It was like an apparition. A road wound up a steep hill to its pinnacle. The cumulus clouds had parted so that only the summit was sunlit. It was there that we saw the medieval town of Castellucio. The ghostly structures were impressive, yet forbidding. When we reached the town there were no people, only a cutting wind that swirled scraps of litter around in a circle. A wild dog sniffed the street.
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Margherita handed me her longest matterello. Shaped like a dowel, it was three feet long and two inches thick. It was made of oak, smooth, very old, and of a deep rich color and patina. One end was shaped like a small doorknob while the other had a gentle taper resulting in a blunt point. I held it with caution. It looked more like a weapon than a kitchen tool.
It could not have been colder. Perhaps if one were to compare temperatures between here and elsewhere a clinical case could be made. But the fog of the Veneto had proven its reputation. This was more than frosty, it was a bone-chilling, joint-aching, shivering cold. It was a damp cold that went as deep as one could feel. I was miserable
The first afternoon and early evening on the South Rim was tempestuous. The Arizona skies were heavy and swirling. This is never a good sign in the monsoon season of early September, especially for a hiker about to descend into the enormous gash that is Grand Canyon. When stimulated, monsoon season means a heavy diet of rain, wind, thunder, and lightning. It means clear skies that turn to into an apocalyptic fury that can curdle the blood of the most fearless of campers. One look at the sky upon our arrival and I knew it was going to be an interesting week.
The balmy air at the North Rim was speaking to me. I should have been listening. Late September in these rarefied parts is normally brisk, sometimes even cold. On this day of our arrival we were comfortable in short sleeves. If it were warm here, the inner furnace of the canyon would be even hotter than normal. But the Nankoweap Trail was already playing with my head. I'd heard and read so much about its steepness, ruggedness, and dizzying heights I didn't even bother to think of its exposure to heat and sun. But in the end it's the heat that always matters in Grand Canyon. Always.