Monday, April 17, 2006

The Tularosa Basin from Dog Canyon Trail

Sunday was my day to hike part of Dog Canyon National Recreational Trail. In total, it is almost 6 miles and an altitude gain of 3,100 feet. The first 6/10th of a mile, the trail climbs 600 feet, switch-backing up a steep hillside to reach the first plateau area. This entire part of the trail is visible from the campgrounds. Since I was hiking by myself, my goal was to reach this first plateau and then either come back or go further depending on the difficulty. With binoculars, camera and water in my backpack, I got an early start. The trail faces southwest and would be extremely hot by midday.

I hiked the escarpment – loosely translated as slanty rock surface. I climbed slowly and carefully, enjoying the view. I could see the entire width of the Tularosa Basin, the white sands (the famous White Sands), and the San Andreas mountains – and of course the entire RV portion of the park.

After reaching the plateau, taking pictures and enjoying the view. I decided to go further. The trail leveled out and became mostly dirt instead of rock. Now instead of planning every footstep, I could relax and enjoy this meadow area. The predominant cactus here is prickly pear. Thanks to yesterday’s plant walk, I knew to search out the less-obvious kinds. They were all over the place – one alongside the trail, the rainbow cactus, had its showy yellow blossom.

Several kinds of birds, including two mountain chickadees and several finches, flitted around and I met up with a Collard Lizard who seemed to pose for my picture taking.

When I reached the one-mile marker and the trail again headed up, I turned around. I had lingered so long during this mile that it was about 10:30 and it would be a hot, treacherous hike back down. (Note to my hiking friends: distance-wise it sounds like a wimpy hike, doesn’t it? I went for quality instead of quantity!)

My icy-cold Corona was wonderful when I got back to Jeremiah. I relaxed in my reading chair and started reading a book recommended by my friend Nancy Griffin: Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson. It is the true adventure of two men who risked everything to solve the mystery of a missing German U-boat. Author Clive Cussler called the book, “An engrossing saga of the suspenseful, intriguing, and dangerous underwater investigation of a mystery sunken U-boat.” What a book! Those who know me well know that I’m an early-to-bed person – On Sunday night I stayed up reading until 11 p.m.

Good thing I had decided to make Monday a kickback day. I read off and on all day, taking breaks for several one-mile walks around the park, and finished it by suppertime.

Two tidbits from the book stuck in my mind:

Most men go through life never really knowing themselves. A man might consider himself noble or brave or just … but until he was truly tested it would always be mere opinion.

When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows who he really is. Some people never get that moment.