In the morning we dined on rehydrated shakshusa for breakfast, an homage to my aunt who introduced us to the dish, and the real impetus for the egg debacle. It turned out quite delicious.
We rolled along some trail, some dirt road, crossed a busy trailhead where we met Fireman. “Is this your Triple Crown?” he asked, a common question. “No,” I said, “I can’t imagine doing the Appalachian Trail.” “It’s not our Triple Crown, but the end of this hike makes over 10,000 miles hiking together,” said Prana. I hadn’t done the math- I found this milestone much more satisfying.
From there we faded into a world of our own. 6 miles in we scouted for water in a streambed; if it didn’t exist we could climb to a monastery perched a mile and half up the mountain, but we found several puddles, and my curiosity about the monastery would remain. The puddles were grim, at best, and we selected the one with the least algae and the least tadpoles. The taste, even filtered, was bitter and mucky- downright disgusting, actually. But better than an additional 3 steep miles, I suppose.
The afternoon held more road walking than I’d expected, though mostly on two track dirt roads. As we came around one curve, a barking and growling crescendoed, and a dog came snarling around the corner. “It’s ok, he doesn’t bite,” called a voice, speaking the exact incantation to summon my rage. Hackles raised, the dog came right up, pressed his face against the back of Prana’s legs, growling. I’d actually gotten dog defense spray in Silver City after reading about how problematic aggressive dogs were on the highways outside of Grants, a future resupply town, but it was buried uselessly in my pack. “It’s not ok. We’ve had bad interactions with dogs,” I called back. “Well he doesn’t bite!” The guy came into view, another growling, barking dog leashed to his waist. “I was told the same thing about the ones that did!” I called back, becoming furious. “It’s fine,” he said again, waving his hand, making very little half-hearted effort to call off his dog, who finally backed up approximately two inches. I was dumbfounded.
“So where you guys from?” he asked. “Up the trail,” said Prana curtly. “And we’re heading on.” “Well,” spluttered the guy, offended, “that’s weird. I thought there were CD hikers around!” We gave a wide berth, the leashed dog barking and lunging to the end of its tether as we passed.
I rehashed again and again, trying to come up with a different set of words that would have conveyed the issue: that likely to bite or not, being approached aggressively is unacceptable. It was several minutes before Prana and I spoke. “I cannot believe that guy felt entitled for us to stand and make small talk with him after he was so dismissive and so disrespectful.” “Yeah,” Prana said thoughtfully, “he’s really a type of bully in a way.” We both tried to let it go after that.
We crossed highway 15 which was so, so much busier than I would have guessed. A water cache held plenty- not that we could have known – and was also stocked with IPAs. “If my pack wasn’t already so heavy I would totally carry one of those for tonight,” I said. “Let’s each carry one,” said Prana, “since our packs are already to heavy anyway!”
The trail carried us past several sunken cave entrances, perhaps collapsed mine tunnels, then up a long bench with great views back over Silver City, its mines, and its mountains. We climbed and climbed exponentially steeper, the views getting exponentially better as clouds slipped in and stirred the light. I was running out of juice and starting to despair the climb, when finay, finally we crested the ridge, into the wind. Hoping to make our itinerary’s distance for the day, we passed a sheltered, treed camp, then second guessed that decision a half mile later when the ground turned to a jumble of volcanic stone rubble and the map revealed we’d be contouring a steep side hill imminently.
A few minutes’ search and we found a spot to make do with minimal rock removal. I was ready to be done anyway, my knee aching, feet smooshed by the weight of their days’ work. I cooked while Prana set up camp. “A scorpion!” he called. “Oo, I wanna see,” I said, trying to bend my leg to get up. “Oh, I already flung him,” said Prana, and I imagined I could hear a tiny shriek of adrenalized excitement/terror as he rode out his parabolic adventure.
I peeled off my socks and tape to a new layer of blood-filled blisters beneath the healing ones. A brief wave of discouragement washed over before I shook it off. Ok! I rallied myself, not ideal, But! With surgical access and the right tools – ie waxed floss- this ought to be the final showdown.
I served what I dubbed a New Orleans style dinner – lemon dill salmon packet and pasta from the hiker box, lemon and herb oysters and rosemary Asiago from the coop. The crowning touch though – those IPAs really tied the meal together.