Hayduke Day 17

March 27

I could see the Henries dawning, softly, and I rolled back over. Maybe just a little more sleep…

But no, my alarm is going off and it says, “Go see new things,” so I have to oblige. The small stream near my camp shut off quietly overnight, the snowmelt staved off for a few hours by an icy moon. I’m still slow at camp–this is how all thru hikers are until the very end–but I get by, and things get packed away nice and orderly.

If only the Henries were a little more…just a few miles wider so that I might stay in the mountains just a little longer. But no, this is the way they were made, so I begin the steady descent down the western slopes, all the ravines and ridges casting long shadows and the snow beaming at higher elevations, up where not even the birds fly.

I crawl (OK, not really) for a few hours up on Tarantula Mesa, sky grey and wind rising, until the Hayduke Trail says, “Enough of this! Time to go fling yourself off the steepest cliff around! Good luck!” This particular cliff happened to lead down to Muley Creek, and I swear I walked along its ridge, back and forth, in disbelief. I have no idea how the creators of this trail found a way down, but they did, and I followed it. I would have thought the way was completely impassable.

My feet haven’t yet accepted what they are–thru hiker feet–so they frequently complain. But they have to do what I tell them and I say “Keep going!” And they dont have much of a choice.

By evening I’ve grown tired though, and I happen across an excellent site for a sunset so I make camp and am treated to the finest show so far on trail. To the east, long bands of sky turn crimson against the steely Henry Mountains with a few bright cumulus clouds well off in the distance flowing orange. To the west, the Waterpocket Fold draws a long steady horizon under which the sun turns in on itself and explodes under the stoic gaze of millions of grains of desert sand. Colors pour out. We all nod our heads and say, Good Night–Good Night then.

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