There's nothing like a good climb in the morning to get your blood flowing. I always dread it at first, but before I know it I'm completely awake, and it was totally painless.
We leave the grassy creek bed to walk up on a plateau. It's a straight, flat path all the way to the next trailhead. A flock of wild turkeys cross the path about fifty feet ahead of me. First one, then another and another. They all disappear by the time I reach their spot.
By mid morning we're trekking along another creek bed through more tall grass. But this grass is more characteristic of the desert, leaving various forms of prickly things attached to our shoes and clothing. The most annoying are the ones that insert themselves head first into the mesh of my
shoes. Only the wispy little tails remain within view while their sharp ends poke my toes. I try to ignore the pain but have to stop frequently to remove them.
The best part of the day is short lived and quickly turns into the worst part. We find a cross country path along a dry wash. It's wide and easy to walk with rock walls towering beside us. I make the mistake of believing this is how things will be - cheerfully taking pictures and cruising along on the gravel.
Then this wash joins another wash. The new one has a running stream and is thick with willows. Our maps say to follow the stream until we cross the Gila river about four miles away, but there is no clear path. Only a faint line in the brush where it's been pushed aside a little - this is the trail.
It takes us a while to figure this out and even longer to accept that this is our path for the foreseeable future. Mud charges ahead and I don't see him for two hours. Meanwhile, the trail crosses the creek every two minutes or so. No rocks to hop on this time. I splash through, my feet sinking into the mud on the shores and releasing sulfurous gasses. When I'm not crossing the creek, I barrel through the jungle. If my legs weren't torn up before, they sure are now. I come to welcome the burning pain on my shins as a sign of progress.
I can't stop to care - we have to get through this by dark.
The jungle walk is almost over when I see Mud waiting for me amidst the tall grass. We decide to camp soon before the climb up to the mesa. We're both tired and grumpy. When finally we've set up our tent on top of the prickly terrain, I fall asleep listening to music on my headphones, promising myself that tomorrow will bring a more welcoming trail.
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