I left the Rawlins McDonalds at 3:45pm under a gray sky, my stomach so full of Carmel Frappe, ice cream & a panini from a little coffee shop, & a filled maple bar from the Discount Grocery that I could barely walk. Not to mention I was carrying an excessive food load because I just couldn't leave the "reduced for quick sale" whoopie pie and 6 homemade carrot pineapple muffins on the shelf- I mean, what if they had to be thrown away?
The land doesn't look back, it just is what it is, and me- the hiker who travels over it has to be flexible enough to adjust.
Sloshing at the top of my pack I had 3.5 liters of water- way too much again, but the desert that lay ahead was intimidating and I ventured out into it the only way I know how- overprepared and smooshed under the load of caution. When I reached the first spring 12 miles out into the desert I had calmed down and logic had begun to creep back in, even though the weather had picked up to a roaring wind and impending rain. This was day 65 of my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike and I was used to being in weather, I had managed to make it through the New Mexican desert without mishap, so why was I carrying 5lbs too much food and 4lbs too much water?
The rain began and the scent of sagebrush filled my nose. It hit me- It had been a month since I had been in a desert, a desert that would smell like creosote instead of sage on that rainy afternoon. A desert filled with arroyos, mesas, and bajadas rather than this Great Basin of flats, rims, and washes (pronounced warshes). The high mountains of Colorado had provided their own magic and hardship, and now I had returned to the lowlands as suddenly as I had arrived in the winter bound South San Juans back in early June. The sponge had been wrung, dust was underfoot- no more squishing Sawtooths- on to dry leather and sweaty toes.
I am on foot. I go slow relative to everything else out there, but it is amazing how the land can change from snowy arnica covered mountainsides to dry gravely washes within 20 miles. The land doesn't look back, it just is what it is, and me- the hiker who travels over it has to be flexible enough to adjust. At least my only real consequence to desert reintroduction shock is that I had to eat muffins and drink a lot of water.
Now I am taking a zero day here in Lander, preparing for the Wind River Range and Yellowstone. It is nice to come inside every now and then, but I can't wait to get back to the trail tomorrow to see what happens next. I'm off to the Cirque de Towers with way too many Cinnamon rolls to give my Sawtooths a workout.