It was foolhardy, but since I made it back I’ll talk about it.
Foolhardy: I hiked alone; I set out in the afternoon during Santa Fe’s monsoon season; I wore Chuck Taylors (flat-soled, slightly slick). Since I’m here to write this, it all ended well in the end. Besides, I wanted it badly: to move, to walk and walk, to seek out organic details, to give my physical self a project while my mind amused itself.
I didn’t start singing for bears until I was nearly at the top.
I chose the left-hand trail, the one reported to be gentle instead of steep. Not the one that goes up the Atalaya mountain, that takes two hours up and at least an hour back down. Among other things, I wanted to be back for dinner and I hadn’t set out until after 3 pm.
The first leg, the one along the road, was gentle. Then I reached the trailhead proper.
As I started down the single-file path, I started laughing to myself. This “gentle” was the kind of gentle hike I did as a teen in the Laurel Mountains. That is, I could see most of the way to the ravine floor from where I was walking, the sides of the trail rolled away instead of dropped, I could walk without managing my stride—without pulling my steps in tight to keep my downward footing. That sort of gentle… rather than central Austin’s gentle-flat.
I realized that, given the distance I planned to hike, there would be a real climb ahead. One much more vertical than Central Texas offers—though, again, more gentle than many goat-like scrambles I’ve taken in mountainous places. Shoot, I only slid three times, and only hit the ground once!
It felt good, to fall into a well-remembered body rhythm. To manage my pace for the altitude and for the intervening thirty-some years. I find it satisfying to move in ways my body already knows.
At the same time, I looked around and saw home. The scattered, narrow grey-greens of water-thrifty plants. Finger-tip flowers, cacti. Junipers everywhere, carrying heavy burdens of berries. Must’ve been a rainy spring; someone needs to start making gin. Red ground, sepia ground, ochre ground. Pink granite, crumbled. And sand, even at the top.
What I climbed was what Pittsburghers would call a hill. But even at only two-thirds of the way to the top I could see all the way into town…
Strange to feel the terrain as if I was in one place, and see and smell another. Perception’s associations are such slippery things.
In the early morning rain with a dollar in my hand
With an aching in my heart and my pockets full of sand
I’m a long way from home and I miss my darling so
In the early morning rain with no place to go.
Out on runway number nine a big 707’s set to go
But I’m stuck here on the grass where the cold wind blows…
Hear the mighty engines roar – see the silver wing on high
She’s away and westward bound – high above the clouds she’ll fly
Where the morning rain don’t fall and the sun always shines
She’ll be flying over my home in about three hours time