Saturday, June 27, 2009

East of Phoenix

"See you on the other side," I say.

"The other side of what," is the usual response.

The void, the abyss, that place where everything is meaningful, where it's all meaningless; the wilderness.

I know, I know. Isn't that being just a bit melodramatic. Of course, but just a bit. I am in a campground in East Mesa, gwarfing a soda and typing this dribble into my Blackberry. There's a starbucks just a few blocks away. Showers and flush toikets. Not much like the wilderness. Nevertheless, entering a place like the Sonoran desert is a bit risky. Even as an idle camper, a fall can be catastrophic. Disorientation can lead to disaster. Bad planning can be fatal.

Traveling in the wilderness offers certain hazards. In the Sonoran desert the hazards are severe. In the Superstition wilderness they are at thier most extreme. There are no berries to pick, no rivers to bathe in, water is rare, hard to find and unreliable. The landscape is course and steep, the trails confusing and rarely travelled.

When I enter the Superstitions I do it with the grave seriousness and respect they deserve. At every opportunity this wilderness picks and tears at the human body, scratching, cutting, burning ... It's hardball.

To be in a place of such glorious beauty, such austerity, difficulty ... well it's sublime; profoundly good. To be back on this side, reasonably intact, is also good. To see an end to the thorns, the 105 degree temps, the humidity. To rest, to prepare to do it again, to have bragging rights or a good story to tell, is all good stuff.

I spent two days in the Superstition wilderness last weekend. The Happy Hiking Guy and I hiked from the Peralta trailhead to Le Barge Spring in a big ugly loop. It was largely uneventful, just two guys in the desert sun, a shitload of wilderness, and 16 miles of pain.

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