I slept out again last night and was woken in the middle of the night by a series of strange animal cries, close behind me and echoing off the canyon wall. They were answered by a similar set of cries far off to the south. This nighttime conversation continued back and forth a few times before it stopped and I fell back asleep, but I spent the rest of my night trying to explain the source of the noise in my dreams. First I said it was a snake, an 18 foot long Anaconda native to the area that mates once every 8 years, and the cries were its mating call. In later dreams, as I explained the call and the source (bobcat, cougar, strange birds), I would mimic the call to whomever I was talking to. By the time I woke up, I couldn’t remember what the noise was like, and wondered whether I heard it all or just dreamed it.
I felt good this morning as we walked along a four wheel drive road contouring beneath a towering cliff band. The morning was comfortably cool, and though I had been having some trouble with an old posterior tibial tendinitis injury yesterday, my body felt in fine form this morning. The road was gentle, the views outstanding. Shortly Erin and I came to another detour from the guidebook route which we decided to take because it shortened the guidebook route by descending Lockhart Cliff straight down to the canyon floor rather than taking a slow contour around. A couple miles shorter, sure, but mainly it’s the kind of detour that makes this trail so fun. Hiking is walking, pleasant and repetitive, but to solve the puzzle of how to traverse technical, exposed terrain and use all the limbs–the hands, hips, shoulders, all of it–is a delicious challenge. There were a few uncertain places that required scrambling down sandstone slabs near massive pour-offs, and a descent into, through, and out of a boulder cave, but eventually I found my feet back on the ground and off we went.
I was carrying five liters of the seven I took form the Colorado River, and they weighed heavy on my shoulders. There was possibly no water for the rest of the day until tomorrow morning and I wanted enough in such a scenario. But such weight! After the descent through Lockhart Cliff, the route was mostly on four wheel drive roads and they allowed for some quick travel, but heavy still. So I was delighted to find water near lunch time, a tiny alkaline creek (all the water here is alkaline, leaching minerals from the soft rocks) where Erin and I took a break. I cooked there on the bank in the shade of a cliff, next to a adolescent patch of grass, all new and scraggly but determined. I drank all five of the liters of water I arrived with, one after another, until my belly was swollen, and then happily carried away only two liters for the next ten miles to a sure water source, Indian Creek. It was a relief to have a slightly lighter pack.
We seem to be having a bit of an early summer here. I am surprised. I had planned for cold cold nights and fairly cool days. Instead nights are between 35 and 40 and today was hot, 80 degrees by the thermometer on my pack which was shaded from direct sun. Later I won’t think this is so hot, but for now it feels so. I’m slightly concerned about water sources and future temperatures, but in the present I’m handling the heat better than I thought I would.
Tonight we are camped next to a seep, only the second night of the trip with water at camp (actually the third, since the first night was at the campground in Arches and there was a water tap). The setting sun lit up the red bulbous cliff face across from me and a large bee-like green-eyed fly fell in love with me and the birds sang and the sky was the kind of blue that makes you feel courageous.