Day 40: to the Kaibab Plateau

I’ve come to understand that I am mispronouncing almost every location name in the southwest, and mostly my sounds are the problem. I give the a space, draw it out, make it rhyme with Bob. Kan-a-b. But the as here should be short, American Midwest as that rhyme with lab. So I’m on the Kaibab Plateau now, not the Kaib-ah-b Plateau. Subtle difference but it irritates the locals who have all been so patient with me. I tell them I’ve only ever read it. 

I had a fair amount of time to pass this morning before I could start working on getting a ride back to the trail. That’s because I was at the mercy of the Kanab (not Kan-ah-b) post office which keeps slightly short hours. I needed to mail my bucket, filled with some spare clothes and replacements for broken or used things, to South Rim and the post office didn’t open until 9. I tried to sleep in, getting up at 6 instead of 5:30, and wasted time in the best ways I could. I had breakfast in the motel lobby, took a shower, packed up, had second breakfast at the diner across the street, and so on. I mailed the bucket at 9 and came back to the motel to talk to other guests about whether any of them might be headed towards Jacob Lake or Lees Ferry on Highway 89A. Two potential rides had left earlier in the morning but I was chained to my bucket and, by extension, the post office. But one guest, a park service employee, decided he could get me to Jacob Lake, two-thirds of the way to where I needed to go. This was a fine plan. Hitching the last third would hopefully be easy at Jacob Lake, and Jacob Lake had a bakery rumored to be excellent. He moved some things around in his truck so I could fit my pack and my body and we were off around 10:00am. 

Jacob Lake did have great cookies. I got two, a lemon one and a buttery chocolate chip one, tucked into a crinkly paper bag. I meant to eat them later in the day but it took about fifteen minutes to land the second hitch and I passed the time with those chewy, crumbly, delicious cookies. A few minutes after I finished the second one, someone pulled over to give me a ride, an IT guy who just moved to Pheonix from New York City in a bid to remake his life. I must say, I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve hitched with on this trail. I’ve found them all to be passionate and vibrant about their lives (of course there are a few exceptions). 

I was back to my hike by 11:45. It was hot, windless, but thin clouds blocked the full force of the sun. I had a fourteen mile climb from around 5300 feet in House Rock Valley at the base of the Vermillion Cliffs up to 8500 feet on the Kaibab Plateau. The way was all roads, most of them part of the Great Western Trail which is a multiuse route from Mexico to Canada, mostly dirt roads. The walking was often slow because of climbing, but as I got higher the temperatures cooled gradually and the cloud screen slowly thickened. I kept a steady effort so I could finish the climb today, and as I went I watched countless lizards scurry from one bush to another and butterflies flap frenetically against the occasional breeze. The lizards, like all prey animals, would run only a few feet away and then stop, facing away from me, and turn to look at me with one eye over a shoulder. Cows do this. My goats do this. The instinct not to run hard is deep but the preparatory stance is unmistakable. I wondered about what it would be like to know what a lizard knows. What is lizard-knowing, or butterfly-knowing? All I can see of them is physicality, is lizard or butterfly embodiment. And perhaps they have the great fortune to have their knowing intimately tied up in their bodies. 

Musing so I climbed high up on the wide-shouldered plateau. Pinyon pine dominated but I eventually crossed over into a burned area from 2006, a fire severe enough that very little tree regrowth is dotting the rocky and rubbled ground. The sliver white trunks twisted up towards the sky. I was grateful for the breeze and the clouds. 

By 5:45 I was on the top, rejoining the official Hayduke Trail from the alternate which occupied me the last six days. Along the Kaibbab Plateau the Hayduke Trail is the Arizona Trail and I enjoyed walking on trail in a  forest, both rare occurrences out here. I hiked another three miles to a water source, a fire tank embedded in the ground, and made camp. Dinner, tent, watching sunlight fade to gray, the whistling of the wind in the burned tree tops. It is so quiet here except for the play of some mourning doves and the occasional car on a road behind a hill, heading to or from the North Rim. 

I wasn’t able to fix my sleeping pad in Kanab. I couldn’t find the hole, not in water or with soapy spray or by sight or sound or feel. So I have eight days of interrupted rest until the hole gets big enough to find or the sleeplessness kills me. In every other way I am right with the world. 










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