Tuesday, June 28, 2005

the window

It took about 90 minutes to reach the end of the hike where slick rock jutted up to frame a precipitous drop that looked out over the Chisos Mountains. I got vertigo even fifteen feet back and just barely got a shot of "the window," the opening in the peaked rock formation some distance away. A century plant stands guard to the right of the window.

I was too tired to fully appreciate the view. The climb down had been easy but the last quarter mile involved clambering over stone and cement steps cut into the rocks and the sun had climbed high enough so shade was becoming scarce as the temperature steadily increased. My real lessons were learned on the way back as the ardurous climb ever upward began to tell on my already tired legs. My boots were broken in, but I was not used to a constant downhill jaunt or uphill climb. I could feel blisters forming as the boots wore on uncalloused toes. Half a mile up the trail I rested on a bench in some providential shade. The few other hikers I met seemed tired, but I was already down to my reserve energy. The higher I climbed the more difficult it became to just put one foot in front of the other. I had to stop and sit for awhile after every 200 steps, then after 100 steps, and I gradually declined until I could not climb more than ten steps without stopping to rest. I thought of the Lion Warnings and realized I had become a good candidate for a Lion-snack. I would not have been able to run, which was good, but I so resembled a wounded deer a lion would not have hesitated to strike. Then I ran out of water. I had started with a gallon and had drank all of it. I was only a quarter mile from the lodge and was well-hydrated but as my water reservoir emptied I trulyI came to see the value of water. I understood why ranchers fought over water rights and how someone could kill for another's canteen. I also learned not to take the desert for granted. I'd been enthralled by its beauty for years; now I bowed to the beauty of its danger.

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