CDT day 11: lightning and hail and infinite peace

May 15
Mileage 27.5
234.5 Miles from Mexico

The storm arrives at midnight: BOOM! BOOM! Peeee-ow! Thunder cracks and echoes down the canyon. Lightning flashes, sheering the night in half. I lie awake in the dark, listening to the hail beat the fabric of my shelter. Outside I can see the lights in my friends’ tents come on, everyone fumbling around, attempting to batten down the hatches. I drift in and out of sleep but the lightning wakes me again and again. Mud splatters up into my tent from hail striking the ground. I think of the canyon flash-flood horror stories that Mehap was telling yesterday. We’re up high enough here, on this forested bank above the river- aren’t we?

I feel haggard when I wake in the morning. But it’s good to be here, in the Gila, and I’m stoked to play the Gila game some more. I eat caffeinated jelly beans in my tent, looking out at the drizzle. Time to hike!

I’ve figured out the Gila game. I am one with the Gila. I zone out while I hike- water, rocks, sand, downed tree, rocks, there’s the trail. Beautiful canyon rising up. Water, rocks, trees. I enter a sort of meditative state. My brain clears out. All around me I can feel the land- the land is the only thing there is. I’m calmer than I’ve been in months.

Mid-morning we stop and dry our things in a bit of sun, and then the drizzle returns. Time to hike! My feet have been wet for days, and I’m pretty sure they’re rotting inside of my shoes. My wet socks have rubbed my heels bloody, and each step stings. I see some cool caves alongside the river, their roofs black with soot. I switchback up a steep trail and sit, watching the valley below. I am free.

We take the high route above the Gila for the last eight miles- a grassy jeep track stretching on forever, freezing wind, a little drizzle. I hike in all my layers, feet pounding the road. Camp is a cow pond in the dry hills north of snow lake, squatting to fill my bottles in the amber water, looking at the cow patties on the bottom of the pond thinking don’t think about it don’t think about it. A cold wind still blows, the sky is heavy and grey. We set our shelters up against the drizzle. I shiver in my tent, pawing through my food bag. Hiker hunger is here- hiker hunger is here for real. I poor frigid cow water into my tupperware to make instant black-bean ice-cream. How many miles until Pie Town?

Photos on instagram.