Hayduke Day 26

April 6

Before the sun was even a quarter across the sky, I was under the earth. Round Valley Draw is the first slot canyon on the Hayduke (the short one I went through yesterday was half a mile off trail), so I’d been anticipating this for some time. When I got to the edge, the crack in the rock was small enough to put my fist in, but a few steps beyond the slick rock plunged deep and fast. I stood there, looking down, and nearly backed out. The way to the bottom requires I solid fistful of nerves, and I needed to gather more than I was holding at the moment. I had to edge my body between the crack and let me back and feet hold all my body’s tension as I slowly lowered myself down. Honestly, had I not seen footprints in the sand as I was looking down, I probably would not have gone. I wouldn’t have believed it could be done. Once descended, there are only a couple more easy obstacles to overcome; the walking is flat and easy.

Many places, the width is less than an armspan, and I could hear the crunching of my feet on the sandy ground echo close. The walls are, in places, pock-marked from some form of erosion, while elsewhere small knobs of rock protrude from the wall in a curious formation. The mysteries of canyons. Eventually the way opens up and I spent the morning cruising down Hackberry Canyon, which is a boulevard of white. By lunch I was exhausted and decided to take a nearly three hour break. I cant remember the last time I rested so long on trail, but it felt good. I’d walked over 50 miles in the previous two days, so all those steps had caught up to me.

Clouds build up and spat rain here and there, so I hummed my no-rain song and splashed along the creek which had grown wide and nearly covered the width of the canyon floor. As night comes on I can hear a collection of frogs croaking–it’s such a nostalgic sound, isn’t it? I’m reminded of summer as a boy when everything was hot and humid and I spent all day in the sun. I suppose not much has changed, except for the climate, and the fact that as an adult I somehow manage to get even filthier from playing outside. What a noble trajectory, and I can only hope to continue the course. By the time I’m an old man I’ll simply be a case of mud with a few twigs and moss stuck to my limbs as I limp down along the trails.

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