Slopes of the Tortilla Mountains – 3/2
Rain soaks into the thirsty desert, washing away the dust as I make my way east overlooking the Gila River. Patches of green, yellow, and purple rise from the red soil, spring wildflowers out to greet the rain.
It soaks into me as I walk, but I don’t pay attention. Rain is always part of the grand bargain you strike with the wilderness on long distance trips. Instead of misery, I think of water sources filling up, of pipes flowing, of springs and seeps revived to life.
Rain isn’t all bad.
I cross the Gila on a one lane bridge and set off into the mountains that rise off its southern banks. The rain keeps falling, keeps seeping into my clothes, keeps soaking my skin.
Grey clouds stretch to the horizon, ribbons of water hanging off them. I stare and feel a faint shiver begin to seep into me.
“Keep walking,” I think.
The movement keeps me warm as the rain keeps falling. I don’t stop to eat. I don’t stop to rest. I only keep moving.
The dust of the trail turns to mud. The washes darken with wet sand. Beads of water hang off cactus needles.
I move on, my energy seeping away without notice, step by step in the falling rain.
The clouds refuse to break and the rain keeps on, a steady, ceaseless march from sky to earth. I trudge underneath it, caught with no where to hide among the desert thorns.
Then my body quits.
It feels like a switch flicked from on to off. My legs refuse to lift. My arms shake.
The world becomes too big, too overwhelming, like it will swallow me whole. I want to hide. I want to crawl into some warm hole in the ground and disappear.
But there’s nothing but thorns and the washed out slope of a mountain.
I grab at my thoughts as fantasies of caves and abandoned buildings flood through my mind.
“All there is is you and that bag on your back,” I tell myself.
The grey sky sinks and closes in around me as I push through thorns, searching for a flat piece of ground to tie up my tarp. I wrap the lines around a pair of thorny bushes, and spread it open. Rain splatters against the fabric as I throw myself and my gear underneath.
I barely move for hours. It takes everything to get my sleeping bag out and crawl inside. I can’t eat. I can’t drink. The thought of opening up my backpack, of reaching inside, of searching out some bit of food, feels too daunting.
Instead, I listen to the rain patter across the fabric, light, gentle, just like it had been all day, the kind that you forget about, that lulls you to sleep, and slices you down bit by bit.