The trek from Chariot Canyon to Scissors Crossing was my final day on the trail last year, and it was an extremely painful 15 miles. I have regaled Aaron with stories about how the elevation profile for this part is a dirty LIAR and that we will go up for HOURS instead of a lackadaisical DOWN like the profile PROMISED. Of course, my memory is tainted with the amount of pain I was in. I remember the traverse of granite mountain as hellish, and the flat, crazy hot, going-the-wrong-direction trail to the underpass as hell’s middle finger aimed at you when you turn your back. (Yes, I know hell has no fingers.)
What happens is: we wake up at dawn, tumble out of our tent with sleepy eyes, try to get water without waking up some hikers that came in the night, super- bandage all the blisters, click our packs, and take deep breaths. “This will be HORRIBLE,” I tell Aaron. And so we go.
And it’s….not so bad. The fact that it’s early morning and in the shade helps. A lot. “Just wait, suddenly we’re gonna go STRAIGHT UP,” I keep saying, but it never happens. Steep parts, sure. Hard? Yes; pretty much the whole trail is hard for me. But it’s not the monster that has plagued me for a year. “Whew, hard.” Aaron says when we reach the top, but I think he’s just protecting my ego. “Blisters, pain, so thirsty…” I mumble, a little shame-faced.
Thirst has been catching up, btw. We bring enough water, but not ENOUGH water, right? This morning I woke up a little horse. And water seems to be popping into unrelated thoughts more and more. Showing up in song lyrics. When Aaron tries to get me to play “What we’ll eat in Julian”, I can only conjure visions of water pouring from a pitcher.
We reach the flat, last few miles to Scissors Crossing. It’s so long. The dirt is burning my feet, expanding them, turning the skin into bubbles of future pain. And the trail goes the wrong way. Then changes its mind and cuts back along the road. Hot. Hot. Hot. Water.
We have water. But we don’t count on caches, so we mete it out because we will dry camp tonight. Yet both of us are secretly wishing: Please let there be water at Scissors crossing. Pretty please. We cross the street before the underpass, and spot some plastic hidden in the bushes. We rummage through them. “Nothing.” Aaron says, disappointed. Then I see it. “There!” I shout. One single, glimmering, beautiful 19oz bottle of fresh, glorious water. “Let’s share.” we gulp it down in minus 1 second. Oh, man. that’s the stuff.
Finally at the Scissors, we find water, La Croix sparkling water, shade and cell service. Again, I marvel at strangers so going out of their way to help other strangers. We lounge in the shade like kings, taking pictures, texting, napping and making our customary stupid jokes. We do drink some of the water there, but don’t refill because others might need it more. It’s a fantastic break. Last year, when I got here, my feet were bloody and gross. Now they’re just….gross. Blisters, but not get-off-the-trail blisters. Not yet. Hopefully never.
It’s 3 and the hottest day, it feels like. But we want to head up into the San Felipe Hills. The trail looks daunting, how it hugs the side of the mountain, cutting steep-looking zig-zags up the slope. Oh well, let’s go.
We cross the street and it’s like the desert instantly changes. There are all these alien-looking cacti everywhere. Things are stark. Things want to poke. Yet they are also blooming, giving mixed messages. And we are climbing, climbing, it’s windy and steep and never ending. It’s scary. But gorgeous. We are so far above Scissors Crossing. Did it even exist? Were we actually there? Maybe we’ve always been here, forever climbing.
The sun hits that magical hour where colors are enhanced, everything is super saturated and my heart swells with the beauty I am in the midst of. We find a campsite off the trail that feels like we are nowhere near civilization. It’s just us and red rocks, plants ever aiming their needles at us, a purple-pink sunset spreading over us while a blueish-white moon patiently waits for her entrance cue.