Hayduke Day 7

March 17

All night and all day the planes pass overhead, silently. East to west, east to west, always to the coast. As if the Pacific holds something dear and secret and covetous. I wonder what those people who look out their window think when they see this vast red deserted expanse spread out below them (do they see the person there? Am I grown tall?). This mass network of canyons known as Canyonlands must look nothing more than faint lines running in all directions. The grand Colorado thin and threadbare and murky. What murk makes up these rivers, and how, when drunk, it fills one’s mouth with thickness. Grit and sand wedge between my teeth as I take it down my throat, again and again–becoming it. Course earth snags zippers and finds it’s way into every knowable corner. I must be made of murk and sand now. The Colorado Plateau is in me.

My hands are terribly burnt, and they radiate, even in the cool of night. These hands carried me twice out of the Indian River and onto the shelf above. The initial ascent was long and full of wrong turns and missteps. I wedged my body and climbed hand over foot until I reached the top, an hour later. Only to realise I’d left my bag of trash at the rivers edge, far below me. So down I went, sliding and cascading and stopping just short of launching myself over the cliffs. See, there, far below a faint brown spot resting against the boulder, so full of empty wrappers. I find it there, undisturbed and begin again. Up and up, deftly and swift this time with no pack to weigh me down. Sometimes I go up with the bag clenched between jaws so I can use both hands to climb higher until finally I’m at the top again. This place must not be despoiled, I’ll not have it.

In mid afternoon, a pothole of water to dip my lips to and drink deeply. No murk, or grit, no alkalinity at all. Just cool clean water, held in an earthen cup.

In early evening, the damp woody smells of the PCT in southern California rush through my head in dizzying nostalgia. Heat blossoms out, and for the first time on trail I come to a modest forest of scrubby junipers. As the sun goes over the horizon they spread out their branches in an arterial spray and set themselves dark against the glowing sky. The earth is full of wonders, and I cant begin to recount them all.

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