Monday, January 18, 2010

Get Out and Hike!

When in Death Valley, you have to hike.

Even when you are miserably out of shape, you have to hike.

So we turn left just past Stovepipe Wells and start our long journey
UP to the mouth of Mosaic Canyon, where our two-mile hike is to begin.

Inside this canyon, I'm told, we can touch 800 million-year-old
dolomite that's been pushed up out of the ground by perennial seismic
activity. Give dolomite long enough and it turns into marble.

So up we go (still in the motor home), driving on a pathway dug into
an alluvial fan (lots of gravel and silt washed out of the mountains
by ancient rivers). Rumble. Rumble. Rumble.

The man-made road is a washboard and rattles my jaw for what I thought
was a few hundred yards. It turns out to be maybe two miles before we
reach the parking lot at the canyon's mouth.

Distance is deceptive when everything's so big, and in Death Valley,
everything is big.  (Pictures.)

As we begin our hike I realize we're still heading UP. We're walking
UP the canyon into the mountains. There is no DOWN until we head back
down. Did I mention I was out of shape?

We're walking UP for about 20 minutes when I realize I'm no loner
struggling against myself to enjoy this hike. I'm more limber, my
muscles settle in for the ride and I can enjoy the scenery. I pause to
see the different kinds of rocks under foot and inspect the thorny
plant life clinging to the sides of the canyon walls.

And then we come to the first of what turns out to be many places we
can no longer walk; we have to climb. On dolomite. That's the stuff
that turns into marble. And it's smooth already, just like marble.

Did I tell you it's smooth? Which means no toeholds. Allen leaps from
side to side, using his feet to somehow suction onto the smooth
dolomite and lift himself upward. Effortlessly.

I stand and stare. Dumbfounded. How can I, a very out-of-shape woman,
CLIMB up this pass? I can't LEAP like Allen just did.

I stare at this geological structure that looks like a vanilla caramel
sundae. Can you visualize that? THAT'S what I'm supposed to climb up.
An ice cream sundae.

What inspires me to at least try is not my adventuresome nature. It's
my pride. I cannot let the other people hiking behind me see this out-
of-shape woman fail.

And fail, I do not. I take a hundred baby steps and climb this way and
that and get to the top. Ta Da!

Allen beckons me on (what? We're not done?). And we walk some more,
then climb some more.

I scale other dolomite sundaes along the way with ease, even the ones
demanding I step waist high to clear them. After all, I'm experienced

At the big clearing, we rest, catch out breaths, and consume the
beauty of the mountain's canyon. We're tired. And why not? We must
have climbed a mile or more up into the sky to reach this breathtaking

But remember I said distance is deceptive when everything's so big? A
fellow hiker ambles by and mentions, casually, that's we've climbed .6
of a mile. Not 1.6 miles. Just six-tenths of a mile.

There's still nearly half a mile to go. UP. We hesitate briefly,
smile, then turn and head back DOWN.

Remember all those 800 million-year-old sundaes I climbed to get UP, I
now slide DOWN to get down. What fun.

And we still stop along the way to marvel at God's handiwork. Stuff
we would never have seen if we hadn't gotten out of the car to hike.

No comments: