Friday, May 7, 2010

Tree Hugger!

Recently I agreed to take some young people on a hike, so last Monday evening I was out driving the back roads of Blanding looking for a good trail. I knew the area well, because Spenser and I would ride our mountain bikes out there when he was barely old enough to mount-up. To be more accurate, I peddled and Spenser rode behind on a trail-a-bike securely attached to the seat post. It was great fun, and remarkably memorable. This time, however, I was driving my Toyota four wheel drive pickup, and going places I probably should not have gone. Not because it was dangerous, but because the heavy winter had left the ground moisture-laden. The roads were steep, washed-out at several critical junctures, and I did not have a jack with me. It would have been relatively easy for me to slide off into a ditch and become high-centered. Yes, I have personally gotten stuck while driving a four wheel drive, so it is possible. It takes talent, but it is doable. Walking the five miles or so back to town would have been easy, but explaining the mishap to my wife would have been tough on my ego. The possibility of becoming bogged down and busted kept me from pushing the limit.

First Woman/Changing Woman Basket

Driving to the western edge of the mesa, I espied an enticing area peppered with interesting looking juniper and pinon trees located just across a small canyon. Looking closely at the rock strewn dirt track winding its way into the steep depression caused me a little anxiety, but not enough to extinguish my desire to attempt a crossing. I believed I could traverse the wide ditch at the bottom and scramble up the opposite incline without too much trouble. It was, however, a trifle hairier than I thought, because the ditch splitting the arroyo was deeper than it seemed from the top. I took my time, drove carefully and soon found myself on the opposite side. As I topped out, I looked to the left and discovered faint impressions marking an old road passing through the trees. I steered the truck south and slowly drove into the ragged and stunted forest. As I passed beyond the trees, I noticed the little mesa I was on becoming narrower by the yard. I soon realized I was on an extended finger of land high above two deep canyons. The vague road ended without warning and I found myself at a tight turnaround point overlooking what I assumed was Big Canyon on my right and a smaller, unnamed side canyon on my left.

Turning off the engine, I exited the vehicle and walked to the rim. It was a spectacular view. I stood high above the impressively rugged canyon floor looking directly west into the setting sun. I could see Elk Ridge rising up just in front of me and surveyed a vast array of canyons and mesas to the southwest. Because of the slow course of the sun, the landscape ebbed and flowed with light as I stood appreciating its variable colors. It seemed as if I were watching a slow-motion slide show. It had been a cloudy, somewhat blustery day up to this point, but as the golden orb of the sun made its last stand on the horizon it seemed to pause just under the cloud cap and rest for a moment on the rim of the world. The wind died down, and a sense of peaceful calm crept over the land. As I stood there in silent admiration, something on the periphery of my vision captured my attention. Looking to my right I saw an especially unique tree which had sprouted near the canyon rim. This stunted and gnarly pinon had more twists and turns in its trunk than I thought possible. Except for the three separate caps of greenery on top, it looked like an ancient octopus with highly weathered and textured tentacles. I walked up to the singularly impressive visage and looked it over carefully.

The tree was a perfect example of nature's artistry. Her handiwork was impressive, and inspirational. As I looked, I noticed a depression in the trunk of the aged pinon and two upward sweeping arms extending from either side. A throne, I thought to myself as I crawled under the three piece canopy and settled down upon a comforting cushion of debris consisting of tiny dead branches, boughs and seeds laid down over centuries. I sat down and felt the trunk accept the curve of my back, raised my arms upon the extending branches and found my kingly seat to be a perfect fit. As I sat there looking over the canyon depths and watching the Sun Bearer ride his chariot into the depths of the netherworld, I realized this same tree had surely seen several thousand spectacular sunsets in its time, and would hopefully witness several thousand more. On this occasion it had very appreciative company. Embracing it as it had me, I returned to the truck and drove back into town.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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