Mile 621, somewhere past Babbitt Ranch

Another unreasonably cold morning and then a walk across the Babbitt Ranch segment.

My camp last night was at the base of the Coconino Rim, the southern edge of the Kaibab Plateau that is split by the Colorado River. The next discernible geographic feature is the San Francisco peaks to the south, a line of volcanic cones running east-west.

In between is a mostly featureless plain some 20 miles across, lacking water and shade. The soil is a fine powdery dust that turns from red to gray as lava flows replace sandstone. It is about as empty a place as I have ever seen. The grubby-looking Tub Ranch set in the middle of it only adds to the desolation.

Heart of brightness, Babbitt Ranch

Stretches like this are what distinguish through-hikes from destination hikes (aside from the distance). No one would come here except as a way to get somewhere else.

But once you are here, you can appreciate the place on its own terms for what it is: big, open and indifferent. In that way it is much like the universe itself, a pan mirror facing up to the sky and all the emptiness beyond.

Not a destination, but not a detour either. Just a place.