I slept great last night on the pull-out lumpy hide-a-bed. The house was so dark and quiet, it was the richly unaware sleep I have so infrequently while on the trail. I woke up in the quiet before the family was up and slipped outside to watch the sun color the mountains behind the house, the mountains I would be going into today. Eventually everyone was up–it was a school day after all–and after a quick breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and coffee, we all piled into the truck. Stefanie dropped me off at the Post Office in Colorado City and we all waved goodbye. I turned and headed up the road.
It was later than I would usually start, 8:20 or so. The whole world was up. I was up up up from the coffee, making fast work of the paved streets of Colorado City and then its sister town Hildale. Some folks waved and some just stared. One woman stopped to ask if I wanted a ride but I declined. The towns were nestled in a lovely valley and I was enjoying the walk. I was somewhat perplexed by the fences. Most houses were surrounded by tall metal fences that completely blocked any view into the yards. Some of the houses were decorated with the letters UEP, sometimes built right into the brickwork. Colorado City has her secrets apparently.
After a few miles I had climbed out of the residential areas and was again in wilderness. Sort of wilderness anyway. I was following an ATV track up a lovely wash, shaded with cottonwoods and backed by red rock. Eventually I climbed out of the wash up Squirrel Creek, another magical and lovely place, and eventually climbed away from there too and made my way up to the top of the ridge, the top of what my GPS referred to as Canaan Mountain (though who knows if anyone else calls it that). I had a long day on top undulating up and down in a sandy ATV track. Some parts were slow but mostly the miles went quickly today. It was very pretty up there and the weather was perfect for hiking: right around 70 and lightly overcast, an occasional gentle breeze. I dropped into some hollows, did a little cross country weaving between save brush and junipers, and then joined the road that would take me all me the way to the East Fork of the Virgin River, also known as the Barracks.
Had I started just two hours earlier today, I would have continued down the river. My route follows the river bottom through narrows and obstacles for four miles before climbing steeply away up a chute. I made it to the river at 4:40, but if the next four miles are very slow, I would get trapped in the river bed in the dark. So I stopped at the river, camped up the embankment because the East Fork of the Virgin River is prone to flash floods. I wouldn’t worry at all but the next few days call for rain. An ounce of precaution.
I find there is always something to worry about. Leaving Colorado City, I kept thinking about the sandy top of Canaan Mountain and that once I got through that, then I wouldn’t have to worry anymore. But of course as soon as that’s done it’s replaced. Once I get through the Barracks without a flash flood, I won’t have to worry anymore. Once I get through Fat Man’s Misery, I won’t have to worry anymore. Once I hitch in and out of the Visitor Center to get my permit, I won’t have to worry anymore. Once I climb 2500 feet out of the main canyon in Zion onto the West Rim, I won’t have to worry anymore. Once I hike the 25 mile day that day, once I survive the forecasted rain, once I make the last hitch from Lees Pass Trailhead, blah blah blah. I sometimes think hiking simply allows for too much indulgence in my anxieties, because hiking is close enough to surviving that the anxieties feel real. I find I don’t ever walk completely free of them. Sometimes they are just feathers almost unnoticable draped over my shoulders and sometimes they are boulders, heavy rocks living right in the center of my body that my heart has to pump blood around.