Craig Wisner

Covington Flats, Joshua Tree, 12/17/10

Fleeing L.A., navigating a sea of cars, idling and lurching, the 10 Freeway a river of bodies, lights, and machines. Office Max’s and BJ’s Breweries, one after another, the day fast approaching that we will be able to get the same great products and customer service that we’ve come to expect anywhere on the globe. I’m not a praying man, but a prayer unconsciously escapes my lips nonetheless: Please just let me get to the desert and everything will be alright.

Clouds thickening, darkening, speeding to the trailhead Change clothes, shoulder pack, go. Tightening cuffs, drawing up hood, leaning into a freezing spray of fine rain, the desert slowly darkening, sky whited out, a steel blue-gray light; I’m lost in a world of wind, water, dirt, plants, I can see sheets of rain approaching on the horizon, wind-whipped yuccas in the gusts. Undoubtedly others have walked this valley, long before the age of machines.

How old could this footpath be? Pondering how trails are passed from animal to human, human to human, one generation to the next, disappearing between floods and droughts, reforming, nobody knowing with any certainty how long they’ve been there.

Darkness now, I keep walking, cross-country, headlamp held low, beginning to fear I’ll get lost in the thick cloud cover.

Suddenly crashing, ripping, cracking. I freeze, ripping off my hood to hear better. A flash flood, somewhere close, now panicked because I can’t see, unsure if I’m on high ground. It sounds like rockfall but it doesn’t stop, the bass of tumbling boulders, surprising absent of the sound of water. Half a minute passes, the sound dies down and I calm my nerves, sensing with my feet which way is uphill, only knowing I have to get there for the night.

 

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