Thursday, June 16, 2016

Day 2: Mile 15.6 to Little Hatchet Mountains Road

Dawn. A red glow framed the eastern mountains. A lone coyote howled, and an owl hooted as if in response. Early morning hiking provides a cool respite from the oppressive heat of the day. 

Rock cairns hint at a safe path through the hostile desert plants, providing false hope. Any path soon disappears into a bramble of plants. Many of the cairns have toppled in the strong winds, and yucca stalks are easily mistaken for posts. A particularly gnarly thorn proves too much for the soft tread on my shoes and punctures all the way through the sole to the ball of my foot. 

The heat rises with the sun. We dream of cold liquids, but quench our thirst with water the temperature of warm tea. Food no longer appeals. We choke down our rations at lunch, but cannot force ourselves to snack along the trail, which usually comprises the bulk of our calories. 

A cow carcass lies discarded near the trail. With the rancher's well nearby, it is unlikely the cow died of natural causes such as dehydration or starvation. The gutted insides give testament to a predator, probably a mountain lion. 

A golden eagle soars overhead, scanning for prey, while quail and other, smaller birds forage below. We hike on until the heat becomes too much for two still-acclimating mountain girls, and we call it a day early, after only 20 miles. 

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