Woke up on the edge of Fifty Mile Mountain, just clinging to the edge there like a lichen. The wind flapped the tent all night and I was camped on a substantial slope so spent most of the night is various states of awakeness, listening to the wind play my tent like a drum or trying not to slide into the very end of it. Woke up with the rest of the climb before me like a red carpet, beckoning. My feet fell heavy under the weight of my pack, which I would grow accustomed to and then instantly struggle against as though I’d just discovered it on me, sucking my life force. All day I felt like my pack was riding me, like I was a mule. It goes right, I go right. Left and I go left.
The morning climb was stiff. Like three fingers of scotch at 6:30 in the morning: burns on the way down (up) and leaves you warm in the middle. The sun rose behind a ridge and a flock of ravens looped lazily in the wind, calling to each other in clicks and caws.
From the top we wound along a large mesa, the top of the mountain, with sage brush so thick that it started to irritate my nose. We came to a spring, sealed off from cattle in fence and piped into a trough. It was time to load up on water for a possible thirty mile dry stretch. I filled up a two liter bag, a two liter bottle, and a one liter bottle all to go in my backpack. Not enough yet though, not enough water. I then filled up a gallon jug to carry in my hand. My pack is so full of food that I can’t close the top and everything just kind of hangs out of the gaping maw, and I didn’t think it would be easy to fit four more liters. Also the weight was murderous. So gallon jug in the hand. My pack weighed about 50 pounds, and I had 8 more hanging off the end of my arm. As a team my pack and I were a two hundred pound monster swaying across the Mesa, tripping on sage brush and sinking in the soft sand.
We left the Mesa a few miles after the water and started down another wash, into another canyon. We were startled to find it tragically slow going, often no more than a mile an hour, as we climbed up and around and over and and under giant house sized boulders choking up the bed of the canyon. With the weight of my packet almost able to dictate my path of travel and one hand always beholden to the jug, I teetered through the obstacles almost feeling like I was playing against the canyon, and I had a handicap. At the end of the day, I played my best cards and Monday Canyon just had a better hand. I was humbled. I didn’t make it as far as I had hoped to today, far enough to make it to the next reliable water by tomorrow night.