I’m unsure where this piece is headed but you are forewarned; I just poured another beer. I’ve always one of those impatient fools who bark out obscenities as old folks poke along reducing traffic to a parade’s pace. The people who turn a grocery check-out line into a personal hell as I roll my eyes repeatedly. The people who walk like time stands still as they do just that. Well OMG, I have become that person… kinda.
When hiking along the Rio Grande I came across a cache of simple, crude souvenirs intended to wring a few dollars from gringos for the poor creators on the south side of the border. Now I own a walking stick thanks to these folks. I think I purchased it because my hiking pace has grown so slow I, like a bicycle without momentum, am in danger of falling down. OK, I exaggerate, but really I can sometimes move very slowly. The freaky part is that I am learning to like it.
Today I set out from the camper headed south into the desert and toward Mexico. I had several matters on my mind. First was how to develop a rhythm with this freakin stick. The stick was ahread, it was lagging behind, it was like dancing with an awkward girl at the sophomore semi-formal when neither of us could control our feet or our inhibitions. It was an uncomfortable first ½ mile. If I didn’t know better I’d swear it was the damn stick that first suggested I slow the pace. Eventually we began to get more comfortable with each other. Speaking only for me we seemed to agree to keep working on our relationship.
It was around this time that my phone rang. Wait, what? I’m in the desert alone with my thoughts and a stick. Suddenly there was a third personality to contend with! To make it all a wee bit weirder my phone is malfunctioning so I must resort to speakerphone mode. So I’m standing on a stony track cradling a rambunctious walking stick and shouting over the gusting wind to Fran, a friend 2,000 miles away. It’s a scene that would make for a bizarre 3 minute movie. Technology, I’m finding on this trip, is more and more whacky that way. I can be standing in deep isolation where I can see no humans and no cell towers for hours yet on occasion share my photos immediately over the net. Crazy stuff.
Another point I wanted to address on this hike was the answer to my sisters question “what does the desert smell like?” It’s a hard one to answer is what I decided. The easy first impression is crushed rocks or rock dust which is a smell any kid who played in the dirt can remember. But beyond the obvious was harder, I was leaning my head out like an oenophile over a glass of Bordeaux then I caught the trace whiff of wet grass resulting from the morning showers. Then there came and went a faint smell of decay and I thought it must be coming from the occasional dead or dying cactus. By contrast it was noted that the frequent scat encountered had no smell but my mind kept trying to calculate size of scat = size of creature times size of my imagination.
Although it was not in my original hike plan I spontaneously began thinking about men. Stop snickering reader, I getting deep here. My inspiration was that two of my dearest friends have moved away from the Finger Lakes this year and I miss them. It’s funny but, having known them for twenty plus years; they have grown more precious with every year. They live life with their own version of abandon but even more notable is their integrity which inspires me. Inspiration is a rare commodity in a jaded world. This line of thinking, like the canyon rim trail I had joined, lead on to more difficult terrain. Thinking of the many men who have shaped my life I began of course with the prime man; my dad. A topic for another day I decided instantly. Further on the trail began to loop in to the west and out again as it dodged the feeder canyons leading to the monumental north-south Seminole Canyon. The ache from an overly ambitious hike that was developing in my hips was matched by memories of my father’s brother, a wretched soul. Suffice it to say I once began an essay with the title Uncle Leo Was a Punk. Despite my sour assessment I speculated that perhaps he still taught me lessons or even inspired me but certainly in a way inverse to his intent.
The trail was fascinating for the reason that as you hiked a ¼ mile east around the feeder canyon you could look across and see where you would be in ten minutes. This idea fascinated me as I tried with my mind’s eye to visualize my future trek as it might appear across the 300 yard gulf; like peering into the future and not unlike being a young boy trying to imagine my future as a man.
It was then that I began to question my choice of day-hike provisions (a can of V-8 and a bag of raisins). I also realized that my walk was a mambo to my stick’s tango. What does tomorrow’s hike hold in store?