From highway 89 we dropped into upper Buckskin Gulch. We hiked on and off with Wolverine (Brian). The heat is really kicking in now and rest breaks become timed by the availability of shade. Heavy packs weigh us down in the heat, carrying a lot of water, and having brought extra food on this section to add to our next section. We decide to stop early so we can camp before entering the permitted area of Buckskin Gulch.
We chat for a while with a BLM ranger about all manner of things—big adventures, coronavirus, the president, cows and the invasive plant species they bring with them. He tells us how great it is that we’re out roaming the wilds during this time, a great way to be socially distant. The evening brings little biting flies. We’ve been wearing our headnets more and more in the evenings, especially for cowboy camping.
In the morning, we stop at the permit pay station at the Buckskin Gulch trailhead. The wash opens into a big meadow surrounded by smooth and wavy red rock, much different than where we had entered the gulch from the highway. After a short while the meadow narrows and the sandstone deepens into a slot canyon. These slot canyons feel like being wrapped in the arms of the earth surrounded by warm light. We exit Buckskin Gulch at Wire Pass, a very skinny exit point. And a very busy entry point for most folks, the most people we’ve seen this entire hike. It’s a bit of a shock to see so many people.
At the State Line Campground we meet up with Slingshot and Clementine (the hikers that gave us such great trail magic way back at Burr Trail Rd). We eat watermelon and chat about all things trail since we last met.
In the heat of the afternoon we set off to climb the bench up to the Kaibab Plateau, this part on the Arizona Trail. It’s nice to be on an actual trail again. The miles ease by. We get water at the wildlife guzzler and find a nice place to camp atop pine duff in the forest. I slept hard, cradled in the arms of the forest. It feels good to back in Arizona. Places are funny the way they get under your skin. How do they feel so different, one from another, just a few miles over an imaginary line? And yet somehow they do.
Another day of forest walking, a valley of sage, big clouds, a few drops of rain, a few cyclists, and a night of rain—we arrive at Jacob Lake just in time for breakfast. We meet several Arizona Trail hikers nearing the end of their thru-hike. It’s so refreshing to talk all things trail with other thru-hikers. We check into the hotel and spend the rest of the day doing sink laundry, eating, and resting up for the next section. We leave Jacob Lake with ten days of food; unsure of how long re-routing around the Grand Canyon will take.
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