Total Miles: 356.4
Aside from our plunge into the depths of the Grand Canyon and our subsequent reemergence, the trail since Utah has been largely devoid of any significant climbing—until today. In the first minutes after leaving our camp at the base of a climb, any pretense that our legs might have been under about the leisure with which we’d stroll our way to Mexico had vanished.
Alternately gravelly and just plain rocky, the trail rose some 2000 feet before falling into a habit that would last all morning and afternoon: like walking along the teeth of a saw, we’d climb for a bit only to yield back most of the precious ground we’d gained before starting to climb again.
The sun that has been a fixture since the beginning shined down with a newfound intensity as if we were being punished for not having given it its due. Salt stains were now our latest fashion statement.
Surprisingly, mercifully, water was less difficult to come by despite having risen to 7,000 feet. Shade may have been in short supply, but pools of clear, cool water seeped from beneath the rock of washes that were dry mere feet above and below.
Taking stock of the day’s challenges—an oppressive sun; loose, rocky trail; constant ascending and descending; all manner of dry, needled plants crowding the trail—it was as if these Mazatzals were sending a message that we weren’t exactly welcome here.
Late in the afternoon, while the sun lowered itself toward the horizon but gave no relief from the attention of its rays, thorns of catclaw crowding the trail grabbed onto whatever it could—my socks, my compression sleeves, or even into my skin. Nature quite literally slowing us down, conspiring to create as much resistance to our forward progress as it could muster.
Yet on we went. More slowly, more cautiously, and with more effort than had been required to date, but we rattled along like the little engines that could finding much about this particular style of trail that was familiar from our time on the Continental Divide Trail last year.
As the final mile was upon us, the sun sat low casting long shadows pointing in the direction of where we’d planned to camp for the night. The catclaw had released its grip on the real estate immediately adjacent to the trail and in its place low walls of the finest grass, its texture soft and delicate like a veil, now drooped across the trail to soothe the skin that had been scratched and cut so soon before. Resistance had been replaced by acceptance...for now, at least.