The Hayduke is a relatively flat trail. That’s because the Colorado Plateau is a relatively flat piece of the earth. The elevation across the plateau does vary but not with the substantial changes created by mountains and valleys. Most days I’m fatigued in my small muscle groups, the stabilizers, from all the rock hopping and lack of even tread, but my big muscle groups aren’t especially tired. Big muscle groups get tired climbing.
The Under The Rim Trail of Bryce Canyon may have had more ups and downs than any other part of the route (I’ll know the answer to that when I’m finished: for now, my sample is half the size it should be). Winding up and down between 7000 and 9000 feet in the ridged country just below Bryce’s Pink Cliffs, most of my day was spent in the soft-needled land of Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Firs, and Grand Firs. If I were a state, the Ponderosa would be my tree. I think of it like my home tree, a species whose hot vanilla smell in summer has saturated my clothes, whose rustling boughs in the wind have soothed my agitated mind, whose bark fibers have left legions of sharp cuts all over my palms. The Ponderosa lets light through its branches, sunlight spilling past the green and casting tiny shadows in the bark plates, and the forest floor glows with spent orange needles. It was good to walk among the Ponderosas again, out here in the desert. Nice trail today.
Around noon I arrived at Rainbow Point, a tourist destination on top to the cliffs, and had lunch. Peculiar to this region (and its visitor patterns I presume) is the fact that not in a single town since Moab have I had good cell service. In some towns, I’ve had none at all, and others just barely been able to place a call that seems to have a fifty-fifty chance of getting dropped. But on the top of the Pink Cliffs in Bryce Canyon, yesterday and today, I had three bars of LTE. I took advantage of the service during lunch today to call Dan and was happily talking to him when a man started yelling at me about talking on the phone there. Oh, is this bothering you, I asked surprised. Me and everyone else here he yelled. That’s not what we come here for! Even when I retreated to continue my conversation he kept interrupting me, yelling more, irate at my phone call, at me. I was flummoxed. Too sensitive to ignore the event, I had miles during the afternoon’s hiking to answer him in my head, everything from “I’m so sorry, I was totally being rude, thank you for pointing it out to me” to “listen you fat fuck. I’ve been in the goddamn wilderness for thirty fucking days and the top of Bryce Canyon is the first time I’ve had decent cell service to call my husband. You just drove your fat ass up here in stupid car. Get the fuck out of my face and go take your stupid pictures.” Alas in the event I said neither thing, nothing at all really. I ducked away from him, finished my call, and left. He’s probably forgotten it already and I’m reliving it, writing it, memorializing it. In that narrow strip of land our two worlds met, blended into a little of both, and at that moment I wanted part of his and he wanted part of mine. Standing between each of us and our desire was the other. So much to mull over in the afternoon hours. Hiking cleaves open a place for the mind to whir like a wind-up cymbal monkey, marching along and crashing from time to time, in relative stillness. How funny to watch all the thoughts, the same thoughts, run in repeat for hours while the trail climbs up and down in the forested ridges underneath the Pink Cliffs.
By the afternoon I was leaving Bryce Canyon behind, dropping back in Grand Staircase-Escalange National Monument, the firs and then the Ponderosas disappearing and getting replaced by junipers and pinyon pines, and the endless sage brush. I’m losing elevation now, back down to 6000 feet, heading down towards Kanab. Kanab is a staging town for me, a time to prepare for the push through the Grand Canyon, to finalize permits and schedules and the like. To Kanab.