Total Miles: 2008.1
After yesterday’s downright social atmosphere, it was back to a more familiar one: just us, the trail, and a smattering of cows that aren’t quite as adept at holding up their end of a conversation. It was the first morning that either of us could remember starting without a warm layer or two, so warm was the early sun.
The wind wasted little time in doing its part to temper what could have otherwise been an oppressively hot day. Blustery enough to occasionally tempt our hats to take flight, it wasn’t without its own frustration, but on balance its counterpoint to the sun was a welcome one.
Winding its way from one wash to another, up onto a mesa and down again, the trail brought us within sight of several novel looking peaks dotting the desert floor. Like reproductions of the famous Devil’s Tower, round peaks with nearly vertical walls rose up seemingly out of nowhere, the largest being Cabezon Peak.
Traversing as we did from one edge of the mesa to another, the work of water had left its fingerprints everywhere—ironic given the utter lack of water to be found anywhere. Boulders held aloft on pillars of sand and dirt like a giant golf ball on a rapidly eroding tee. Deep fissures with steep, sandy walls snaking across the land that must funnel an absolute torrent of water during monsoon season. And speckled throughout, plants that have evolved to shield themselves from a wind capable of scraping the land clean—an adaptation, oddly enough, shared by their counterparts inhabiting the alpine zone of snowy, high elevation peaks.
The day’s final push was a sizable climb up to a much larger mesa that also brought the return of something I’d missed these past two days: trees. Cresting the top of the pancake flat expanse just after the dark had made it difficult to see without a headlamp, we’d left behind the ground-hugging plants and cacti of the desert floor.
We’d also left behind a milestone that we’d passed without even realizing it. Somewhere down there in the sand, we’d crossed the 2,000-mile mark of the hike—the equivalent of setting out on Interstate 90 from Seattle and strolling until you hit Chicago. A flight of a few hours that, on foot, has taken us months to cover. What can I say? We like taking the long way, the hard way, the scenic way. Such is the madness that nature instills.