I spent most of the third day walking, my bag packed and coffee done before sunrise so I put on my tattered running shoes then set off down the trail, relishing the cool air as the morning arrives in the woods around me.
Sunshine pours over the canyon rim right as the path leaves the increasingly sparse ponderosa, entering the high desert, beginning the gradual sandy ascent through scraggly pinyon juniper forest, alternating between full sun and the mottled shade of the squat desert trees.
I walk and walk, not even taking pictures as the way gradually transitions from sandy footpath in the desert to a lightly used two track winding though meadows in a forested canyon, still hot but with plentiful shade. I find water where an otherwise dry stream bends through bedrock, allowing a seep to fill the channel, forming a narrow pool that was relatively huge and clear. Happily nearby was a small stand of tall thin pine trees, so I decided to wait out the hottest part of the day in the semicircle of shade they cast, cooking part of my dinner, drinking water, and sitting idle while my feet cooled in the breeze.
This day was also the peak of solitude, as the last live human voice I'd heard was a half hour into the trip when I'd had a short conversation about water sources with a dude on his way out though I'd been a bit restless during the warm nights, so I'd listen to podcasts, settling on a good bedtime story- Alone: a Love Story (by @parisegirl link in her bio) because strangely I felt like Fred Savage's character in the Princess Bride, listening to someone's love story unfold, perhaps uncertain at first but soon wondering what next?? There was something amazing about lying down under the ink black darkness and blazing stars of southeast utah, listening to a story that takes place so far away. Most of the time though, I'd enjoyed the relative silence that comes with being free of conversation.
Time passed quickly in the shade, so eventually I shoulder my pack to walk far into the evening, back to aspen and fir, stopping right before sunset to eat the rest of dinner, then stretch out happy and warm in my tent, watching the night sky come alive again