Day 35: The World Below

5/22

The ground was surprisingly comfortable, the lumps somehow lining up in spots that worked. In the morning the sleeping bag was sopping on top, condensation from the unusual humidity. The coffee tasted extra good.

The lava rubble was tough to warm up the muscles, dictating slow deliberate steps as I loosened up. Not many steps from the camp, Prana pointed to a little hole in the ground. “I’m going to look in that one.” He stuck his head in, then “whoa, I’m going to need my headlamp.” He shimmied in, then called, “you can stand up in here!!”

I grabbed my lamp and shimmied in after him. The cavern was easily the size of a standard bedroom, the floor sandy, not rubble, the ceiling streaked with yellow, white, and black, the lava rock creating a Salvador Dali effect. “Wow! Oh man, we could have slept in here!” “See, the trail did provide,” said Prana, “we just didn’t get it until this morning.”

We poked along the next mile, searching for cairns, peering into holes large and small, inspecting cactus blossoms. A bottomless crack wrapped the edge of the lava field, the trail leading across a rubble bridge, and then we were suddenly back on easy grassland. “Wow!” I said. “Yeah, I think that was one of my favorite sections of the CDT so far.”

We zipped along the easy walking, circling the bottom half of Encerrito. At the highway was an outhouse, much appreciated in comparison to digging in volcanic rubble, and GT. He’s a nice enough guy, he really is, but I was becoming bummed that if we’d been an hour or two earlier or later in our initial departure, we would have had another quiet section of seeing no other hikers. Instead I felt like I had a roommate that thought I was fair game to be chatted at any time I left my room.

The dirt road walk in Bonita canyon was quite lovely, scenic as promised, no traffic, easy on the feet. Red and white striped and pillared sandstone made up the front of the San Rafael Mesa, which we paralleled. The wind roared into the canyon behind us, luckily pushing at our backs rather than tearing at our faces, and I turned up some rock from the 90s, surprised and humored how many of the lyrics came straight back to me with little prompting.

A windmill cranked fresh water into a trough, and we filtered as sand devils whirled and lashed. I put on a series of podcasts about brain rewiring and marched up the road, eager to put miles behind me, to outwalk to wind. We stopped for snacks, then stopped for snacks again, then stopped for snacks again. A hungry day. Thank goodness we had all the extra snacks from my brother’s lavish support.

Sandstone slickrock appeared out in the floor of the canyon, and I stopped Prana from walking onto a rattlesnake crossing the road; about a half mile later he returned the favor and saved me from walking onto a second. No camping near holes tonight!

We turned into Zumi Canyon, and to our second source of nice, clear trough water, and with enough filtered to get us to town, set off again. There had been high hopes of getting to within 7 miles of town, but with feet smooshed by the road and my spirits smooshed by the wind and both our stomachs demanding dinner, we found a magical juniper who perfectly blocked the wind and decreed it camp.

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