Waking at sunrise, the view from the bag.
Neither of us moved very fast to get on the trail this morning. That fact may have had something to do with the cold temps up here at ~9k', may have had roots in the frequent rude awakenings we'd experienced at the hands of oblivious (they never knew we were there) and intoxicated late-night ATV joyriders, or it could simply have been that we were tired from the effort of touring.
Whichever it was we moved slow in packing up, even briefly rekindling the embers from the fire, and then once back on the trail we just kinda collectively shuffled along. No hurry, no schedule, stopping for whatever reason (or no reason at all) was just fine.
It was only around lunchtime that I realized what the *real* cause for TO's lackadaisicality had been: Withdrawal.
A new man walked out of that gas station, fully charged on several cups o' mud. He pushed the pace (relatively speaking) the rest of the day, animated the conversation, and took the initiative to think proactively about our water needs. An amazing transformation, all at the hands of a few hundred milligrams of caffeine.
But that was all on TO's end. I'm not afflicted with any kind of liking for coffee, so after we left the gas station I pretty much continued to drag ass, relatively speaking, the rest of the day.
Working our way up one of the steeper bits of Pole Canyon.
What we saw when we popped out on top.
Many clouds in the sky today, pushed (pulled?) along by the everpresent wind. We got so used to the blow that it was only in very brief (and very protected) moments that we noticed the odd absence of it. And then we'd be right back in it. Dressing for the day meant dressing for wind chill and immediate evaporation of any perspiration. Easy enough.
For the next chunk of hours the trail dipsy-doodled along the edge of the Sunset Cliffs. ATV-width trail, often badly eroded, led us back and forth from the cliffs to mixed groves of aspen and spruce.
Ever wonder what that stuff looks like up close, what the glue is that holds it all together?
Such stunning views tend, eventually, to desensitize you to the stuff closer at hand. I fought to remain sensitized.
Someone had to.
We descended a quick, exhilarating ~thousand feet into a dry creek bottom, where shandy track awaited.
A proliferation of healthy oak argued for the likelihood of water nearby.
TO checked the cues and found it so--not a mile ahead we came upon this clear running spring.
When I moved out west ~17 years ago, childhood friends afflicted with the "Here's better" bug would attempt to argue that fall colors were far superior 'back home' compared to the 'just yellow' that we get in the mountains.
To this day I just nod and agree.
Working our way out of the valley and back onto the flanks of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Big trees, big views, little us.
Lots more 'just yellow' greeted us as we approached Water Canyon.
Although the riding got better and better as the sun set and moon rose, the wind had increased to the extent that we were having a hard time seeing the trail. Too much wind-whipped dust illuminated by our headlamps culminated in an awkward slow speed endo for me. We called it a night at Mill Creek Canyon, comfortably insinuating ourselves into the bosom of the big trees dominating that spot. Sinfully thick beds of duff twixt our pads and the earth, a small but bright blaze to warm our faces and feet, murmurs of appreciation as we tucked into our meager trail fare. TO crashed out a bit before I did, giving me a few minutes of silence to be thankful for roadless places, the health and wealth to get to them, and a companion so tolerant of my intolerance and other idiosyncratic behaviors.
Then I passed out.