Copyright by Mary S Ahmed
There is a Mountain south of me that the First People say opened to allow the last of the buffalo in to save them from extinction from the white men who were killing them off by the hundreds and letting the bodies rot. It was said that when it was safe the mountain would open once more and Buffalo would once more range the sacred land of 32 springs….Medicine springs. It is not really a mountain and it is only 2000 feet high but it offers a panouramic view of the rolling hills and desert grasslands around it. Many many times I climbed it without a trail and rock hopped back down again through prickly pear cactus that is edible and fruits red and through arroyo mequite bushes that are good for sickness and always the small, gnarled oaks with nuts so high in tannic acid they have to be parboiled twice or more before you can eat them….but the tannin water is good for gripe but I digress….
Out there are great grey mountain rattlesnakes and often you find thier shed skins in season and bees make thier homes up there and you can hear them when they swarm, in great masses, from far away. A person who knows the land can go alone and I did go alone quite often years ago. If you pay very close attention you can smell and hear and see what is there before you get there. There are tracks of birds and hooves. If you see hawks circling over head you always know why. These granite rocks that jut impudently out of flat prairie are my bones and the red dirt is my blood and the wind is my friend. I love this land. When my feet touch it I do not think of nations. I think of home.
Off the black top, past the prairie dog fields where mounds of rich dirt dot the land behind a fence, there is a turn off and a short dirt road that ends in a peaceful clearing with a trashcan near a painted wooden post marker that has the trail marked for the hiker. Da and I used to go there and he would go one way and I would go the other. He would go where the fishing was good and I would hike and we would agree to meet back at the marking post. I always took with me water and a compass and a short, sharp knife. I was one of the few people who was not afraid to hike in sandals and so I did because they are comfortable and tall rocks are much easier to climb barefoot and sandals are much lighter to carry.
There IT was before me: Gods’ Paradise made for me….I would breath deeply of the smell of sun hot dirt at the beginning of the trail and see the Black Oaks around and hear the trickle of the stream that was just ahead where reeds grew tall and you could fish for cattail roots with your toes and the smell of rotting vegetation where beavers backed up small dams as the trail began in lush green….but the cacti around reminded one always that this was the edge of desert country.
Dog run trail was supposed to be marked and the trail sanded every year but every year the trail would quickly wear away and you were on your own to make the four mile circle through several terrains up and down and past one small water fall so no one who hikes there looked for man made markers because those of us who KNEW…we knew BETTER…
People say you should never travel wild land alone and often cite the many dangers and I suppose they may be right but in all the years I did it the worst thing that ever happened to me was sitting on a catus while squatting to pee…and THAT hike was nearly three miles back to base after I THINK I pulled all the long spines out myself, blind of course. Never was there a time I wished I was MORE flexible then head-between-the-knees….but once more I digress and that is another tale for another time.
What can I tell you of the wild land all around? The feeling of the hot summer wind in your ears as it roars with the leaves that are too dry from lack of rain until the Fall? The way that mud squishes up around your toes and tries to pull the sandals from your feet as cold spring water like ice contrasts with the hot wind? The chills of awe that climb your body as you realize there is nothing between you and God and that God has laid out this orchestra of light and sound and colour just for you? The way that salt dries on your face as you move free and drips down to kiss your lips like a lover and the taste of the human sea within? The way the wind pushes into your arms when it blows hard from the mountain face and holds you close to It’s heart and you KNOW….YOU KNOW that earth is alive and real and laughing at you and feeding you energy from her Motherly center? The way your voice sounds when you yell and it echoes down rock valley walls?
Memory crushes me now as those granite boulders crushed the land and made the terrain a xeriscape of unspeakable beauty that no human could, can or ever will match! And now it is not the salt of sweat I taste but tears from eyes that have SEEN that God is REAL. As muscle pushes legs to walk and one step more and you think you cannot and some power within takes over and you stride the hills suddenly with all of thier strength and longevity. Nature makes love better than any human. That I can attest to!
The red trail looses its gravel very quickly to the wind and storm and if you do not pay attention it is easy to be lost…..
as the stream bed passed away I veered from the trail as was my want to do….I always found the water fall because I knew that I had to pass the small valley of Cedar to get there to the rock falls with the small cave beneath and the bright flash of a small desert stream that only flowed in season where once James and I….and yet once more story.
As I hiked across granite outcrops and climbed and alternately followed random deer and buffalo trails until I was far enough afield in a plateau of tallgrass prairie That I realized I was at THE FENCE. Because it was a fence I had to go through it! The barbed wire was wide and easy to skinny through. Now I was in the NON tourist land…the wildest of all!
There is a special almost sacred feeling that makes you very quiet even though you want to cry out with joy and dance as I had done on other occaisions there, but never alone. When you are alone it is best to be quiet in that land.
My leather sandals crunched the dry grass underfoot and made me think that this was the season for fires. Just ahead of me was a tall boulder with crevasses in it and it seemed to be perhaps 24 or 30 feet high and I thought it might be a good idea to climb it to get the lay of the land as I was now in buffalo grazing pasture. I always wore brown and green when I went and never any perfume because white attracts bees and red attracts everything and perfume attracts anything that flies and has a stinger in its tail…but even with all of these precautions I was not prepared to round the boulder and face an angry bull who suddenly noticed me instead of the herd. There is a wild smell to them…and also whiffs of scat as my sandals flew from my feet and my hands and feet found a way to climb that boulder and leave my sandals behind. The top of the boulder was flat. The bull knew I was there and circled.
I began to panic. The sun was moving. There was no cell phone then they did not exsist. there was no way to contact Da. He would go to the emergency phone by the prairie dog field and call the rangers…if they had to send a heli out for me how could he explain he let me go alone? I watched the sun sweating rivulets and sipping water and then laughed at myself for the fear…
I was glad when the bull was distracted by something in the herd and left. I climbed down and made my way back to the fence and back to the marker…..
Da asked me what had happened.
I said I lost the trail but found it.