My 25-year-old son Ryan is a veteran backpacker, thanks to being hauled into the wilderness by me and his dad since he was 6 months old. During his visit from Seattle two weeks ago, I wanted to experience with him the high Chisos trails, and to see the glorious sunrises and sunsets from the South Rim here at Big Bend National Park. Working around my duty schedule, we chose two nights and three days for a backpack trip. First night at Toll Mt. near Emory Peak. Second night at SW4 on the South Rim.
Well, the gods were against us, but despite the forecast of rain (we usually don’t get it even when forecast) we hitched up our packs and hiked up the Pinnacles Trail under overcast skies. My backpack is an old external frame which I carried for 12 days on my solo backpack trip on the 90-mile Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier 19 years ago. I carried 55 pounds then. I think I had 45 to 50 on this trip, including cameras and binoculars. My body shape had changed and I couldn’t get the weight of the pack to settle on my hips, where it belonged, so my shoulders weren’t too happy.
Ryan is about 20 feet tall, limber, and long-legged, so he was impatient with my slower pace. Especially when I stopped to watch birds, such as the western bluebirds eating madrone berries. The Pinnacles trail is considered steep, but it really wasn’t too bad. Especially in comparison to the Wonderland Trail which had a 3500 foot elevation gain and loss in one day. But even in my peak years, I was a slow traveler.
We reached Toll Mountain, set up the little tent, fired up the Pocket Rocket stove, and had some good East Indian food with Minute rice, stored the rest of the food and smelly items in the bear box, covered our packs with tarps, and crawled in the tent a little early as the first raindrops fell.
Back at the residence, I moved in a brain fog. At 2 pm a big crack of thunder shook the trailer, rain poured, and then a bright bright rainbow showed itself. I was already in my gown. By 6:30 I was in bed, and if there had been a loud party with dancing on my bed I would not have awoken. I slept the sleep of the dead, and 13 hours later arose refreshed. Ryan told me there had been a terrific thunderstorm during the night. We would have been lightning bait had we continued our trip.
The following week, when my brother Alan joined us, I had planned a canoe trip with the River Rangers, but the forecast of rain and sleet, and the memory of The Worst Night of My Life, led to us bailing out. We went to Hot Springs instead and soaked in the 105 degree pool, (in the 40s, no rain) and had a stimulating conversation with some retired folks from northern Maine who spend winters traveling the Southwest with their Toyota Rav 4 and a small Scamp trailer. Now that’s my kind of camping.
Two days later Ryan spent 2 solo nights on SW 4, traveling at his own speed, enjoying the solitude and beauty. He got snarled at by a mountain lion in the shrubs which he didn’t see. He was between the lion and a herd of deer, so it was probably ticked at the interference in its hunting. He picked up some rocks and kept a lookout, but never saw the critter. I’m glad he got to experience the High Chisos in all its glory.
At least I got to finish “Tuck Everlasting.” Twice.
>Sometimes petty events are like the little cactus spines that stick in your shins and won’t let go. They can even go right into a nerve and cause pain far out of proportion to the point of entry. I was reminded of a prayer I have on my wall at home, which was actually written by someone else and revised before going on Mother Teresa’s wall at the orphanage in Calcutta (supposedly). No matter what the genesis of the prayer, I find it to be one of the most meaningful philosophies in my life. Something to keep sane by. Here it is:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.