This part of the route is closely related, cartographically and restitutionally, to the trail we failed succeeded at a few years ago with Nick and Lael. There remain all the signs of the burn that bulldozed through here before our back then addled wandering through deadfall and churned earth. We pushed up this track, short step crawl all day and perilously close to missing my dinner date. And now, the trail phoenix risen, Cass and I bullet down, teary hooting. It’s not the buff chute of so many hereabouts, nor the corrugated line hunt of the one we just came off of.
It’s a trail that will someday be one or the other of those but is now a half finished sculpture, the figure’s pose clear enough but all the cuts merely confident drafts, a roll over a tree bowl here, thread through fresh hack there, soft soil or sand trap. Tired near the end of the day, we started a long time ago, but the novelty of the neither a jolt. Wondrously lovely in ugliness, just like the woods coming back from their soot.
The Ice Cream Truck whoops joy in turns, even with bags. Riding wagging elbows and hips, arms sometimes straight, sometimes shoulders hanging way off the midline. Reach river bottom and cross a few times, we get to the old rusting wagon where we stopped before for a map consult. Even in reverse the turns seem obvious now, carry on knowing that there’s a clearing for camping not too far on.
Chat the talk that is left over after old friends awhile apart cover the essentials, so we whisky debate the Marvel pantheon, different stove designs, press fit bearings, bags versus quilts. Cass plays a podcast, funny the voice and sound effects in the otherwise low light pointillist night. We’ll wake early for the final leg back to town in time for my late afternoon flight.
White pooch, tall and well formed. Been following us for miles though we at first didn’t know it. It had been standing next to that old woman we talked to on the trail after breakfast but it followed us and it doesn’t have a tag on its collar. So now we’re a trio, can’t explain to our third that it’s probably not a good idea.
We’re not lost, but we’re not on the track either. Yes, of course we could have backtracked, but we wanted to drop him off with someone who could call animal control or track down the owner. NO TRESSPASSING In perfect encapsulated madness, the New Mexican old timer waves his arms around, hair flailing around a wiry frame as if we’re dark spirits to ward off. “Get outta here, go, didn’t you see the signs, get out of here, NOW.” We try to a few supplicative formulations, “We’re hoping for your help…,” “…could we just….,” “…do you have any advice for us if we…..”
“NO! I don’t care! Get outta here!” hollering capering. “I’m going to call the Sheriff!” Well, that would probably turn out pretty much as we’re hoping, but it would set us back further timewise. We sigh and turn the bikes around, the friendly dog panting but eager for the continuation of adventure. We ride the sandy wash back up to the trail.
The detour does cost us, as does the sealant hemorrhaging out of my rear tire, as does making the wrong turn on the trail and pushing our bikes uphill an extra twenty minutes. Now we’re lost. Deja vu in being late to a crucial engagement, Cass promised he’d be somewhere half past noon. We laugh shake our heads at the going wrongness of it pedal harder leave the dog behind we hope to be looked after by a hiker we pass reach the asphalt duck and midday sweat up a road climb that mocks the big tires.
Then coast whrrrr buzz into the Plaza, promise to pen proper farewells and press on. I make the flight.