The trail slid underneath a wall of snow and disappeared, swallowed whole five miles from the Colorado border.
“Is this really it?” I thought.
I smashed my foot into the snow bank and scrambled to the top. It felt like stepping into winter’s last stronghold. The sun barely reached under the canopy of trees. Ice and snow covered everything in sight.
The Desert, the White Wall, the Race North. The Desert, the White Wall, the Race North. The Desert, the White Wall, the Race North. One to harden, one to test, one to finish it all. This was the beginning of the second act in a three act play. It was a new dance, just when I’d learned the old.
I took a few steps. The snow crunched under my feet. Slushing ice found every rip and tear in my desert-worn shoes. My feet slipped on soles smoothed and cracked by six-hundred miles of rock and sand.
Those old, old shoes. They’d slid under a rusty barbed wire fence at the Mexican border and burned with me the first few days as I scrambled for water from windmills. They’d rubbed a dozen blisters into my feet and built calluses that could walk thirty miles day after day. They’d soaked in the Gila on a hundred different crossings. They’d brought me to Pie Town and out again, across mesas, and down canyons. They’d been flattened on pavement and twisted on rocks, torn by thorns and caked in mud. They’d ran from thunderstorms and climbed to Chimney Rock.
It’s all a memory now. A vivid, colorful dream.
After a few steps, my feet were soaked through. The snow overwhelmed them. It was a test beyond their reach. The shoes looked suddenly tired, their gritty edge lost to a world they were never meant to see.
A large box is sitting somewhere in the Chama, New Mexico post office. My name is scrawled across the top. A pair of shiny blue shoes is waiting inside, their soles unworn, their fabric spotless, their Gore-Tex liner meant to ward of the snow.
For a moment, as my feet numbed in the cold, I wished I had those new blue shoes, but the thought slid away. No, their time will come.
I looked down and smiled.
“To the end of New Mexico,” I said. “Five more miles!”
Welcome to the White Wall.