Total Miles: 41.0
The rain that had rocked us to sleep was now a distant memory, the moisture on the lowland grasses and the faintly muddy trail the only reminders that it had even been there at all. The morning began with some brief x-country walking followed by a climb up a rough herd path that eventually delivered us back to the top of the Rim.
With water generally in short supply, a hike in this climate necessarily becomes a choreography of linking together various water sources both to ensure that we have enough water to stay hydrated but also to minimize the amount of water we need to carry at any given time. Simple enough. And what if the water “source” in this case is an oversized puddle of brown, murky water meant to quench the thirst of open ranging cattle? You drink it. Far from the crystal clear alpine waters of our home hikes near Seattle, that's for sure...
Of course, that's some pretty ugly looking stuff undoubtedly full of critters that would be more than happy to inflict all manner of intestinal distress so it's here that the water filter takes a starring role, working its magic to turn that brown puddle into clear and clean drinking water.
The transformation seemed particularly amazing watching Beardoh squeezing water through his filter while standing next to the earthen cow tank, even if filtering out all that muck did spell doom for the speed of all of our filters. Back-flushing should be an Olympic event.
Today was also a reminder of the varied forms of this particular route, with equal parts trail, herd path, vague historical wagon routes, x-country travel with map and compass or GPS, dirt roads, gravel roads, paved roads, and every imaginable flavor of Forest Service roads, from pleasant to painfully rocky. If you've never marveled at the sheer virtuosity of the US Forest Service when it comes to road building, this hike (among many others) will open your eyes to how road construction seems to have been the true calling of the USFS, yielding a system with miles many times more than the collective sum of the interstate highway system. Bill Bryson wrote a small treatise on the subject in his book A Walk in the Woods about his hike on the Appalachian Trail, and I still find it one of the most surprisingly educational portions of it.
Late in the afternoon on one particularly rock-choked stretch of forest service road, Ace rolled her ankle pretty badly, which unfortunately led to a couple of recurrences as we ticked off the final miles of the day. It wasn't until we decided to make camp around 7pm that I saw just how very swollen it had become. Hopefully, a night of elevation and rest in the hammock, some ibuprofen, and repurposing one of my calf compression sleeves into an ankle compression sock will help combat the swelling and allow her to keep hiking without too much pain.
Mace had his own self-surgical procedure to perform at day’s end, extracting a cactus needle that had managed to embed itself underneath one of his toenails. Such is the fun of desert hiking through a menagerie of spiky, sharp, pointed, and pokey things.
A second day without seeing a single hiker at least came to an end with a hot meal, courtesy of a tiny wood fire that did an equally effective job of boiling water as it did in blackening our cook pot with a tar-like substance that should be fun to try and remove when we’re back home.