I’m up earlier than Spaceman-not-Spaceman – the dawn is drawing in vibrant colors on the morning sky, and I am morally obligated to visually document how awesome it is. So before packing, before much thought, before much of anything, there is beauty, there is light.
Sunrise in the mountains to come will be awesome, but how can it compare to the vast openness that is this morning?
I’m also out earlier than Spaceman-not-Spaceman, headed through the mostly-flat that’ll be my boon companion for the day.
I run into Zippy soon enough – she cowboyed nearly out of the wind against one of the aqueduct’s pylon-type obstructions, and I’m happy to spend some more time with her. She’s super rad, and we talk away the miles as the terrain begins to roll.
We’re cruising at 3.5 miles an hour – I LOVE THIS. I feel good at hiking, which makes me happy, and I have great conversation, which makes me happy, and I got up late and I’m going to get to the Cottonwood Creek Bridge by 9:30, which makes me even happier.
Or, as it turns out, right around 10, with breaks. No rush; it’s still early enough, and 10 by 10 is nothing to sneeze at.
There aren’t that many people here yet, but the ones that are, for the most part, are planning on staying through the heat of the day. Some folks eat, others settle into the shade to get a jumpstart on napping.
I do a little of both, snacking and sleeping, scooting out of the sun as it hunts us relentlessly.
More and more people arrive; we make room somehow, human tetris while avoiding the blistering sunshine. It’s pretty much a party under there by noon, a party where friends don’t let friends leave between the hours of 1 and 3.
Those hours pass slowly, lazily, and we enjoy them as much as we can while dodging sunbeams. Dip, a hiker from prior years, comes with beer and stories of Kickoffs past and Trail Days future, and as people head off into the hills I drift away as well. It’s time; I’ve been there for 8 hours.
We’re off the aqueduct and into the wind farm now, and since I can’t hear myself think over the wind, I throw in my headphones and crank the volume. I’m rocking and rolling over the hills; fighting the wind is fun while you’ve got Muse in your ear.
At the crest of every hill, I stop to play with the wind – it’s almost strong enough to keep me standing while I lean bodily into it. Zippy catches me, and while we can’t hear each other, the joy on her face and in my heart is palpable.
She takes the lead for the hard drop and the climb up, and I watch her disappear ahead of me as the climb gets less and less fun. There are consequences to being pushed around now – a sheer drop to one side, loss of sunglasses or Buff or heavens forbid snack foods. It’s a pretty view, looking back, but it’s getting harder and harder to enjoy it.
By the time I’m halfway up, my sunglasses are indeed gone, and while I still have my Buff and snacks, I’ve accidentally littered while trying to put trash away. I’m fighting for every step, and it’s pretty steep ups, so it’s already hard, and soon enough I’m growling and grumping and trying not to have a full-blown temper tantrum with the effort. How quickly things change!
After the umpteenth false summit, it’s actually down, down into Tylerhorse Canyon, where the wind is lessened and I can actually hear myself roar in triumph. My sunglasses find their way back to me, courtesy of Passport – I thought they were gone forever. I go down, claim a spot, set up my tyvek in the canon’s growing evening wind – and Zippy comes over, says she wants to move on a bit. The wind here is getting worse, she’s right – the canyon is a veritable wind tunnel. But maybe – just maybe – there’s a sheltered spot if we climb just a little, contour just a little more. I’ve already popped my Vitamin I for the evening, and am feeling better after having consumed some proper calories1, so WHY NOT. So the tyvek gets packed and we say our goodbyes and it’s onward into the wind.
Said wind doesn’t actually chill out as we climb and contour. Said wind actually gets worse, and it’s getting dark, and finally, in a canyon on the end of a switchback, we find a stick blocking the not-path – which usually means people have been back there camping. I’ve heard there are more kitties in the area, so I’m a little freaked, but there’s nothing to be done about it. This is safer than trying to move on while we’re exhausted and the profile’s only set to climb more.
There’s only one remotely sheltered spot – there’s a tiny windbreak with a divot in it about 4 feet across, just big enough for both of us to squeeze into. My tyvek is wide enough for the whole thing, and so we dig it out as much as we can, lay the tyvek down, and both of us nestle into it. We try sleeping on our backs, but said windbreak is also making the wind around us spin, sending dirt and dust everywhere; we cinch our sleeping bag hoods tight, but it’s still bad, so we turn towards each other in a zero-personal-space-even-though-we-just-met-yesterday move. It’s the best move, though, and we can hardly hear our own amusement over the wind as we grasp desperately at sleep.
Start: 524.9 • End: 542.6 • Day: 17.7
Notable Accomplishments: Made miles even with a long siesta • Jammed out to push farther • Still knew when to stop
 Vitamin I = Ibuprofen, which I try not to take generally but sometimes just need. Also, it’s amazing what a proper dosage of calories can do for your evening.