Three days’ drinking water
in plastic jugs dug into me
beneath the backpack’s straps and belt.
We had to carry it because
herds of cattle graze Sonoran tableland
within the canyon watershed.
It would be three days,
out from West Trailhead
and back. Strong or
destination hikers can take
8-10 hours to do the whole 12.25 miles
of the Wilderness. Not me,
as by then you understood
from our first time trekking,
birding, photographing flowers
through Colorado meadows
up to the tundra’s cairns.
Sycamore, ash, cottonwood, willow
grew alongside Aravaipa Creek
then, above it, cholla, saguaro, prickly pear.
Creek pebbles in my sneakers
hurt too much off and on;
slogging was the only way.
But I would still go back there
for the chance to see how daybreak
etches into the desert sandstone rim
the wheat red color of your hair.