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Creek Running North

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May 13, 2005

White Rock Canyon

Here, in order of prevalence, are the things the desert sounds like.

Wind. There is little to slow the wind, and the few trees – an acacia in full bloom, in this particular instance – make a sound in the wind like a typhoon through high-tension lines.

Flies. They buzz incessantly in the sun, heading for your eyes, your ears, wherever a stray drop of sweat hangs for a moment before falling to the sand in the wash. How they find you is a mystery. Lie down in a shady spot of the wash, beneath an overhang of sandstone scraped smooth by a thousand flash floods, and within twenty seconds they are walking around on your eyelids. They do not bite, nor do they alight for long. They are after water, and they take it, and they leave. But more come to take their place.

Bees. They buzz importantly about the fuzzy yellow acacia flowers, which – when the breeze is right – fill your little slot canyon with perfume.

Your heartbeat. It seems to be back to less that 100 beats per minute, now that you have lain here in the middle of the desert for fifteen minutes or so. The chief thing to worry about is heatstroke, and as long as you are sweating you don’t have heatstroke. And as long as you have sufficient water… but you do not, because once again you neglected to top off the reservoir in your backpack. You ran out two miles back. One of these days, and perhaps this is the one, your lack of attention to detail will kill you, and your friends, though saddened, will cluck knowingly.

Canyon wrens. Their nests are crammed into the cracks in the canyon walls, fifty feet above your head. Wren song trills down the canyon, a fluid series of descending notes, gliding as easily as you descended White Rock Canyon to the Colorado River.

The Colorado River. It gurgles past the canyon mouth cold and blue from the penstocks of the Hoover Dam a few miles upstream. It is inviting, and you suddenly realize that it is four pm and you have had nothing to eat all day, and two and a half miles and a cup of water in 95 degree heat, and a date with a sandbar and a smooth, shady sandstone wall.

Posted by Chris Clarke at May 13, 2005 08:28 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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This might sound odd...but all that still sounds like plenty of fun to me.

Posted by: Blue at May 13, 2005 08:51 AM
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Oh, yeah.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at May 13, 2005 09:00 AM
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Nice-sitting here at my desk drinking it all in-yearning for the desert sun on my back and the grit in my teeth! Thanks for the entry.

Posted by: limesalttequila at May 13, 2005 09:53 AM
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Welcome to my world. As a native of the northern reaches of the Great Basin your descriptions pulled great pictures from the recesses of my mind.

Posted by: Desert Donkey at May 13, 2005 12:33 PM
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Good! Now fill your damn water reservoir!

Posted by: Pica at May 13, 2005 02:29 PM
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Agree entirely with Pica. You are as close as I'm ever going to get to flies sucking moisture off of my eyelids. I need you out there. Drink something, wouldja?

Posted by: Kathy at May 13, 2005 09:00 PM
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Hey Chris, your desert adventure sounds lovely! I grew up in a semi-arid region of my state before moving to lush Seattle, which I consider to be my home. But I do miss the desert and its citizens. Tell me more about the bees .. are they bumbles? And the canyon wrens .. ah, I grew up listening to them. That was before I learned that they do not live everywhere in the world, so every time I feel sad and lonely, I listen to their haunting melodies on my birdsong CDs and I am transported back to the deserts of my childhood on an invisible magic carpet of sound and feathers.

Posted by: GrrlScientist at May 14, 2005 10:49 AM
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Um, Camelback?

Posted by: carpundit at May 15, 2005 04:56 PM
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When I lived in the Sierras, I sometimes wished for a sky that was not criss-crossed by jet contrails. Fortunately, commercial jets are usually so high that you can't hear them, but you will hear (or feel!) the occasional fighter jet, out of the Naval air base to the south, ripping by overhead.

Posted by: Hank Fox at May 16, 2005 09:16 AM
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