backdate: 27/28 November
The trail to the Monument Creek campsites (elev. 2995) skirted its canyon, an edge unsettlingly close in the dusk. I could see Joe's headlamp far ahead; then it disappeared. Marcus, Kara, and i made the final meters of descent over loose rock together.
Unoccupied G campsite was the first we came upon. It lay beneath a sandstone cliff, the edge of which hung perhaps a hundred feet overhead. Huge flat-sided boulders edged the sandy site, and one of them made a perfect kitchen table. As Marcus pitched his tent, Joe cut slices of summer sausage and boiled water for mac&cheese. Kara and i followed the path toward the sound of water, and as we washed dishes in the creek i felt a sudden wave of exhaustion. Nine miles of hiking, pushing through the dusk, and we couldn't climb into sleeping bags soon enough. But there was time to wait for iodine to work its magic on the creek water, teeth to brush, time to lie on a slab of sandstone and look up at the sky as cloud began to obscure the stars. The laughter and glimmering headlamps of two dozen hikers camped upstream gradually died away.
A ranger had said this was the best campsite in case of rain, but looking upward i couldn't help but wonder how often rock slabs fell from that overhang; no matter how close our tents were pitched to the cliff base, leaving the circle of rockfall a wide berth, the thought of being shattered and flattened in our sleep nagged at me. Rock was not the problem. Wind was. All through the night it rushed down the narrow canyon, our tent fly fluttering loudly, a disconcerting sound drowning out the creek's lullaby. The cliff continued to overhang my thoughts.