Grants to Cuba

I leave Grants about an hour behind the rest of the loose posse from Pie Town with nearly a full pack and a full stomach. It's a nice change from droopy hunger. A good meal stays with you for a few hours and keeps the aches and pains gentle. It has been mostly road walks in the last few sections and my body hurts from the unforgiving asphalt and gravel. 
But so long as I can walk and nothing hurts to the touch my spirits remain high and I can still find The Rhythm. You start to walk and at first think about the next town, think about your gear choices, think about the weather, think about the elevation, and it's a lot of symbols of your insecurities and of your life and how you think you measure up or don't. It's easy to get frustrated then, and the best thing you can do is just keep walking. Sure enough it all dissipates...and you're really hiking then. 
I get into the musical breathing as I climb up out of Grants past the prison and onto the high mesa that marks the prominence of Mount Taylor, which was for a much longer time called TsoodziƂ. People honk in support, or I assume that's what it means. No room for pessimism regardless. There's a turn headed off the road and toward the summit and in a few minutes I catch up to one of the other hikers who tells me the rest of the group is just ahead maybe an hour. I head up and up, and up, and then it flattens completely and in the early evening tangerine haze stands the mountain peacefully. 
What a view. Several miles away across the plateau but so long as the mountain makes the horizon you can feel the beauty even when looking another direction. It's gripping, and it's this type of memory I struggle to replace when back elsewhere, in the someplace else. Small sadness.
The crickets start up as the sun sets and I come back to the trail. I walk until seven thirty when I meet the others who have been waiting for me so that we can summit the next day together.
I leave camp first the next day and immediately take a wrong turn, get back on trail for a few miles, then take another more costly wrong turn and have to cut across the slopes to get back on route. This sort of carelessness is typical of the fatigued and the frustrated hiker. I'm forcing things, and sit in the shade to get back with it. 
In a few hours I reach the summit and find one of the group confused that I was behind her. She had been speeding up trying to catch the others who were not ahead of her and ended up missing the last spring. I share my water and we eat and rest and hear the breeze. We are all forcing things today it seems. It isn't good.
The sky is clear but I can't stay on the summit any longer if I'm going to keep pace with my food supply so I move on down the slushy north side of the mountain just behind her. It's road walks the rest of the day so I put on an audiobook and take some ibuprofen and go. We camp at the edge of treeline near some fresh lightning strikes after a smaller day and try not to think so much. 
Bright and early and we dive into forest road after forest road. It's getting hot and I have to ration sunscreen and snacks. This section is taking longer than I had hoped. I put on headphones, keep track of water sources (puddles and cattle troughs) and walk until 7 when we agree to camp early yet again. We're all tired, but we can't rest like this or we'll run out of supplies before town. 
Well shit, it's about 80 by 8 AM. These events are what make the memories and you savor them. Book it, dude. 
Downhill off the big flats and gravel roads now, back down to the valley floor surrounded by towering rock monuments and muddy desert canyons - and cows. It's beautiful but it's hot and there is little water out here so we spend the day saying little and searching for shade and just keeping our feet moving... the skies behind me are telling me I should get out of the wide open desert. The trail thinks I should be a high and middle-finger-waving meat lightning rod. Better views that way. Just gorgeous, and nothing you can do about the predicament out here, so you enjoy yourself and continue. I camp by a tall derelict metal windmill. Sure, why not.
Nothing comes of it and the milky way is a soft blanket on these warm nights. 
We get up early and spend the day riding the crests and ridges of two thousand foot mesas. The views of the desert in the four corners region are as you feel. Around three PM we sit, beat, but decide to make it a 30 mile day to get into town around eight, for some reason. There's that fatigue again, and some frustration with the tapeworm swimming around in the only water source for some 15 miles in any direction. 
It's straight up and a good opportunity to scream and be primal and laugh with the searing heat. A "fuck it" moment of catharsis and a much needed satori refresher. Mosquitoes all of the ten dark road walk miles down the final mesa and into town. A pleasant conversation with a fallen drunk who laughs in relief when she sees I'm not a cop. 
The McDonalds is down the street, she says, and do I want a sip of her cherry coke? 
That's very kind, but no. I want to get a room, sleep, eat, wake up, put on some Herbie Mann's Memphis Underground... and just see what happens until Ghost Ranch.