Yellow light through the bare limbs of the oaks, golden oak leaves on the trail, soft trail! Matthew counts the rings on a ponderosa. Seventy. Are these second growth? Third growth? I try to imagine this forest as it once was. Before long, in terms of geological time, we’ll (mostly) be gone (I believe)- then these trees can grow big again. They’re not mad, I don’t think. The trees forgave us ages ago. Before we even crawled out of the sea.
I’ve got a third of a liter of water to make it the ten miles to Mormon Lake, and then we find a stream- our first running stream! In all these endless miles of muddy cattle ponds! That apparently runs year round! And hilariously, isn’t even listed on our maps as a water source. Probably because the stream is at a campground that is listed as a water source, but the spigots were turned off here a few weeks ago. We’re at the tail end of things for sure. Working as hard as we can to get down off the colorado plateau, winter chasing us.
Mormon lake is actually a big field of dry yellow grass. I guess it used to be a lake? There’s a small store and Laura is there when we arrive, sitting against a wooden fence in the sun, her things yardsaled around her to dry the condensation. The wind picks up her polycro and whips it over the fence, out of sight, and she runs after it. In the minute it takes her to round the fence a worker sees it and immediately tosses it into the dumpster, where she has to fish it out. See what I mean about our gear being trash?
Matthew, who’s trail name is Shade but I keep forgetting to use it, comes out of the post office holding a plastic bag aloft- his resupply box is in there. Completely smashed flat and soaked through with liquid. They’d simply shrugged when they handed it to him.
“I didn’t pack any liquids?!” He says. In the torn and broken box he finds two “happy birthday” flavor protein bars and a smashed cake pop that he did NOT put in there. He tries the cake pop and then gags it onto the grass. “It’s disgusting! So stale!” Laura and I cannot. Stop. Laughing.
We spend two hours sitting in the sun outside the store, talking and sorting our food. Matthew makes coffee. Laura smokes marlboros and passes a bag of gummy bears around. I eat a chaotic lunch- earl grey tea, a daiya cheese sandwich, two packets of “less sugar” oatmeal from the hiker box, some candied ginger, some mnms from Matthew’s trail mix, dried pinneaple, a meat stick. Matthew’s knee is a little sore today and I don’t have the most pep in my step, we don’t plan on doing another 30. But we do have to hike still, and we reluctantly pack our things away, fill our water bottles in the restroom and hit the road.
The three of us talk as we hike and it’s so fun, it makes the miles pass easy. We talk about relationships, first loves, human bonds, the contectual nature of connection. A few hours before dusk Matthew and I stop to take a break and Laura puts on her headlamp and says goodbye for now- she’s gonna go full speed ahead to Pine, our next resupply stop. She’s gonna zero there and offers to get us all a motel room for when Matthew and I arrive. Hell yeah! It’ll be Holloween, and we joke about what costumes we might make from trash. It’s been really nice that Laura’s been hiking our pace, but she is one of the Extremely Fast Hikers and I’ve been feeling a bit bad for holding her back. I’m glad she’s gonna be freeeee.
The cold comes on in the last 5 miles to camp. We know enough now to layer up around 4pm, so that we stay comfortable. I’m listening to music but I’m really tired, and it’s not doing much. I just want to be in my sleeping bag.
Right at dusk we reach a grove of oaks and set up our shelters in the gloaming. I have the tiniest bit of service and I get some nice messages, and reading them while eating noodle soup in my sleeping bag makes me feel so dang good. I’m gonna be asleep by 8:30 tonite, and it’s gonna rule.
I’m using this AZT blog to raise funds for Trans Queer Pueblo, a rad org that provides support to trans and queer people seeking asylum and/or in immigration detention along the US/Mexico border. Here is the fundraiser– it was at about $9k when I first posted it, let’s see if we can reach their $15k goal! For every $150 raised, I’ll post another blog post. And thank you!