Day 4 : The Right Yucca is Just Enough

4/21

Clouds striped the sky, making the morning walking almost chilly. I’ll take it! I pump-primed my leg, drank much and refilled everything at the water cache, and then followed single track on again. Prana plugged in an audiobook, and I piped music to my ears. The clouds cleared too soon, but a strong breeze kept the air much more tolerable than yesterday. One break beneath mesquite by a dried-up marsh (“lots of ducks here” said an old comment on the water report) and another tucked under a big juniper in a wash. The trail wound up and down through gentle hills, joined and diverged from old dirt roads.

Prana started a word game we play, where we take turns thinking of every word that starts with….today it was “sa.” Sagacious, sarcastic, salinity, sap. When we ran out of words, we tried to remember all the people we’d spent time with on past trails – some came up I hadn’t thought about in ages. And finally it was lunch time, taking our turn under a huge lacy mesquite, a group of 3 (or 4? or 5?) we’d been leap-frogging hiking off just as we arrived.

The wind had built to a strong push, never pausing to take a breath. My compression leg sleeve started giving me fits, and I fiddled with how to leave it partially on as I walked. I will be so glad to no longer need it – mostly because I’ll be healed, but also because it’s one less logistic, and I won’t have to fight the self consciousness; I’d bought a sassy black sleeve instead of the depressing medical-white one, as an inside joke with myself as it were; around others I’ve only worn pants so far because of it. I guess if it comes down to a trail-long addition, paired with my hiking skirt, I can just change my trail name to Cabaret. Or Leg Lamp.

At our last cache we were filling our water bottles when a truck pulled off the highway. The driver sat watching us for a bit, then opened the gate and drove up, parking inches from the cache box. “Just wanted to see if you were hikers, or if you might be migrants,” he said. “Nope, definitely hikers,” we answered. “Well, I gotta check you know, sometimes migrants will join a group of hikers and try to blend in with them.” I was kind of dumbfounded. I had never heard of that before, and it didn’t even make sense- something was strange about this whole conversation. “Nope,” Prana said, “I haven’t seen anyone looking for a better life in this country.” “Ok. Um, where do y’all hike anyway?”

We sat in the dirt and drank several liters of water, re-topped everything, made the acquaintance of Hat-trick, and carried on into the evening. The wind howled steady.

A sign appeared on the trail: “Trail Angel Ahead”. A small structure appeared next, something like a kids jungle gym or plastic-pipe geodesic dome, topped with reflective roof cloth and containing several luxury lawn chairs, a cooler with ice and soda and gatorade, and a bag with baby cherry pies. Cute!

A couple miles later, it became clear we were in flat country for the night – no tiny rise or hillock of land to duck behind, no hint of a wash to pack down into. Hopefully the wind would die at sunset; if not we were in for an interesting night. One lone clump of yucca offered a token psychological shelter, and we arranged ourselves in its slender lee to cook dinner and give my complaining blisters a break.

What barren country. I considered what spread before me from within the white noise vortex while Prana cooked. Very, very grateful that I am choosing to put myself in this predicament, calling it fun, privileged to pursue a goal, and not forced to contend with crossing it because what I was leaving behind was worse.

Dinner was pasta and kale pesto, and when the pot was licked clean the sun had dipped below the horizon. We scrutinized the map one more time and accepted this small yucca might be the best camp for miles. We pulled from our packs only what we needed, carefully reaching between the bayonet branches, weighted everything with the dullest-edged rocks we could find, and finally unwrapped the cherry pie from within our nest. A few bites each of sheer delight; an angelic treat to soften the evening’s effort of existence. Thank you, geodesic dome provider! And as I lay back to watch the roll call of the stars, the wind ceased.

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