I’m beginning to think that Mom is trying to kill me. Does she resent all of my high-quality life coach advice? (Some people just don’t want to work on themselves, you know…) She says we need to seize the day and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime trip… and also that we can’t be inside the parked car-house in the heat of the day. But I suspect she has murder in her heart.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… We started our day with a hike-run on top of a 9000 ft mountain. Most days that wouldn’t be so high (since we have usually been sleeping at 6 or 7000 feet) but last night we had slept on shorter ground. As the car-house put-put-putted up the hill at half the speed limit I asked Mom, “How high have we climbed anyway?”
Mom didn’t know, so she asked her phone, “What’s the altitude of Las Vegas?”
“Las Vegas is at 2001 feet above sea level,” said the lady inside her phone, who is a real know-it-all and kind of judgy too.
“I think I can, I think I can…” said the car-house. Mom was afraid that the car-house would run out of food and we might get stuck on the mountain, even though it started the morning with a half-full belly.
When Mom let me out of the car-house I was surprised that it wasn’t windy. Down at the bottom of the world where we slept the wind had been blowing 20mph and gusting at Wizard of Oz speeds, but up here on top of the world it was calm and there were no dog-hating witches flying around on brooms (except the one in Mom’s phone, who can’t fly). We were so high up that we were in the mountain’s white hat, and I got to see the white dirt up close. It lay there like other dirt, so I ignored it.
Even though we were already on the roof of the world, the trail kept going up and up and up. It wasn’t very steep, but the air was really broken up here and we kept having to slow down and hike to catch our breaths. Every time we turned around a bend Mom said, “This one must be the top!” But it wasn’t. Mom always thinks that if a trail goes up a certain amount then it has to go down by the same amount, but I know better. I’ve learned from experience that trails always go up much more than they go down, and this one was just exaggerating things.
Finally the trail got narrower and started going down. Usually I lead on the uphills and then stay right behind Mom so that her heels kick me in the chin on the downhills for safety and sympathy. But since I was tired, I had followed Mom the whole way uphill to the top. I was right in my place behind her when she asked me to come ahead so that she could take a picture. Picture taken, I started running again. Suddenly a love for running whooshed back into me, and I got a serious case of the zoomies. I started bounding down the trail as fast as joy, like the wind from down lower was in my feet. The times I looked back at Mom, she looked weightless too. Usually she’s stiff and ungainly as a water buffalo with bad self esteem when she runs, but now she looked a little less plodding. Not graceful, but kind of like a shopping cart with a wonky wheel rolling down a hill, which meant she was having fun too.
When we were done on the mountain, Mom turned the car-house into a kind of sled and we just let gravity take us down the mountain. Mom and the car-house must share a soul, because the car-house wobbled like a shopping cart with a wonky wheel as it rolled down the steep hill too. Once we were off the mountain, we kept going down gradually until we were even lower than the ocean sits, except this place was very dry. We have been in a lot of deserts on this trip, and this was one of the uglier ones. It looked like it wasn’t done being made yet, and someone had made the mountains and valleys, but forgot to decorate them with trees and different colored rocks and lakes and stuff. Most of the other deserts we’d visited hadn’t been that hot, but this one was.
After a few hours Mom pulled over and parked the car-house at the bottom of a dirt track. “This is our next hike?!” I asked, incredulous. “We can’t! It’s too hot.”
“It’s only like 70 degrees. And look, I have plenty of water. And I’ll soak your bandana so that it keeps you cool.”
“But… it’s so ugly!” This place was even uglier than the Wiley Coyote wilderness that we’d hiked in the dump-campground. It was just whitish sand, and whitish rocks, and ugly featureless mountains and nothing else. It wasn’t even a real trail, just a dirt road wide enough for 2 cars to pass each other.
“AllTrails says that there’s a waterfall at the top!” Mom said.
“Oh they did, did they? And you didn’t think it might be a hoax? Really! A waterfall in Death Valley…”
“But there were pictures!” Mom insisted.
“And every picture on the internet is real? Come on! I believe that you threw the toy every time you snap your wrist, and even I know you can’t believe everything you see on the internet.” Mom was definitely walking me into the desert to kill me. Breaking Bad, True Detective… I knew that this is how people kill people in the desert. She was going to walk me up this trail, then she was going to tell me to start digging, and at sunset she was going to tell me to “sit” at the edge of the hole, and only one of us was going to hike out of the desert…
As we hiked up the road, one car after another passed us coming down. “Where do you supposed they’re all coming from?” Mom asked. I had no idea. This trail was so featureless that it didn’t even have any shade on it. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would visit anything in the dung-hole. After more than 2 miles we came to where all of the cars were coming from: a parking lot. Ooh la la. But… I’ll be darned if there wasn’t a picture of a waterfall in the parking lot. These pranksters had really gone the extra mile.
Beyond the parking lot the desert was just as deserted, but I had to admit it did kind of look like a dry riverbed. Then, suddenly the ground was wet, and there were a few trees that smelled green. We followed the water about half a mile up into a little canyon. All the while there were more trees, the little brook was getting wider and wider, and we had to climb some pretty tough rocks. There were a few spots where I thought for sure either Mom or I were going to slip and fall off the rocks with our wet feet, but we didn’t. Because one of us is a badass, and the other one is lucky.
Much to my surprise… after almost 3.5 miles of hiking through the ugliest, driest desert we’d seen so far, there was a beautiful waterfall and a clear pool in a cool little glade of trees. It seemed just like something that you would have seen in the center of an upscale shopping mall… I think. (I don’t actually know because malls went extinct before my lifetime.)
Mom didn’t end up murdering me because there were witnesses. As we hiked back down to the car-house, people driving down from the parking lot stopped and asked if we were okay. “No! She’s going to murder me execution style!” I shouted with doggie telepathy.
“Yup, we’re fine. My van just can’t make it up this road so we parked at the bottom,” she said.
“Do you have water for the pooch?” the Good Samaritan asked.
“No! This is a forced march! She wants to hike me to death!” I screamed in my head.
“Oh, be quiet, Oscar. You just peed like 10 minutes ago,” said Mom over doggie telepathy. And to the man she said, “Yup. I have a backpack full of it!” But she DIDN’T have a backpack full of it, because I’d already drunk most of it. So that was a lie too.
To be honest, I was feeling better now that I’d been in the shade. I had so much energy that instead of hanging out depressed behind Mom, I went ahead to try to get her to hurry up. When I started to get out of range, Mom would run until she counted to 100 and then walk again. That way we got to the car-house before I croaked, and so I’m able to tell you guys this story.
-Oscar the Survivor