Thursday, December 13, 2018

Desert thoughts



I’ve always felt the most connected to sparse, harsh landscapes - the high alpine, the far north – where life is fierce and tenacious, and the play of sunlight on the mountains is like a drug. The Sonoran Desert embodies all this, each cactus and thorn bush thrust up from the sandy ground like a proclamation.

Landscapes are not an extraneous thing, something apart from us - we’re part of them, human particles moving around in the larger organism. I lose myself in walking as the dust and air and scents become absorbed by my body, fill me, fulfill me, and for moments at a time I almost cease to be as a separate entity. I’m an ecosystem within an ecosystem, wilderness inside a wild landscape.

I know this much: I will definitely return to thru-hike the Arizona Trail which we’ve been crisscrossing on our day hikes these past few weeks.

 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Lost my heart to Utah

We finally did shake winter off our heels! It didn’t happened somewhere in Utah, when we also managed to break our routine of two days of travelling followed by three days stuck because of a major snowstorm/car trouble.




People have been super friendly and helpful all throughout Montana, Wyoming and Utah, but Wayne who runs J.A.R.R. towing and auto repair in Choteau, Montana, eclipsed everybody with his helpfulness. We broke down in this picturesque if deserted spot:


Turned out the fuel pump of our pickup had decided to die in the windswept fields of western Montana. We ended up spending three days in Choteau, a town almost untouched by time since the 1960s, where Wayne not only made the time in his solidly packed schedule to install a new pump but also managed to get the temperamental rear lights of our camper working properly. By the time we rolled out of town we felt like Wayne was part of the family.

Hiking as much as C’s injured knee allows, we managed to see a bit of Yellowstone’s backcountry (where another snowstorm closed the roads for a day). Never had steaming, hissing and bubbling vents, springs and geysers seemed more tempting to half frozen fingers and toes!



And then … we got to Utah.

I never expected to be swept off my feet by the sage and juniper deserts, cliffs the colour of sunset and secret world of narrow canyons, but I was. I am still, quite literally: we hiked three days in Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch, an otherworldly experience:


Hiking Paria Canyon involves wading in water pretty much half the time, and the water was cold!

So cold that it numbed even my Canadian feet, numbed them to such an extent I apparently sprained my ankle on the second day without so much as noticing it. Suddenly it was elephant-sized and sore! Hiking out the remaining eight miles on the last day was not a big deal though, since the Paria, after causing injury, also supplied the cure by numbing my feet again.
Despite our current mobility challenges we hope our aging limbs will be up to a section hike or two of the Arizona trail come late November/December. I’m leaving Utah somewhat reluctantly, carrying dusty red sand and images with me.