Lee’s Ferry to Vivian Park
After the journey to Los Angeles to say goodbye to my granny I took the long ride back to Lee’s Ferry with my moms. That moment of hearing she had passed had been expected. Apart of this hike had been planned around that potential event, so I could get back to LA quickly. In the first month of this hike as I would get to town I kept thinking that I would get the message. In a weird way I prepped myself emotionally just a bit. I had thought about my granny every evening as I strolled my way to a camp spot. Funny, I honestly had not thought about it from the Grand Canyon on, about a weeks time. When I got the message on a pretty intense day in the Paria Canyon the notion had strayed away from my thoughts. Flooding, route finding, lack of forward progress stress, among other stuff prioritized ahead of any event that wasn’t in front of me. So, when I found out a pure emotional release occurred. I am very glad I had that time to react and process in the middle of no where by myself with no one else around for miles.
Along the way to Lee’s Ferry, actually quite close to my drop off point, my moms finally choked up a bit. This day had been fun, road tripping with her letting the landscape zip on by while moshing on snacks. I am not one for emotional closeness at times, especially goodbyes or departures, and I tried my best although I know the effort paled in comparison to how I should have acted. She tested up and said: don’t forget about me. This is the fear I think my family and I share: there’ll be a day that I won’t come back. But it is nonsense in my eyes, as I’ve managed my life for it to not be of abandonment. Unless there’s no one left...
No, seriously, part of this IS the actual orientation of our family. We are small: my moms, my brother, my nephew, and me. Our grandmother held our family together. My relationship with my granny was by far the best relationship I have ever had. I looked at her as a mother because of how she took careful control of our lives as we were all younger. Seriously, without her who knows where each of us would be. Due to other family circumstances, we have been small like this for a very long time. Nevertheless I had to see things just a tiny bit from my moms eyes. Both her parents are now gone. For me and my brother, we only have our mother left. In a way, things felt slipping away. And as much as I speak of ‘unless there’s no one left,’ it is simply because I do not have much. Neither do my brother and moms. Yet, more than ever, we have each other.
I left the Lee’s Ferry trail head for Spencer’s Lookout. I had to pursue my independence and let others grieve as they may. I couldn’t play hero, for that role pains me despite it being so natural. I had to go onward. No matter how much it hurt feeling my moms behind me. She wasn’t alone, I wasn’t alone, my brother brother, and that is what we all have to come to grip with. I switchbacked up the notched trail to a broad saddle as the last of the day sunk on the mighty Colorado 2000ft below. The slithering river held a soul, a spirit from deep within the Earth, and as I gazed up canyon into the Paria I felt that magical moment of emotionally pulsing from my granny’s death and spiritually walking with her in a magical place. I laid down my bedroll and from my perch felt refreshingly tender. I had said goodbye to her in person, her lying on her deathbed looking differently than the last time I saw her, peaceful and cold. But now, I said goodbye to her in my temple, out here in the wild over an immense landscape. No church can equate, as I knelt to one knee and placed a tiny rock atop a large cairn. The moment felt appropriate for me, for her, for us.
There’s a story I tell myself. I am sure most people that know me are aware of it. But the story is rooted in pain. I have never wanted to what others have expected me to be or wanted of me. I have always wanted to roam. Yet, this story, the family fit, is very complex. Ever since I was a boy I dreamt of being that lone man leaving town after doing good deeds, like Bruce Banner walking along the lonesome highway, his back to you, thumb out going who knows where. While those good deeds came from sacrifice and compassion sometimes the way I did things came from so much pain of not being who I am, a rebellion of sorts, that I felt inhuman and not of this world I had constructed in my head. The Incredible Hulk emerged and although I had helped others I left depleted and guilty for exposing too much. My shoulders were designed for heavy burdens but those burdens sink onto me. With all this I get trapped into what my family wants me to do in being grounded and my urge to float and wander.
The lonely windblown mesa became hot under a big sky as I ran into some cowboys. One cowboy raced ahead to funnel the cows towards the gate in the fence. But the teenagers on horseback that were along lazed behind the second cowboy right behind the tail of the last cow. I hedged into the sagebrush to give the cowboy and the cows space. The cows took off as I tried taking the role where the teenagers should’ve been. A few cows sprinted off and I sauntered on not trying to interfere. For a split second I tried to help but backed off. I felt like I just cannot do everything. I felt infinitesimally small out here. Plus, I had caught a flu bug from LA. I just wanted to stumble on.
In Coyote Creek, the evening stroll cooled my day off and I observed bats picking off the bugs that flittered in the air under blandly beautiful and craggy buttes stained no color. Despite my urge to sleep and my stuffiness, I felt compelled to keep going up canyon, to keep meandering and twisting and turning, to keep struggling and toiling away so I wouldn’t succumb to my feeling ill and the frequent roving visions of family memories. I did not want to be sad; I wanted to sleep.
I did sleep eventually, however I was up early. My head felt heavily congested yet I undulated over a mesa and descended through the cox comb. Coal seams lined the jutted upheaval of rock shorn by time and water. The rock fin went for miles bordering the drainage. A huge sandstone dome swirled in a sherbet rainbow above a big bend in Hackberry Canyon. This area looked otherworldly like walking into a new planet I wasn’t expecting, like an eerie episode of the Twilight Zone. As feeling as the last person on Earth I also recognized how fortunate I was to be in this area and have it to myself, for the main road had been closed due to washouts from all the unstable weather the area received recently.
Hackberry Canyon swirled in narrows filled with murky water, a hidden tunnel for wayfarers tantalizing one’s eyes like a kaleidoscope. The canyon kept meandering from the flowing subway section to the wide sagebrush flats framed with clunky deep red cliffs to an open wadi that featured the scars of dryness and blown wind. At one point I found a chute, and standing ankle deep in quicksand at a cerulean pool of water I admirably gazed up at the clean and perfect formation in such a mangled world, an organized confusion in perfect harmony. These traits genetic to the canyon led to the slot, to a sliver of thread, a strand of hair. The slot sucked in air, the hollowed sound like a vacuum, the cold air sunken to banished depths of mud and darkness. The skies had been blue and the temperature hot as I slowly picked began the unnerving slot section. But this is me, taking risks my family would never. I have never tried to be different, I just have been. The life I chose was hard for my moms to ever accept. It took a long time for me to assure her what I was doing wasn’t crazy. Yet the life I have chosen to live my granny had always listened to me ramble about the dream, picked me up in weird places where I was stranded, supported my strange endurance endeavors, told me about my hobo father, and most importantly gave me the unconditional support, regardless if she knew what the hell I was talking about, to do what my precarious heart desires. She always let me be. As I gazed up at the behemoth chokestones throttling the slot I knew the obstacle that laid ahead of me. I needed to climb up smooth sandstone walls narrowed to a chimney. I wedged myself up the chimney and found angled faces to force my feet to propel me up. One hand palmed the smooth spout overhanging from the top of the chimney, the other hand pulling on a handheld chunk of rock. As I pulled, the handhold broke and the lower half of my body hung in open air. I removed my backpack with one arm and threw it above me. I then squirmed and clawed my way up the smooth spout until I was up. I kept my cool and meandered on wheezing heavily from congested. The slot narrowed even further, about two persons wide. Then, I encountered the crux. A tall and thin pour off about 15-20ft high, no chokestone, just a chimney where the walls came to the pour off. I went at it, tackling the problem, determined to get up no matter what. I wheeze whistled from my throat while I control breathed from my nose. I kept my pulse low, my body fluidly wedged up the chute. My pack stayed on this time as I used the pack to wedge me tighter against the walls. The rock went every which way, albeit smooth contours were not straightforward. I had to finagle my way up, deceive the rock of my capabilities. Wedged about 15ft up I finally was able to turn my belly towards the lip. I shook my pack hunching it forward to the back of my head. I wriggled it free so I could fit through the gap, then palm presses my way up the rest of the way. I laid there in the channel for a few seconds feeling relieved. One more manageably small climb and I exited the slot. I was back in juniper and slickrock domes. And, I got out before the rain. Bleary skies hailed above me as the sand in the wash dampened. I was lucky. But sometimes I make my own luck with my will. I wheezed my way to camp utterly exhausted.
An inch of hail, thunder and lightning rung the early morning ambience at 0500. Oh, I felt like shit and the shitty weather didn’t help. After the cell passed I gathered up the muster to slog to town through a agonizingly slippery mess of mud. Yet, as I trudged I focused on the good: the birds chirping frantically gleeful after the downpours from their cubby holes. The birds loved it, and I knew I did too. I was just sick.
The day remained gloomy, the shitty weather lingering around all day. I slept most of the day in a dark room trying to rest. But now, as I found myself further north, I needed to strategize on my route. One advantage of free styling so is I get to plan the route on the fly when major weather or snow is evident or occurring. The landscape defines the route and I am only influenced by the landscape that help shakes a route. Not anyone else, no red line, no organization, only my connection with the landscape. This is the flexibility an unnamed route provides. So knowing what elevation certain trees grow for, understanding geology and the texture of that rock and dirt that may pose unwalkable mud, private and public land concerns, what lies where in a river valley or on a mesa, whether a route goes or doesn’t—finding the sweet spot based off mapping and what is in front of me. Yea, this is a groove, an intimate relationship I could only dream of having with someone, a love for this shit.
After another day of mending and sleeping I anxiously left the town of Tropic and ventured for Powell Point. I hit the fine line of unannoying walkable snow and mud on Under the Rim Trail. I found fresh big bear prints in the snow walking the other direction, soupy mud on sunburnt slopes, but I relishedly weaved along trail under giant hoodoos. Fast forward the next day, after having breakfast with a friend in Escalante, I started up the Boulder Mail Trail, an old nail route between the towns of Escalante and Boulder. The route scampered along slickrock following cairns placed frequently a part. I dropped down ledges, eased down rock slopes, admired the views from sage flats over the tops of the hollows, and ambled down into extremely carved out drainages and hollows hidden from horizontal sight.
Death Hollow gorge plummeted dramatically from the slickrock domes decorating the Grand Staircase like ornate dowels. The patch patterned walls and cliffs checkered the sheer walls scaling downward into the dark and sinking cold in the bottom strung with overhanging walls sprouting straight above. After playing through the poison oak lined banks I mazed my way out along ledges and benches which seemed so obvious the more I followed along. Later that day after feeling spoiled from my toil I strolled into Boulder under stormy skies. I found the route to Long Neck quite difficult as private land shored up loose access ends to public lands. At the tarnished fence posts of the old rodeo grounds I found a faint track etched into the juniper benches. Oh man, I followed a slickrock chute around a nippled pinnacle and into a domed basin that was so stunning I almost keeled over. I loved this, this isolation, following old trace of trail through the sand and benches of slickrock that had huge igneous rock, very hard and heavy, splayed about randomly. The large round boulders felt strange and out of place like a giant emptied his pockets and this is how his change fell out. I was having so much fun route finding under a cool and lonesome evening. I found camp atop a red sandy knoll with the red sand damp to the touch.
I dawdled along the Slickrock Trail the next day under the looming Boulder Mountain inundated with Winter’s catch of snow still holding on to the gift. The day oozed on however the pleasure I had in being out there. In and out and up and down hollows, traversing through lush meadows, dipping into humid hidden holes, among odiferous ponderosa forests to newly leaved out aspen groves to sandy trails to slickrock scampering—-I hit everything and the day became very tiring. I have found myself on this trek that on the hardest of days when I get mentally tired my mind finds an emotional hole. At the end of this long day I wallowed worse than I had yet thus far. I drifted in memory of my granny, of when we were younger traveling across the Mojave Desert the countless number of times. Of her talking in her crackly voice, of calling me Hon in her Oklahoma drawl, of being a kid alongside with my brother. Of being an adult regaling her with stories, or of sitting on the couch watching television with her. A deep sadness sunk in and I felt secure in these hollows hidden from the world under a broad mountain with endless views extending eastward. I was protected as I ached. I just missed her is all.
In Torrey I probably ate too much food. Half for the caloric need, the other half to steer my emotions away from the goading of mourning. But I bucked up and scrambled out of town feeling much better than the day before. My aim was to touch the broad slopes of Flat Top before tumbling down into the deserts of Capitol Reef and the San Rafael Swell. A few hours after leaving Torrey I ran into an old man on an ATV. He had a young Heeler pup who waggled his tail and almost jumped across the old man’s lap in joy to greet me. A cattle tag hung from the pup’s neck. The old man had oxygen tubes running up his nose and he greeted me in a surly and coarse voice which was hardly audible and coherent. Frankly, he was grumpy. At least that was my impression. I asked him if he had been looking for his cows. ‘Nah,’ he said, ‘just up there,’ as he pointed up drainage. He questioned me about what I was doing, the gear that I had, and being solo. I kind of rode this conversation out with some humor, basically fucking with him as I felt somehow he had been trapped by life. Like I said, he was grumpy. A few minutes past and I felt ready to leave. I told him where my path led and in his coarse and raspy voice he uttered: you’re gonna die. I spurted out a chuckle and he looked at me unphased. Shit, I thought, this old fucker was serious. I continued chuckling, turned and hiked onward, the interaction amusing me for the next while. I know what death is now, old fucker, I thought, shaking my head.
I began following a trail crumbed out with old beer cans, no cairns, more hooves than feet. The cans crumbed out for a reason. Shiny, the aluminum won’t decay, and you’ll most likely know the cowboy based off the brand he drank from which lends to familiarity and trust of the way, of the land. The cans led me true as the desert domes and pinnacles became clearer in sight.
Seeing things on foot, as a landscapes develops, observing the invisible waves, as pinnacles begin to soar, as size becomes realistic and surreal, the silence deepens yet sings timorously, the vista develops inherently longer from deep thought and a deep sense of belonging, of a place, a nurturing of respect and a profundity of smallness occurs, our existence futile yet precious, the water claps rather than glistens, a sprouted rock grows from blurred patterns to an entity, hoodoos wiggle like puppets draped from hidden strings, spires sail even when you stop, yuccas dance like convulsing dancers; movement is perceived from the flow of our gait, a landscape morphs from our imaginations, dreamy and blurry yet vivid and detailed—-a dream becomes an image, an image a mirage, a mirage a painting, a painting a trail, a trail a reality, a reality to something you can feel, touch, smell, you can harmonize with, flow within the glow...the wind paints, then paints again, really just playing tricks on our vision and mind, toying with a lonely heart, yet the wind sings, whistles up a tune careening through canyons and chasms, trees and shrubs, anything that will catch the wind enhances the wind, not by slowing the wind rather by embracing the wind, like a hug on savagery, to have the wind reshape, contort, and mutilate, bending with the harshness of life to survive, no, thrive. As I walk, in something so tame and docile, I am tiptoeing with savagery, with the primal instinct reflective in the landscape around me, something else is in control. Simply put, I forever need to be eroded.
Cathedral Valley kept the groove going. Surprisingly, I found the wash flowing with water. Snow up high was melting fast and the water tentacled further down the drainages than normal. Gouged out channels in the pink cliffs resembled melting candles along a dripping mantle. The wind piped through the channels garrulously, incessantly shooting through the long line of cliffs standing guard over the desert. The walking wasn’t hard and I chose this way to lessen the rigor of the latter half of the day. Once the terrain looked advantageous and Black Mountain looked close enough, I left the comfort of the soft dirt road for the undulating badlands smeared in pinks and reds. More time consuming than I thought, the heat barreled down on the top of my head, even doubly so with the heat waves reflecting up off the absorptive dirt. Winding through snake turns in a crumbly wash the heat became oven like, suffocating out the space, the pressure closing in. At the confluence with Salt Wash I found a shady alcove and escaped the heat for a little bit. A bit further I found pools of water too salty to drink, the water cool but undrinkable. I craved a gust of wind, just a draft. I got it, so the walking in the heat became tolerable. Another confluence came, this time with Last Chance Gulch. There, in a muddy pothole I found some yellow, but drinkable water. I galloned up and ventured cross country up the Moroni Slopes towards a high plateau. I found a graded cattle and antelope trail, which I knew would lead to an earthen tank in some sort of edible plains. Of course, when I found the tank nothing existed there but soft pink sand and an interred empty tank that only rang in the hollowed emptiness of a giant metal drum. My quest for water continued.
I finally found some at a cattle tank that I spotted shimmering in the distance. I took a chance and ambled up a wash. I guzzled freely, gluttonously. With this newness of refreshment I gathered up the gumption to see why I came this way, of what route I chose. At the rim of Chimney Canyon the wind drafted upwards, howling gusts blaring from the sucking depths of the canyons. Walled layers buttressed the crescent shaped rim, crater-like. I eyed the lines down, each one one after another to see if I had a chance to get down to the rocky benched pastures. Most lines looked like a route down. Either way, I felt more interested in my curiosity to go down. I just had to try.
The sun was sinking. I found a low saddle, a break in the upper crust at a point that jutted into the crater. I punched into the first layer which was soft clay, then through the blocky deep and dark red layer, and continued picking my way down through the other layers of rock. After a couple hundred feet I scootched down a slickrock slab which connected a red platform to a long slickrock ridge that ultimately dropped me into a drainage. This drainage formed the top gulp of the eroded formations. With no human sign I wiggled down the drainage in compacted sand until I reached an impassable and impossible pour-off, some 300ft or so. This layer ringed the narrows down below which ultimately extended to the passable pastures. I misjudged this layer as it was hidden from sight, undercut from my view and treacherously thick. Win some, lose some, however, clearly my eyes had been bigger than my stomach. But the abyss brought about me over a compulsion to leap off, as if uncontrollably pulling me out, extending into space. I flinched and dropped back under a bench of rock and embraced the compulsion, of dying. I had to maintain my composure for a quick second, to retain my balance from the dizziness. In this moment, I realized this has never crossed my mind before: it seems in life as humans that dying is as innate as living. If not by accident or disease or old age, to have the compulsion I felt felt as natural as breathing, as walking. I wrestled my trance from the compulsion. I wrestled my running imagination that ran too wild. I didn’t feel suicidal. I felt that whenever the time came I would jump and fly regardless of the outcome because it would be the moment I would end. And move on. Invigorated yet disappointed, the call of sleep pulled at me harder, to sleep it off.
I wrestled the dream of soaring transforming the mirage to sleep, to a torpid trance of what if. I felt led back up the slickrock ridge to the red platform that jutted out from under the half moon shaped rim with an invisible hand that told me ‘next time.’ I bucked up and decided to enjoy and relish the spot, for owning a home pales in comparison to this. I have little in life, but there are times when I have more than everybody. I laid out my bedroll and contemplated death, this instinct which compels us to live life to the fullest, on the edge that which pushes our comforts, to the brink of tears. I believe I move to stay alive because I am going to die, to force breathe to calmness, to feel things more like using my skin for sun protection, to garner a hunger, to satiate a thirst, to callous my feet, to nap up the beard to cover my teeth, to bleed so I can flow. I slept hard feeling my heart thump out of my chest. I felt alive more than ever.
From my open vantage point I rose early with the anti-crepuscular rays shining through tons of small puffy islands of clouds. I poked and climbed my way back out of the rim. As much as I felt mesmerized by the brilliant morning display the impetus of water drew my aim. I found nary a pothole under the rim. At the pour-off, I saw the stream meandering in the narrows far, far below. I basically had to backtrack my way from the top to split the gap between Cedar and Little Cedar Mountain. This route made more sense, both topographical and energy in the physical and mental. This way I could also take a stab at I East Cedar Spring which ended up being neatly tucked in a chasm. Evidently a route existed down the walls as old wooden planks framed a spring box, but I could not find the route. Maybe the route had eroded away, maybe the route sloughed away. All I know, hardly any fresh sign of humans existed up here. Figuring too much effort, I wandered up the main drainage, the headwaters of Chimney Canyon. I found only salt water puddles. The coolness felt great but the salty water I could not stomach, really, just gag worthy. After the last tiny evidence of water I climbed out of the main drainage and hit the ridge that separated water flow. In and out of small fingers of drainages through soft hills of compacted bentonite, badlands like, pink and grey, punching steps from one side to the other side, I accidentally triggered a small rock and mud fall while standing atop a large boulder situated in the soft compacted mud as I transferred my weight. This wet spring still had the ground saturated and some places held tenderness afoot. I leaned back and tried to maintain a grip on a sturdier boulder up on the abridged flat between the drainages. I surfed down with gravity taking over. I kept kicking my feet as I slid down, kicking like swimming to avoid any of the larger boulders I surfed atop from squishing and cracking my ankles. It all happened so quick, as did my reaction. I slid down about 10ft before I came to an abrupt stop. I landed hard on my coccyx and immediately drew an injury consensus. I quickly got up and checked my pack only noticing another tear in my pocket mesh. My main damage, as I scoured my body quickly, turned out to be the back of my left calf. I had a rugged scrape from mid calf down to my sock line. Lacerations lined down horizontally the calf as my calf either gotten scraped from the tumbling boulder or I hit jutted rock from further depths of the bentonite and shaved my calf on the rocky points. I looked down and felt fine with caked mud on the cuts like a crust of cryptobiotic soil, strapped my pack back on, and scurried off matter of factly, for water was on my mind.
The clearest water I found had been at an ochre tinged earthen tank. I felt grateful for that pond after refilling my bottles at the murky Muddy Creek, which raged in a narrow channel. All in all, my quest for water in a severely arid place, with even the hint of water non-potable, I felt blessed with the roving cumulonimbus clouds that provided reprieve from the heat. Slickrock domes christened the end of a long day atop a high plateau. The next morning, within 10 minutes of leaving camp in the chilly damp air, a wild horse came stomping and snorting within about 20ft from me. I could see scarring pockmarks of sorts on the horse. The horse stood with flared nostrils and a wild mane flinging with stringing hair.
I crossed under Interstate 70 and down into Eagle Canyon along a rugged 4x4 road. Walking the 4x4 road felt just like a ledged foot path in this land of slickrock domes. Along the benches above gouged out Coal Canyon, meandering around cleaved slickrock buttresses and shorn and polished walls, the heat reflected off the surfaces. I could tell water had recently resided in the potholes tucked up in the drainages and the recent heatwave had evaporated the tanks. At the lip of Coal Canyon, looking down, cottonwoods sprang up and I knew I had a chance for water. I found a man napping under an alcove, his blue backpack lied in striking contrast to the hues of reds and tans around. He had an older buddy, a one armed man who came running from out another overhang. They were looking for panels, in particular a Yellow Man from the Fremont Era. He seemed to think I was poaching on his search and inquired badgeringly about my knowledge of the panels. With the one armed man talking in circles and the heat pressing down I left down wash. I grabbed water from the most upper source, the ferrous water mineraly. I took a chance, but I needed the water. I nursed the ferrous water and eventually coal seams lined the drainage. Cool water trickled over black seams of coal with dark green ribbons of another mineral streaming in the water. The redolent smell of petroleum wrung in the air. I stayed away from this source. I finally came upon the spring called The Drips, an oasis in a barren landscape, dripping out of the crusty shale. No smell, tadpoles wiggling away, and the water cold from underground.
The afternoon became pleasant with clouds casting cool shadows across the blooming sagebrush flats. Purple lupine, red Indian Paintbrush, orange Globemallow, and the white Sego Lily splashed the plains. Eventually, around 8pm, the road looped in Fuller Bottom and terminated into the powerful and extremely swollen San Rafael River. I stared deadpan at the river, placidly shocked at the absence of a bridge. I heard a huff from across the river. A man stood and yelled:
‘What are ya doin?’
‘I had hoped there was a bridge here. I need to cross,’ I flatly yelled without a high pitch.
‘I can see that! But, are ya on foot, bike, which is it?’
‘I’m on foot.’
‘With that TINY backpack?!’
‘But this river is impassable! Too deep and fast! You’d prolly swim and be dragged downstream.’
‘I’m gonna find a place to cross.’
I found one about 30 yards upriver. Mike had a throw rope at the place where the road disappeared into the murky river. The San Rafael raged with such ferocity, swollen to a couple highway lanes wide, turgidly fat, the turbidity so murky one could not see a centimeter within the top portion of the water; this intimidating force of nature roared with incredible strength. I dared not fathom that and focused calmly on where to cross, utterly determined to get across. I waterproofed my electronics and unbuckled my tiny hip belt. I stepped in. Ankle depth on the shallow bank. Two steps in, mid stomach level. My trekking poles vibrated like a pile driver, bending as if I had been gouging the poles in a rock crease. One lane width across and the depth maintained while the swiftness increased. I leaned in, now chest level. Another lane width and I could feel the deepness of the channel gouged out in the bend where the water spilled into spindrift rapids. I poked my pole out and felt nothing. About 8-10 feet from the steep bank I lunged, swam and kicked at the same time and reached for the lower and sturdier portion of some willows. Once ahold I clawed with my shoes the bank and pulled my body out of the water, my left arm raising to flat ground to pull myself out. Once on flat ground I yelled: I’M ACROSS!!
Mike’s wife Marin calms running over as I sloshed my way towards their camp.
‘Unbelievable!’ she exclaimed. ‘Are you ok?’
Mike ambled over and said, ‘Incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that.’
I could tell he was befuddled at what had unfolded. I stood undaunted by my actions, for I would have had to cross anyways regardless if anyone was there or not. I expected to get across, plainly put. The couple from Moab had kayaked the San Rafael that day. Their camp felt so inviting as they offered a carrot and an apple. Mike said, ‘Give that man a beer.’ We small talked, spoke of what I was doing and where I was going. I swear Mike stood there mouth agape and eyes bug-eyed, muttering: incredible. After a few minutes I calmly walked off relishing the beautiful sweetness of a rosy apple. After a half mile or so I slugged the IPA, took a deep breath and thought of how comical the situation was. I walked on, unemotional, like I had been there before, crossed the raging river, had a quick conversation, then walked away with business as usual. I laughed out loud to myself, of how much I love these types of interactions, of fateful encounters meant to tell yarns, of building a story and a myth. In an instant I thought of my granny. Now emotional, by myself in the Big Empty, and I know this is what she had always wanted for me. To be happy, in my element, utterly happy.
I walked on as my clothes dried off and found camp on a red knoll, a pimple on Fuller Bottom’s back. I could hear the frogs from the river croaking in the evening madness. Under a new moon I felt the silver sliver gouging out a piece of time into a slash of this moment right here. I awoke at some point and the Milky Way had a warped vee shape splaying out of the streaming southern sky, so dark the stars lingered right above the horizon resembling roving camps from other wayfarers and vagabonds. This is heaven, I thought.