The sun. First thing in the morning, no sun in the dark, but I almost didn’t notice because first thing in the morning my attention is as small and specific as the beam of my headlamp. As I was leaving camp, the eastern skyline has a thickening band of glow. I walked with my headlamp, trying to find the road I was supposed to be on, missing my GPS old friend. The iPhone just isn’t the same. The maps are better but for following a track the GPS unit is better in so many small ways, one of them just the comfort of the familiar.
I found the road and immediately I felt like I’m in a wading pool filled with sand. The whole plateau is called the Sand Hills in recognition of the most prominent feature: some of the finest, deepest, softest sand anywhere. The dirt roads in the Sand Hills are actually sand roads, almost undrivable except by very well equipped 4WD vehicles and of course walkable, though they extract a price. There were deep sand roads off and on for maybe half the day, especially the first half, and by lunch I was sore and tired. I think my body is still recovering from yesterday’s climb and the long, steady day of hiking.
So the day was like this. On roads all day. Not fast, just sand. Stopped to help a lost motorist, the only people I saw up on the plateau all day (except Erin and Gavin when I left this morning and later right before descending off the plateau). Saw Marble Canyon from on top of the Vermillion Cliffs, and I was startled by flat plateau ripped open, gutted, by this earth rend. Descent down Sand Hills crack was a short, fun scramble down. Rattle snake coiled and rattled. Now at Jacobs Pool, a ramshackle building with history I don’t know. Met some folks who also gave me water, the best of desert trail magic. They said Teddy Roosevelt once stayed there.
Today wasn’t exactly hard but I feel like the heat and sand had their way with my body. I got a blister on my heel (I never get blisters), and terrible splinter dig into the arch of my other foot. I got the worst chafe of the whole trail and a pretty bad sunburn all over my legs and even my scalp. The good news is that my knee, usually inflamed by walking in deep sand, didn’t swell today and just twinged from time to time. So there is that.