Day 4: Here comes the sun! Sort of.  

Day 3 of this trip is when I learned that the terrible, wet and cold day from our very first backpacking trip still haunts me. I spent so much time looking at the sky wondering if those clouds were going to dump some rain. This was not helped much by the fact that at some point during the packing process, Toby and I looked at each other and said, “do we need rain gear in the desert? Nah.” and tossed our rain jackets and pants aside without a second thought. [This was a very stupid decision, I know better, and I will never do this again. –Toby] I think this is why I was so scared of how cold I was – the rain gear would have given us one more protection against the wind and mist, and we were screwed if it did actually rain. Lesson learned, my friends.

So I’m not thrilled to wake up on Day 3 and see the same overcast skies and feel the same damp air when I open the tent. We coax ourselves out of our sleeping bags and start packing up. As we do so the pair that we had seen at the casita come up the trail. We all pause and yell across the dessert to each other: they found the water source that we couldn’t, we are all having a great time, they are from Dallas, man is it cold.

I wore almost all of my clothes to bed to try to stay warm so I just throw my fleece on over all of that and hike off. Not the smartest move – if we do have to hike in the rain I’ll need a dry set of sleep clothes to warm up afterward. But I can’t talk myself into changing so I just promise myself to stop and strip off my SmartWool base layer at the first raindrop if we feel one.

We tell ourselves that the sky is a little brighter and the wind is a little calmer as we hike along the mesa – it might be true. And the mesa is legitimately gorgeous. We marvel at the existence of mesas at all and despite all of the grumbling in the previous paragraphs, I can honestly say that I am so incredibly grateful and awed to be in this place. We chat consistently as we hike, trying to gauge any change in the clouds surrounding the distant rock formation, talking about how amazing all the cacti are (Toby insists that some of them looked like moomintrolls, and then has to explain to me what moomin trolls are [Moomins are very cute and I recently learned that Tove Jansson was queer, which: bonus. –Toby]), and wondering about the day ahead. The ranger had said that almost no one does the trail clockwise because of the steepness of the trail on the side of this mesa. Based on what we’d experienced so far, I’m imagining giant boulders, maybe having to drop our packs down and then scramble after them. I have no idea. And then we are at the edge.

We start down and quickly realize that it is indeed steep but probably not much steeper than other things we’ve done. It’s covered in a lot of loose rock and that just means taking our time to find good footing. Part of me thought it would be better going up, to be honest. At least for the slipping factor. But we go slow and steady and have no problems. Just some tired feet.

The sky is still overcast so when we pass a couple of day hikers near the bottom of the climb we ask about the weather forecast and they respond “no precip today, maybe tomorrow.” We breath a sigh of relief and then hike another mile feeling warmer now that we are down at a lower elevation and happy that we no longer have to worry about rain. Why do we ever believe anything anyone says on the trail?

We find a campsite on a giant rock slab, set up our tent, and I look up and see actual blue sky above us! I think the clouds are breaking up, I say to Toby, and we’re excited to for the possibility of sunshine to hang out in as we read, since we are set up so early. We settle in to eat a good bit of food now that we aren’t too cold to sit still for more than a couple of minutes. But just at the end of our first course of trail pizza, I feel a rain drop. I look up and that blue sky is still there but there are clouds all around. I feel another drop and another. And then we are frantically packing up food and running off to pee before it really rains and throwing everything in our tent to keep it dry. By the time we’re in it’s full on hailing. Later there is thunder and I wish I could google how to identify granite because I don’t know what kind of rock we are camped on and all I can think about is how many people get struck by lightening on the massive granite slab that is Half Dome. Is there even granite in Texas? I have literally no idea. But Toby encourages me to listen to my audio book and makes me count the seconds between lightening and thunder when I’m too scared to deal and assures me that it’s all very far away and that we are safe. And we are. Eventually the rain clears and we fall asleep under a cloudy Texas sky. -Cyn

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This was marked on the map as “tank.” Not quite what we expected.
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Giant cairns on the mesa. And me wearing literally all of my clothes.
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So freaking beautiful up here.
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Moomins!

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The edge of the mesa.

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Texas forever!
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Loose rock on a steep trail. Always a good time.
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Toby was so proud of this perfect pitch.
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Blue sky + storm clouds.
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The view from our tent during a break in the rain.

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