Beauty in the Desert

It’s easy to forget with how well things are built up around here with all the suburbs and trees that where I live is actually high plains desert.  But you don’t have to go far to be reminded of it.  With sand dunes and canyons just over an hours drive away, you soon find yourself looking at what your life would be without the water from the mountains there to make all the green back in the cities possible.
Life is such a fragile thing, and there isn’t much of it out in the dry rocks and rolling hills we hiked through over the weekend.  Yet if you look closely, you can see that even in these barren lands it still manages to hang on and persevere.  Life is also pretty stubborn, wouldn’t you say?
We blared a mix of old and new rock songs all the way there, and stepped out of the truck to face winds and cheat grass opposing us.  The rock formation we chose to hike up looked fairly small from where we parked the truck, but it was bigger than we first thought.
After wading through a sea of cheat grass stabbing us through our socks and watching to make sure we avoided rattlesnakes, we faced the rock formation itself, which proved to be steeper than we thought.  Covered with large boulders and slippery patches of smaller rocks, it was almost a challenge to get up.
But we went right to the very top.  Standing up there, the winds were around 40 miles an hour coming from the west.  I stood at the top and looked around at the farm fields to the north and the rocky hills to the south as I leaned into the wind to keep from losing my balance.  They were like two different worlds living right next to each other.
We stayed far away from the edges, because falling would have been fatal.  We were over 600 feet up from where we started out by our truck.  It was nothing more than a red dot on a dirt path far, far below us.  It was loud and cold in the wind, but just on the east side of the rocks that were up there, it was completely silent.  The winds was completely blocked, and it was like you had stepped into a completely different day, one with warm sun and no wind to blow it away.
We stayed up there for over an hour and a half, walking around the boulders, peering into the cracks in the rocks to check for rattlesnakes and scorpions, finding small patches of water that the rocks had collected and protected from the sun over time.  Little bits of sage brush stuck out here and there, lichen covered the orange and brown rocks till you couldn’t even see them anymore in some places, and the elusive Canyon Wren kept singing to us every so often, though we were never able to catch a glimpse of it.
I wrote, my father took pictures of the patterns and shapes in the lichen on the rocks, my sister hunted for rocks.  We found a lizard, who you can see if you look really close in the center of the last picture.  We also found a flat piece of rock that would be perfect for pitching a tent to watch stars in the summer time.  You wouldn’t be able to light a campfire, though.  The dry plants will light and burn faster than a match in those parts.
Just before we decided to go back down due to hunger, I found a pretty good sized rock covered in such pretty colors of lichen that I just to take it back with me.  Only, it was heavier than 10 pounds, and I had to go back down the steep way we came up.
I did it.  My family has this thing for rocks, you see, and I just had to have this one, even though, just like with my books, I don’t really have room for anymore rocks.  I slipped backward and fell on my butt once on the way down, and I couldn’t stop to get the sharp cheat grass out my shoes with it in my arms, but it was worth it when I finally heaved it into the back of the truck.  It’s sitting on my floor currently.  Still not quite sure what to do with it.  But I think it’s pretty.
We sat on the bumper and ate canned oysters and sardines with tabasco and crackers, chugging ginger ale and flicking out the tiny bones from the fish onto the dirt for some small critter to eat.  We rocked out all the way home where, an hour and a half later, we arrived home dusty, dirty, slightly scratched up and tired, but happy as can be.
The Mall?  Pffit, please.  What’s the mall and the city compared to a giant rock in the middle of dry land where you get covered in dust and there’s a chance you’ll be bit by a rattlesnake with  no immediate access to medical help?  Up there on that rock you sit all day and not see or hear from another soul.  Just you, yourself, and Mother Nature.  It’s dry, barren, and beautiful.
I’ll take the rocks and the reptiles, thanks.
Em
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