Thursday, May 1, 2008

Back From the South Rim

We sat on the South Rim 2500 feet above the desert, sheltered from the wind, resting our weary bones. We set our fanny packs and Camelbak on the rocks. We drank our drinks and snacked our snacks. We laid back and closed our eyes. And soon it was time to go.

There are two trails between the Basin to the South Rim, one that winds around the west side of Emory Peak thru Laguna Meadows and a second thru Boot Canyon on the east. Since we took the first one up, we decided to take the second one down.

Of the two trails, Boot Canyon was the best. The vistas were better. The trail was more varied. And of course, we were hiking downhill. But the best part was along the canyon floor. Upper Boot Canyon Creek is usually dry, but the creek bed has been polished smooth by torrents that come infrequently but must roar when they do. The trail took us down into the middle of the dry creek. The forest climbed the slopes on either side.

In a few places, we saw pools of clear water. We interrupted a stag on his way for a drink. He watched us from a distance, slowly working his way into the underbrush as we passed. And we came to a place where a huge boulder had long ago fallen from the heights — a house-sized, flat-faced cube sitting in our way.

The hiking here was easy, as the creek was clear of debris and easy to walk on. And as we went, we saw more pools of water here and there, which made this side of the mountain seem more friendly, more gentle that the side we had ascended. But it was here that my feet began to hurt.

It didn't bother me at first, but eventually I started catching myself focusing on the pain. I would change the subject by looking into the woods or a clear pool, but as we passed the halfway point, more and more my focus would snap back to my feet.

Ben was in the lead. (Trudy had led on the way up.) He would get ahead of us regularly, just out of sight or around a bend, and then he'd sit and wait, hopping up and dashing off again just before we reached him. Trudy probably would have dashed off with him, but she knew I was lagging, and I knew there was no way my hurting feet would support a faster pace.

It was somewhere about this point that my sore feet began hurting so much that they were all I could think about. The little blooming things on the ground, the small pools of water, the song of the Canyon Wren ... these did little to distract me. The hike became a death march.

What was that guy in Austin thinking when he told us that padded socks don't really matter? What was I thinking when I listened to him? Oh my sore feet.

As we rounded the last major bend in the trail and a spectacular view of the Basin unfolded before us, the lodge buildings seemed so small. Oh my sore feet.

The path began to descend in steep switchbacks. With each step, the weight of my body pounded my feet against the rocky trail. The lodge buildings grew no closer. Our progress seemed to slow to a crawl. An endless eternity stood between us and our destination. And with that I fell into marathon mode, focused on nothing but each footstep.

But of course, that eternity passed, and we eventually found ourselves in the final stretch to our hotel room. The building was in sight. Third door on the left. Yet my feet hurt so badly that with less than 100 yards to go, I honestly didn't think I would make it.

And then we were home. I managed to wash a bit and to put on dry socks and comfortable shoes. I took some Tylenol. I got horizontal on the bed.

And that was that.

Hiking back from the South Rim
Big Bend National Park

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