Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Walk

The casual visitor would miss the diversity that surrounds my home. One mile to the west is a ridge that runs north from Francis Crater to connect with Junction Crater. The national forest fence is at the bottom of the ridge. On the east side of the fence are several Junipers and on the west side are a few Junipers. Climb the ridge and the Junipers thin and become sporadic or completely absent for long distances. Continue west about a mile and one finds a solitary Ponderosa Pine. The forest of Ponderosas is several miles farther west beyond a chaparral-like terrain. Junipers return and become interspersed with Pinyon Pine and, finally, Junipers and Pinyons give way to tall Ponderosa.

My goal today is to the foot of the ridge. The land around my house is firm – layer upon layer of cinders with a few inches of fine dirt and sand mixed with small red cinders as the top layer. The ground to the west becomes loose and is colored gray in dry weather and black in wet times. The cinders are fine – more like a coarse sand. The grasses give way to yuccas and bare areas that record the passing of pronghorn, coyotes, rabbits and smaller animals. Walking in this area is like walking on a beach where the sand shifts and steals some of the energy from each step.

Dry Wash
The dry wash heading southwest.

I begin by heading due west, picking a path through the trees until I come to a dry wash that leads southwest. The trees and wash provide some protection from the wind. I’m constantly on the watch for tracks, scat, wildlife and small flora. In the wash I notice prints made by a horse. This doesn’t appear to be an area or a wash that someone would ride. Neighbors about a mile north have horses that are sometimes free. Perhaps one of them circled this way. Or, perhaps someone was riding and decided to take a shortcut this way.

As I move uphill the wash becomes shallow and finally ends. I’m above the trees and have nothing to protect me from the wind. My ears began to hurt, not from the cold but from the twenty-some miles per hour wind. The sun comes and goes as shadows of clouds roll across the hills and the grasses. The peaks to the west are lost in a mist of snow and rain.

Above the Trees
Out of the protection of the trees and in the wind.

I come across a den. The weeds that have blown into the entrance and the undisturbed dirt around the opening indicate it isn’t being used. I continue on a few yards and look back and can’t see the den in the sparse grass. Deprived of scent and sound, predators would pass the den within a few feet and never know of its existence.

A Den
A Den.

I change course from southwest to due west. I’ve been climbing gradually but this change gives me a level or slightly downhill grade. I know there are old tracks from a vehicle not far ahead. I plan on finding the parallel tracks. They will take me northwest to some electric transmission lines where I’ll turn east toward home.

Pottery Shard
A pottery shard.

As I walk west I see a piece of pottery. It a small fragment about an inch in diameter – red on one side and black on the other. I photograph both sides and replace the fragment as I found it – black side up. A little farther on I find two pieces within three feet of one another. These pieces are white with black paint and are probably from the same pot. Not realizing I’ve accidentally turned my camera to video mode, I photograph one piece and then the other without disturbing them.. Yesterday, while checking my property I saw three pieces – one red, one tan and a white roped piece. I don’t collect the pottery shards. I leave them for others to enjoy and for myself to find again on future walks.

I find the vehicle tracks and change course. Almost immediately, I note pronghorn tracks. A small heard passed this way before me. I follow them for a few hundred yards before my attention is caught by the change in the ground. I’m in the loose black cinder area that is punctuated with yuccas. It’s an area that I never tire of exploring.

Pronghorn Tracks
Pronghorn Tracks.

I come to the point where I turn east toward home and immediately notice tracks. They are mine. Last Tuesday night I walked this way after supper. The air was still and cold – below freezing – and the grasses and trees where beautiful in the moon light.

I continue east a ways before picking a point to turn southeast. After a short meander through the trees, I drop into the dry wash in which I began my walk. I turn downstream toward home. Inside, I feel a sense of contentment. To most people, one tree looks like another and the washes are confusing but this is my world – my small private world. I love it.

Today, I’ve not encountered anything new or astounding. I’ve not discovered a new plant or stumbled upon anything of commercial value, but it’s been a good walk. My mind has wandered and all stress is gone. If every day treasures a walk this beautiful, I’ll have a good life – a very good life.


Blogger Buffalo said...

You shared it well. Thank you.

12/10/2006 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

It is kinda funny how we have our own places of solitude.
I walk to the local shops past houses then through some sparse bush land. As one looks up the hill no house can be seen just a road that leads up the hill as one looks down, one finds suburbia. Strange how I'll lose myself for a few moments in that short walk.

12/11/2006 02:20:00 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Thanks for the virutal walk.

12/11/2006 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

Thanks for taking me to a place I have never been. I thought Arizona was supposed to be warm!

12/13/2006 05:30:00 AM  

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