Monday, May 3, 2010

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers 05/03/2010

Earth Day has passed for this year, but the memory of a personal commemoration still lingers. Three of us prepared many weeks ahead of time by getting obligatory permits to hike into the pristine walls of Aravaipai Canyon, and of course one never knows about the weather ahead of time. It is always the big question mark. This spring’s Earth Day weather turned out to be “iffy”. We were fearless and went in prepared for cold…layers, prepared for rain…rain gear, prepared for river walking…well who knows the best solution here? Nevertheless, off we go with maps, cameras, binoculars, bird books, snake sticks, and of course, plenty of fluids and munchies.

Once we found the stream our “big city sleep” slipped away and our “out of doors in nature savvy” took over. The senses sprang back like they had never been anesthetized, and wonder seeped out of every pore. Some of my/our experiences follow.

The first awareness was of the unsurprising serenity. Then the sound of the water eventually displaced the cluttery noise we entered with…you know…the stuff that persist whether you want it or not…the voices, the screechy city sounds…replaced by a consistent but changing and nuanced gurgle arising from the stream and dependent on the depth of the water, the width of the canyon walls, the underwater surfaces over which it must flow. Next came the visuals. The new spring green that was so vibrant we could almost smell it. It is that same green that hollered at us to catch the rippling motion as the wind teased each leaf into a symphony for the senses.

As we progressed, map in hand, we found a slot canyon…so cool…so mysterious…so curious. Was it the mother of all storms that hurled huge boulders (all huger that a truck) to block the passage? The sense of our own smallness came to mind and lingered as we moved on through the larger canyon.

What I haven’t mentioned is our fastidious attempts in the beginning to follow an ever extinguishing “trail”. We picked our ways, taking turns as leaders, always ending up in the inevitable trail, the water. Sure we had wet legged pants, heavily sanded shoes, and soggy, scratchy socks, but the few stops to unload the sand allowed us opportunity to observe things more closely…sand was a small price to pay.

We saw tenacious cacti growing on rocks faces. There were dozens of vultures above picking their ways from thermal to thermal. We happened upon a lumbering pinnecate beetle, butt in the air, flashing its gaseous extrusion to scare us away. Lovely splashes of color from seasonal penstemons greeted us at many turns. A first year black hawk took off in disgust as we passed in front of his hunting spot. And, the discovery of prey remains…some recognizable (skunk) and others less so, told us we had crossed over a dining area of a canyon predator.

As time and weather were issues, we reluctantly turned back. Sprinkles throughout the hike bespoke an imminent storm, and we weren’t that prepared! Funny how quickly we made it back out…pretty much made a beeline down the stream in retreat. It seemed to be another hike…everything looks anew traveling the same trail from a different direction….same trail, different perspective.

And as Heraclitus said, “You could not step twice into the same river.” We could try to imagine that the canyon and the river had been pristinely the same for eons and would remain so for eons. Imagine yes, but in reality we knew that as each second passed everything was changed. Not all change is bad, however. We certainly were changed for the better by enjoying our Earth Day outing in Aravaipai Canyon.

No comments: