around 8 and took a walk up the ridge to see the view we had missed upon our arrival the previous evening, but Nevan and I stayed in our sleeping bags a while longer, desperate to delay our return to the world of cold air standing up and moving as long we could. We made bacon for breakfast, confident that it was laden enough with preservatives as to have survived four days without refrigeration, and took turns going to poop in order to put off our departure even further.
We left camp just after 10, and discovered our packs lightened considerably by our previous night’s feast (or rather, I discovered this about my pack). The first several miles were a joyous downhill, and offered us a plethora of southward views down Wildcat Canyon. Knowing that we had less than six miles to cover, we rewarded ourselves for the incremental progress made in the first 45 minutes of our hike with a leisurely break to fill water bottles from a spring. We reached the trailhead just past noon, hoping to find the same amenities we had encountered at the last trailhead (read: bathrooms and trash cans), but were met only by a dirt road. After another long break, we soldiered onward.
We made camp just past 1 and celebrated by cooking quesadillas, then fell into a deep post-lunch warmth-and-sunlight-induced slumber, sleepily making promises to each other to put up tents soon. After a well spent, if uneventful, afternoon, we did eventually follow through on these vows, though not without a dramatic confrontation over tent cliques, whether or not they existed, and who would get to pitch their tent on the nice bed of pine needles. (It goes without saying that of course there were no tent cliques, though all the right people got the pine needle spot, and Aidan was plenty comfortable in his bed of hurt feelings.)
After a delicious dinner of spaghetti and red sauce, we sat around gabbing until Nevan started to tell scary stories. At this point it seemed like a good idea to be in our tents where nothing could get to us. Without naming names, one of us nearly pooped my pants after Nevan snuck up on our tent and began slowly unzipping the door. Overwhelmed, we fell asleep as fast as we could.
This morning was marginally faster than yesterday’s. I pooped as quickly as possible, mostly because midway through digging the cathole I got scared that our surroundings seemed like exactly the kind of terrain where one might find a mountain lion. Suddenly aware that while pooping I am at my most vulnerable, and compounded by the fear that anyone on the trail on the opposite ridge would have an unsettlingly clear view of me, I expedited the process as much as possible. Eventually, we got on trail.
We decided to spend the first part of the day solo hiking, staggering ourselves by five or ten minutes in order to allow ourselves some time for introspection and contemplation of the nature. Initially, some were skeptical, but after 45 minutes spent without everyone’s awful voices filling the air like a cacophony of terrible crows, we all agreed that we’d like to hike the rest of the day this way. Unfortunately, while stopped at a jaw-dropping (literally; I went several minutes without closing my mouth) vista of the canyon cut by the Left Fork snaking to the west, we encountered a young couple hiking the same direction as us, and decided that splitting ourselves up to take up six times as much of the trail was unnecessarily obnoxious.
The land around us was scenic largely for the remnants of fire it bore. Trees were few and far between, with a handful of charred-but-surviving ponderosa pines sparsely dotting the hillside. As we descended, the signs of a burn grew more frequent; giant trunks lay across the valley in an immense boneyard, while a few barkless goliaths remained standing, a reminder of the titanic forest that had once (recently, maybe) occupied the meadow. In between them, life had started to recover, embodied most clearly by the pure white aspens that grew from the ashes.
There is maybe some symbolism there if you’re willing to spend the time thinking about it, but we were distracted at this point by the realization that we were unlikely to find water at our campsite or anywhere on the trail leading there. The spring we had hoped to collect from ran dry, and none of the drainages nearby held water either. Eventually, we found a slowly running stream--more like a small pool--that held a greater-than-ideal quantity of algae, and forcing worries about giardia and norovirus from our minds, pumped our dromedaries full. We also ran into the couple we had met earlier, and learned that they were from Austin, sort of, and had recently sold all their belongings to travel the world. They had been on the road for 40 days, with no end in sight. They were very friendly, and seemed to find us endearing (or at least non-threatening), and so we made trail friends!
This last section of the hike was incredibly scenic, walking along the edge of a ridge with gorgeous views, and if someone else were writing this blog, I’m sure you’d get to hear a lot more about it. As it stands, though, you’re stuck with me, and struggling under the now all-too-familiar weight of a full dromedary, I was in no mood for views. Rather, Aidan (the other dromedary-carrier (camel?)) and I were in the mood to reach camp and remove our packs, so we hiked at a kind of delirious pace in which the scenery was more of a sweaty blur than any distinct shapes worthy of admiration.
We reached our camp a little past two, a beautiful site high up on the edge of a mesa, with a view much the same as the ridge below, but now we (the camel people) found it quite a bit more enjoyable, because now there wasn’t an awful wet rock on your back keeping you from lifting your head upright. After lunch, most of the boys scampered off to explore the (allegedly beautiful) west rim, but I was content in Bo’s hammock, and elected to stay behind to nap and read. Eventually they returned, and we made a predictably crunchy meal of beans and rice, walking out to the edge of the rim to enjoy our dinner with the sunset. Now we head to bed, and I can’t help but think this is an awfully nice way to spend a few days.
[Author’s note: It has been brought to my attention that I never acknowledged the outcome of Aidan’s “bathroom crisis,” mentioned in an earlier post. It was happily resolved, without the use of drugs, while we waited for Bo and Philip to return from running shuttle on Wednesday morning. I cannot overstate what a relief this was.]