Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Day 21: Mile 479 to County Road 42

The grassy plains opened before us like the African savanna, the morning light giving the tall grass a golden hue. Jackrabbits and cottontails darted around the plains. A small snake sunned himself on the trail. Sierra picked up a horned toad, then released him back into the wild. 

With limited water sources, we were excited to see a small group of cows trodding a well worn path. In this dry open range, cows usually mean water. Sure enough, I spotted a large tractor tire tank a few hundred yards from the trail. I happily scooped up the green, algae filled water that the cows had been drinking only moments before, grateful for the water. 

We hiked through grassy plains, into Ponderosa and pinyon forests, over dried mud rough with cow prints and rough lava rocks, always following a route well marked with rock cairns, even when there was no trail. 

A huge gopher snake, 4-5 feet long and quite thick, slithered past. He hissed at us before disappearing into a small hole about two feet off the ground in a hollow tree trunk. Late in the afternoon, we spotted a ringtail, a somewhat reclusive relative to raccoons and coatis, who looked like a large cat with a long, thick, striped bottlebrush tail. 

We hiked into the evening. Just as the sun was setting, we heard a familiar voice bellowing up the trail. Grandpa!  We knew he was coming out to the trail at some point, but had not expected him so early. Excited, the three of us continued on to the next road crossing and camped together. 

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