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Creek Running North
February 01, 2006
Last night I stood in darkness as the Colorado rolled past my feet. The coyotes across the river, in the marshes at Topock, had quieted down for the night. From the river came a burble or two, wet soft noises: a promontory on the bank spawned whirlpools. Far across the Colorado, above the Black Mountains, the Big Dipper hung low on the horizon, its stars Merak and Dubhe pointing at the celestial pole. All three stars glimmered on the surface of the river as well, perturbed only a little by the current.
I wanted to find direction reflected in the landscape, and there I had it.
Yesterday morning I hiked into the pine forests of the Hualapai Mountains. Black-tailed deer stared curious and incautious as I passed them, and woodpeckers drummed in the far trees. I went the wrong way, carefully missing the prominent trail markers, and found myself at the end of a fire road. A deer trail proceeded steeply into a v-shaped draw, and I stepped over downed logs as I climbed. Before long the deer trail vanished. No matter: a tiny cascading rill lay before me, frozen as if in an instant, each little fall preserved in ice.
I stayed there for some time, grateful.
On the official trail, I switchbacked through manzanita and scrub oak back into the pines. Lodgepole and ponderosa grew there, and through a pass at my hike's highest point one could nearly see Sedona.
Today I hiked into Owl Creek Canyon to another waterfall, this one dry but for a stagnant green plunge pool, a gleaming jade in a dry desert canyon. I saw a way up the fall, about eight feet high, but did not take it. It would not have been a difficult climb, but the minor chance of falling on the return trip made me decide to come back with a friend. Two of us could hand ungainly packs up and down, and in the event of a minor spill the uninjured party could fetch a hearse. Today, sage sparrows led me up-canyon and down, flitting just ahead of me as the wash threaded the slot canyons.
And then the return, through slanting light in the west Mojave to the great range that divides the desert from my home. I sit atop that range tonight, delaying the slide down into waking life.
Posted by Chris Clarke at February 1, 2006 08:16 PM
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Aaaiiieeee! That was me, the shadow creeping along behind you, hoping to snatch some of your rhapsody and steal it back to this Tokyo apartment. The desert... A sky as far away as you can squint at. Hrumph. Can you imagine how it feels to be clackety-clacking along in sardine-packed trains every day and to read this? Would that there was an old van parked outside, and a dusty dirt road leading away to that hazy silhouette of a mountain off in the distance... And the mournful cry of a black-tailed kite keening in the evening sky.Posted by: butuki at February 1, 2006 08:42 PM
Now I understand why you blew off going to that party with me.Posted by: Roxanne at February 2, 2006 04:13 AM
Now, this is a stream to get behind. ;)Posted by: Rana at February 2, 2006 08:04 AM
As always Chris, beautifully written. I'm also glad to see that your judgement is tempered as to climbing rock walls alone. If you're like me it's an absolute wonder your still around, considering all the fool things I did alone in "the woods" trying to win that Darwin Award.Posted by: OGeorge at February 2, 2006 08:43 AM
i second ogeorge's compliment on your judgement, and i didn't even get an award doing fool things off alone in "the woods." i'll add a cpmpliment for your photography too.Posted by: dread pirate roberts at February 2, 2006 08:53 AM
Your writing is already enough to make angels cry, and your photography is breathtaking. It would be too mean-spirited to say I'm jealous, so I'll just say I appreciate the view of the world through your eyes.Posted by: Space Kitty at February 2, 2006 11:43 AM