I wake to the sound of coyotes howling at the dawn. Yip yip yipooooooooooo, they say. All high pitched and echoing.
Our tent is dripping with condensation and our sleeping bags are wet too. We get up right away to start dealing with all the wetness. It's still dark when we start our day's walk. No trail
this morning, just cross-country for a few miles to the next road. We zig and zag and look at the GPS on my phone every few minutes to see if we're going the right way.
It doesn't take long for the sun to come up and already we're taking off layers. After an hour of cross country we meet a road that passes a few ranches. It's all dirt and gravel and soon the map tells us to leave it again. We march into unmarked territory, stepping carefully to avoid prickly pear cactuses that blend in with the exact same colors as the surrounding grass. All silver and green.
Eventually we see a barbed wire fence which serves as our guide through the open terrain. West, then south, then west again. A few times we have to cross the fence. We lift our packs over the top, then roll/crawl under the bottom wire trying not to get poked. Our final fence line guides us down a steep, rocky slope to the road below. The rocks are all loose and we make our own switchbacks. Despite my careful steps, I still end up rolling my ankle twice.
The rest of our day is a long, hot walk on jeep roads and two-track paths. In my shorts and short-sleeves I end up with blisters on my body from the heat of the sun. This desert is intense. At 6,000 feet (in the valley) we're too close to the sun. I feel myself frying, all my energy being zapped away by the big ball of fire in the sky.
All day we're walking through private ranch land. We pass cows who stare at us as we walk by. It's good they're here though, otherwise there'd be no water. It's all here for them.
By four o'clock we can't take the heat any longer so we stop for dinner. There's a solar powered well next to an empty cow pen where we can collect water. So we eat amidst the cow patties under a shady tree and wait for the sun to go down.
Just 5 more miles in the evening and we're finally past the private property. Now, we can camp. It doesn't even get cold tonight. I lay down to sleep with my ankle aching from the twist this morning and my skin emanating heat. But the sunset is breathtaking and the peace sublime.
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