Woke up, packed up. Five or so tightly winding miles along flowing Salt Creek flanked by crooked Cottonwoods to the All-American Man petroglyph, painted in stunning blues and reds inside an alcove wall. The creek valley widened and the trail straightened out. Sandstone cliffs towered (that’s what they do, tower), their faces pocked with giant holes where huge boulders fell out. It makes me wonder where the boulders go when the cliff bottom is clean, but then I know. The boulders become the sand I’m walking in, the sand in my shoes. I’m moving pieces of those boulders an hour or two up the trail, until I stop to pour the little pieces of them back to the ground.
There was an uncertain water stretch ahead, a possible 27 miles between sure sources, though the map had a couple potential sources marked. I wasn’t looking forward to loading up with two gallons of water because the last source, along Salt Creek, came just before some tough cross-country work up a boulder-choked wash. But serendipity, the truest of trail magic, played a hand and at the last water source in Salt Creek there was a man and his son who spend days at a time exploring the backcountry all over this area and knew where water would and would not be. He halved the long water carry, down to 12 miles from 27. Well, hallelujah. I could have just jumped up in joy if my feet didn’t hurt like they do.
So departing there with only five liters of water rather than eight and feeling quite happy, the rest of the day was lighter and faster than anticipated. Still, scrambling up wickedly steep sand hills and back down, through pour offs and over boulders, my legs raw because I wore shorts and the desert brush has no give and most of it is sharp, pointed, or stabby, and all the climbing and descending and now I’m pretty good and beat (tired and up). Three times today a small cactus caught on my shoe as I was passing and flung into my calf and had to be very carefully removed. My posterior tibial tendon also flared up a bit by the end. Climbing, climbing, climbing.
I’m not sure how I managed to pull this off, but I think I have too little food for the rest of this leg until Hite, at least three full days from now. Funny, I can’t seem to hit the target with my food, carrying to much or too little. Feast or famine. Now I’m trying out famine to see what that’s like.
It’s now stunningly quiet here at camp. No birds, no wind, no chirping insects, almost no ambient noise. Noiselessness that makes you notice how much sound is rattling around in the eardrums, like in a conch shell. The sky puffed up some clouds today and it may actually rain tonight. The days are still hot (90 in the sun) but the breeze keeps it cool, and nights are still cold. But I think after it all, I’ll sleep well tonight.