You are far away from home in a strange land, yet you feel calm and assured that the two of you will meet any challenges and come away with memories to cherish forever and photos to rival postcards.
In March 2010, I was on such a hike. As a surprise for CJ’s 40th birthday, I planned a trip to West Texas to hike in Big Bend.
The trip was a huge success. So the room that boasted the hot tub and ambiance was a delapitated, overpriced hovel with a Navajo blanket stapled to the wall as a window covering and the tub would need six bleach cleansings in order for me to consider soaking my feet in it. The two concave shapes in the mattress proved that memory foam does work. It appeared to have remembered the body shapes of the last 600 hotel guests.
A Roar in the Bushes
On the first morning, we drive into the park, eyes-a-bulging. Maps in hand, we hop out of the car eager to romp off into the desert and be one with nature.
The signs at the trail-heads are not warnings but inevitable encounters - at least to me. I read and commit to memory the actions I will take when I see a mountain lion as, they assure me on the sign, they do exist in this park. Don’t run. Face the lion and back away slowly. Try to appear large. Shout. If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones.
I plan on seeing one. As I sniff the fresh desert air and keep pace, I scan the far off mountainsides, the bushes, and any rock bigger than a foot in circumference. Small mountain lions could hide there, could they not?
Not an hour into our hike, I hear a low growl.
Did you hear that? I ask CJ.
Well, I think we should do what the sign says, I say.
Try to appear large. My hands go in the air above my head as my heart sinks into my stomach. CJ waves his hands above his head.
Shout. My weak yelps grow confident once CJ begins yelling, Hey! Whoa! Go on! Get outta here!
Throw stones. I bend down and pick up the largest rocks I can find. CJ follows. While we love animals, we do not wait to see if one will come out and ”act aggressively.” We throw rocks into the nearby bushes from which, we both agree, the roars came.
No rustling cometh from the bushes. No attacks. Nada.
While still facing the bushes, we agree that we have a choice. We can return to the trailhead and perhaps find a kiddie trail close to the visitor center, or we can continue on. We chose the latter and the events of our next four days constitute the best trip to date.
Lessons from the Desert
The trip was a symbol for what we are aiming for in day to day life – being able to come together and make decisions that improve the quality of our lives. Sometimes these decisions are small. Should we stay at the coffee shop the extra ten minutes we need to finish work on the next chapter? Some not so small. Are we living our best lives?
And you, Jolly reader?