Day 42: Half-Day In the Right Badlands


We slept in, or slept in as best one can when on a schedule with the early light. 6:30 I cajoled for coffee, and Prana obliged.

I spent hours patching up journal entries where I’d fallen asleep midway through, or only made haphazard notes because I was too exhausted to form sentences. The shade stayed plentiful, the air stayed cool, the zephyrs stayed tame, and a chorus of swallows serenaded.

By noon we’d drunk all of our water, and it was time to start moving anyway. We refilled at the beautiful Jones Spring, and I climbed up to look at the little set of masonry ruins. An old homestead of some kind, the wooden slats of a door hung still preserved in the dry desert air. Easy to see why whoever it was chose this spot to live.

A few miles along we plopped down under the last shady pine tree before crossing open sage flats to the far mesa- our last mesa level-up until Cuba- for lunch. Miraculously, clouds rolled in, and though it wasn’t cool, it wasn’t the brain-deconstructing sun pressure of yesterday. I cued up the album Exile on Main Street and struck out across the sand.

The trail snaked along the bottom edge of the mesa, ducking in and out of random boulders, hoodoos, and subsidiary mud piles flanking the base. The colors! I couldn’t believe all the colors contained in these mesa edges, subtle though they were. Yellow, orange, cream, rust, grey, cadet blue, dark indigo, charcoal, black, maroon. And one cairn was piled of the biggest moqui marbles I’d ever seen. Marvels! The path abruptly climbed, a tight wiggle up boulders and rebar-enforced steps. Someone had put a ton of work into this section- gratitude to them. The top was fossilized waves of sandstone scattered with ponderosa pines and their umbrellas of shade. We took a long break, since there was no reason not to, and then followed a sandy track across the top. At the far end it curled down beautifully constructed steps along a ridge, where we found a stone couch to cook dinner against and contemplate a monolith out in the valley.

A few miles were all we had left until the highway, and we poked around a bit for a slickrock cowboy camp, to no avail. We did manage to find a flat, cleanish spot beneath the last pair of pines, and that would have to do. Hopefully the nearby cows wouldn’t wander over once it was too dark to see us.

All tucked down after dinner, falling asleep while typing, when suddenly a fury of wind slammed down. It practically ripped the quilt off, sent water bottles flying into the sage, peppered us with dirt, pine needles, sticks, and inevitable cow poop. It raged itself out after a few minutes, only to be closely followed by round two. “What the heck?!” I yelped, burying my head under the quilt and holding it tucked at both sides. In ten minutes, the wind devil had vanished without even a trace of breeze.

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