Mile 645, the Coconino Rim

A slow start today thanks to that damned isopropanol that took 30 minutes to boil water for my coffee. Slow-cooking dinner is fine as I am just drinking whisky and playing my uke, but sitting around when I want to be getting up and out is intolerable.

Still managed to make 23 miles over easy trail and the gentle downcline of the plateau as I move away from the Grand Canyon, which splits the plateau at its highest point.

Back in the dry zone now as I move away from the Grand Canyon. I washed my socks at Russell Lake, but opted to fill up at Russell Tank, another 4 miles further on, as the next likely water is not until the far side of Babbitt Ranch, 25 or 30 miles away.

This was close to being a mistake. The trough and big tank were bone dry and I was debating whether to backtrack to Russell Lake (there’s nothing thruhikers hate more than backtracking) or take an alternate route past another lake/tank that might or might not have water. There was another small silver cylindrical tank that appeared to be bolted shut and I thought I would see if I could work it open. But it only appeared to be bolted. The heavy lid could be slid open, and I found six inches of water at the bottom, filled with dead moths but otherwise clear. I filtered five liters through my bandanna and continued on my way.

The trail bore east along the Coconino Rim, and afforded a few last views of the North Rim. But mostly it was another forest walk descending through ponderosas, which increasingly were mixed with oaks, which then gave way to the pinyons and junipers where I am camped now.

Lounging in camp

The Milky Way is out soon after sunset, centering an Arizona starscape that I think is unmatched in its brilliance, clarity and serenity.

It’s a sky that feels like home, one that reminds my of my Dad, and how we would sit out in our backyard in 1960s small-town Tucson and just look at the sky.

And so of course the sky reminds me of his mortality and thus my own.

I suspect this is part of my urge to walk, to confirm to myself that I am still alive and vital. Every tweak in every joint — and there are many when you are 60 years old and walk 20-mile days — brings the fear that this is the beginning of the end, that the decay has set in, and that every day, every year, will be bounded by decreased capacity. I don’t fear death, but I do fear disability in general and immobility in particular.

So I have to walk as much as I can while I can. As long as I am walking I know I am still myself.