“It has been said, and truly, that everything in the desert either stings, stabs, stinks, or sticks. You will find the flora here as venomous, hooked, barbed, thorny, prickly, needled, saw-toothed, hairy, stickered, mean, bitter, sharp, wiry, and fierce as the animals. Something about the desert inclines all living things to harshness and acerbity.” Edward Abbey, The Great American Desert 1977
Fast-moving low clouds filled the canyon. Any fog from our angst-ridden sleep dissipated as we soaked in the mystical display.
Around mid morning we reached the basin and entered ten miles of sand and desert that would erode our willpower step by step, grain by grain.
The sun beat down on us for hours and the weight of our water and food began to take its toll on our shoulders and feet. Eventually, I focused in on my brother’s paws, watching them trample rock after rock. I hardly looked up and when I did I was dejected by the slow-moving vista. Miles of harsh flora stood between us and Homer-Wilson Ranch, our resting place for the night.
The only signs of life were an occasional deer track, some baked horse turds, and a large tarantula. We felt frivolous for worrying about monsters of the forest when we saw so few critters.
By late afternoon, the drudgery of the desert had us disenchanted, openly questioning the use of this thirty-two mile trek. In travel, and often life, you must pass the point of initial frustration to gather new experience. We pushed onward for a few miles until we reached Homer-Wilson Ranch.
A spectacular red and orange sunset glistened off the towering canyon walls. Behind us we saw the distant peaks of the Chisos Mountains stretching far into Mexican territory. We headed up a hill and watched daylight slowly pale. We scanned upward and saw the black silhouette of a man with a Cowboy hat striking a contemplative pose atop the cliff. A perfect caricature of the American West made the long walk worth it, even if the man turned out to be somebody’s humdrum grandpa and not John Wayne.