The Middle-Aged Hiker

Chapter Nine

Hidden Pleasures

The desert's reputation for bleakness is, well, wrong. It is rather a place that obscures its richness within fine differences of detail, yet with simultaneous, inexplicable bursts of gaudy beauty. For me it is not a gig, using it as a tool to launch some high-tech recordings or fancy photographic essay. It is a powerful place, nearly (if you wish to anthropomorphize a bit) a living being, but not one from which extractions can be made without peril. That, indeed, is why the Canyon's sensations are almost inexpressible. Lest we present ourselves always as clever and wry, perhaps your imagination can roam with me through the Canyon, just this once, with a found poem of recollections and observations.
Losing sight of your tent, diminishing, in the jumble of rocks at Monument Creek. It is (was?) grey.
You wonder how any insect could fail to avoid the bright red bee assassin attentive on the end of a reed.
The contrast of the sacred datura's hand-size trumpet flowers with its spiky round seed pods, and the marvelous progression from long bud--like a rounded pea-pod--to an unfolding, five-edged scroll, to the brilliant white blooms ... then gaining a haze of purple at the edges, and finally folding up, complete, in but a day.
No time! the surprise of sunset, when darkness falls like a curtain in the crystalline air.
Moonrise at Monument Moonrise at Monument Creek

Layer-cake shelves of sandstone, inviting an afternoon crawl; the rattlesnake who notices.
An agreement of clouds, sun and canyon before dark--softness, flame, obsidian; a chill.
After the silence has become a welcome visitor, a crowd of mountain bluebirds courses by in a roar of wings, busy.
Lush hanging gardens hidden in Hermit Creek, and, tantalizingly inaccessible below the trail in Travertine Canyon, yet more where frozen lava seems ready to move again as you watch.
A bloom of salt crystals in the black bed of Slate Canyon on the weary descent to Crystal Rapids, glistening like a wall of gemstones.
A single cicada flies onto a rock, out of place and time, preening itself for an hour, and then, without another pause, diving to its death in the rapids.
Climbing down the granite flume at Monument Creek, hands and feet on opposite walls as the water flows below you ... jumping into the water; squeaks and laughter.
Perfectly round, fused volcanic tubes are still jutting from the walls of Travertine Canyon when my species has died.
The odd, swollen stems of the desert trumpet are all that remain beside the Tanner Trail in autumn.
Together, a smooth, green, moonlike rock and a craggy, golden one; in a nest of ricegrass, a pair of stones, turquoise and umber; two pocked rocks, fuchsia and sienna; all the while nearby, a white stone eroded to a dragon's mouth protects a barrel cactus.
Wonderment at a simple cloud.
Clouds After Storm Clouds after a storm

Just below a mud bank at Boucher creek, a small depression is filled by a round, glistening pebble. No! a frog, unafraid.
An unexpected bronze glow causes you to raise your head from dinner, to see the walls suddenly aflame with golden sunset. Darkness steals it away.
The joyful splatter of reddened water after a cloudburst leads you to a hidden garden where hanging plants cluster in shade and moisture.
You sit like a Buddha in a rounded bowl at Salt Creek, pausing before the return from the precipitous drop--the river in sight.
A haze of angel-hair filaments grows green and purple, simply called fluffgrass.
There, a single cushion cactus not an inch in diameter forcing its way up through the crack of a massive boulder; you know because you sat too close.
An ancient, twisted juniper overlooks Hermit Rapids from the west; its dry, lifeless (not) trunk is capped with a profusion of deeply vibrant foliage.
Agave seeds chittle in the wind...
The creamy cliffs in the morning sun, flame red in the evening, and deep black in the moonlight.
A glimmering garden of mica on the Hermit Trail.
Having exhausted the redfire of sunset, the canyon walls welcome cooling slices of monochromatic moonlight that cut through the veils of glowing heatshimmer, revealing a countenance of ancient angles hardened outside of time yet softened by the wisdom of eons.
The flowers and tendrils of purple mat overtaking the trail, the desert four-o'clocks trailing nearby.
The happy flowers--fetid marigolds, a name they deserve, we feel now--invite scorn on the wherever as the way gets hard.
The lazy chiff of a rattler inviting our departure.
An occasional mushroom, so wet, springing up along the dry Tonto Plateau; and another.
Subtleties of erosion.
Where is the air? Why must I stop again? Oh, but... ah! the juniper is so thick in the breeze.
A vast garden of rocks at Escalante Beach that would speak with the voice of the gods to any sculptor, with proportions of great purity, and nearly fractal in balance and scale.
Frog Rock A frog rock at Escalante

Speckles of ancient, natural paint in the grey sandstone rock look like splashes of fresh mud; touch....
Bouquets of fossils along the Grandview Trail.
Mysterious, perfectly round formations; fossils? volcanic remains? but not drawings of a human hand.
The roof has fallen; we did not sleep there (this year).
We mistake distant rocks for sheep, but what sheep!

The Middle-Aged Hiker is Copyright ©1993-97,2002 by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz and David Gunn. All rights reserved.