Do you ever have one of those adventures that you just know that you’re going to remember forever? Today so many exciting and interesting things happened, that it’s going to be hard to not run out of room on the internet with just the important parts.
After my sunset show for the horses yesterday, Mom and I drove a few miles up the 20 mile dirt road that led to tomorrow’s trail. We pulled over, and Mom made dinner while the moon watched and I tried to keep warm in the Covered Wagon. I could tell that we were closer to the sky because the moon looked so close that I could practically count the speckles on his face. We could tell by the way the stars turned into solid dark that even though we were up high, we were on an enormous flat area without any buildings or human things. It was also cold in the attic of the world. After thinking about it all night, The Witch would figured out that it was 23 degrees cold. But we were wearing our warm clothes and cuddled together under our 2 sleeping bags and 2 blankets, so Mom and I were comfy warm and snug as mugs in hugs.
In the morning we still had to drive another 15 miles up the dirt road, which took almost an hour. And then, when we were almost at the end, Huzzah! A paved road. I don’t know how no one thought to pave the 19 miles that led to that road, but we were glad because places that are hard to get to don’t get crowded! We turned a corner and found… a gate across the road. Gates really makes it hard to get somewhere, and guarantees that it won’t be crowded. Mom read the sign, “The park is closed due to the government shutdown. For your safety, no entry past this point.” She sat in the driving chair, trying to figure out what this meant. Then she pulled the Covered Wagon to the side of the road and got our hiking stuff.
“How long do we have to hike to get to the trailhead, Mom?” I asked.
“Four miles,” she said.
“And then how long is the trail?”
“And what happens when we finish the trail?”
“We have to hike 4 miles back.”
“Mom, what’s 4+5+4?”
“And what’s that rounded up for getting lost?”
“More than fifteen.”
Fifteen miles was a long distance to run, but walking it would take all day. Mom and I walked dejectedly down the paved road beyond the gate, staring longingly at the cliffs that we wished we were hiking on. Then Mom stopped. She looked back at the gate. She looked at the Covered Wagon. She looked at the desert next to the gate. And then she started walking back to the Covered Wagon. “Wait! Where are you going?!” I thought after her as I watched her go. “Aren’t we hiking?”
But no, Mom put me back in the Covered Wagon and turned it on. Then she drove right off the paved road and into the bushes and sand next to the gate, just like Walter White did when he was being an outlaw.
“Towanda!” Mom hooted.
“To Heisenberg!” I howled.
Neither of us actually said those things. But when we drove back onto the pavement on the other side of the gate, Mom did laugh a crazy, evil, triumphant laugh like Kathy Bates after she smashed that fancy car.
The place that we were visiting was called Choco Canyon, but they weren’t serving hot cocoa today. Probably because of the government shutdown. Joke’s on them, though, because dogs can’t eat chocolate, and I got to hike with my leash off because no one was there to catch me. Another thing that I got to do because no one was around was to go into the crumbly old building that was next to the parking lot. Mom wouldn’t let me actually touch any of the walls because she said there’s a difference between breaking the rules and being disrespectful, but as we walked through what was left of the building she told me about how people built it a thousand years ago. Even though it was a lot of work and they built a lot of big buildings in this canyon, modern people who dig through their old trash think that almost no people actually lived here. That seemed like a big waste of effort for just a sometimes home.
Behind the tumble-down building we found the trail, which climbed right up the cliff. Standing at the bottom, you wouldn’t even be able to see that there was a way up. This climb was a lot like our adventure scramble in Las Vegas, only less scary because I didn’t have to jump as high; but more scary because if I missed I would fall right off the cliff and might land on one of those walls I wasn’t allowed to touch. Then, the trail went into an enormous rock. Inside the rock there was a hallway about two Oscars wide that went all the way to the sky. It was like going through a secret passageway, and when we got to the other side, we were on top of the cliffs looking down at the Covered Wagon.
We hiked around on top of the cliffs, letting the Karens show us where to go so that we wouldn’t walk off a cliff. I found a bunny and sprinted after it at a million miles an hour along the cliff’s edge. I chased him pretty far before he got away, and when I came back around the corner to find Mom, she was screaming my name and looking panicked. “Don’t you ever sprint like that along a cliff!” she told me. Like I would ever run off the cliff like dumb old Wiley E Coyote. On the edge of the cliff there were similar rock shapes to other canyons that we had visited, and Mom was so in love with the different shapes and views that she wanted to take a picture at each one. So I was glad when the trail turned away from the cliffs and walked onto the big open grassland that was on top of the cliff.
We followed some kind of hoof tracks left in the soft sand. And sometimes I even saw paw prints about the size of my own, which was funny because the park had been closed to people other than us for a long time, and I never saw human prints with the paw prints. Then we came over a rise and to our surprise, we found two more of those huge tumble-down houses, way up here on the roof of the world. “A thousand years ago, this was the center of the most advanced society for a thousand miles,” Mom told me. “People came here from all the desert to trade things. They’ve found things from as far away as Mexico.”
I looked around. It sure seemed like an empty place to me. “Weren’t people scared to wander through the desert without coyotes to get here?”
“Back then they had roads as wide as our roads to get here. There were hundreds of miles of them, and you would have to go 30 miles from this spot before they stopped.”
“Wasn’t anyone upset that the Mexicans were coming up here to work?” I asked.
“Well, this was hundreds of years before Mexico was a thing. They had different international relations back then.”
This was so confusing. How could people from a place share everything they had and benefit from each other’s work in one millennium, and their great, great, great, great… great grandpuppies be so territorial?
We hiked on and on through the flat spot in the sky until the trail led us back to the tops of the cliffs. We were still walking away from the Covered Wagon, and I was starting to get worried about how we’d get down. Then, the trail disappeared into a rock. When I looked at where we had to go, I thought for sure Mom had gotten us lost again. No way this was the trail! But there were Karens and signs all around the big rock that had swallowed the trail. When I peeked through the crack, there was another sign at the bottom that said “TRAIL.” This crack was shaped like a V, and at the bottom where the hikers go it was only about 0.8 Oscars wide. Then, to my dismay, Mom disappeared into the crack.
I followed her cautiously, but about half way down, the crack got so narrow that my strong, manly chest simply would not fit through. I tried to go forward, but I just got wedged in there. Mom tried to urge me to squeeze through, but I said, “Nah, let’s find another way,” and backed out of the crack. She came back with treats and convinced me to try one more time, but I got stuck again. Now I was starting to panic. What if I was stuck up here forever? What if there was no way down? Is this what happened to the Choco people and why they never came back to live in their big houses?
Then, to my horror, Mom walked away from the bottom of the crack. I kept watching the place she’d disappeared from until much to my relief, she came back with a rock the size of a stack of frisbees, climbed up, and stuck it in the narrow spot. Then she called me down again.
“Heavens no!!” I whined. “Let’s just go back the way we came.”
“I don’t want to have to walk 4 miles back. Plus, I want to see what’s this way. Come on, you can stand on the rock and go through the V where it’s wider.”
“I’m not going down there again,” I whimpered. “I’ll be stuck there forever.” I was as panicked as when I have to wait outside a Starbucks, and there was no way I was going back in that slot to die. She tried treats, and she tried clapping and snapping, but every time she did, she took a step back up closer to the top of the crack. I was winning. Maybe I could convince her to come all the way back up and we could walk back. Finally, I won and she climbed all the way back up the slot… and took out the leash. Cheater! I was too scared to fight the leash too much, so I followed her, and when her plan worked and I squeezed through the narrow part by standing on the frisbee rock, I didn’t wait for Mom to lead me the rest of the way back down, but knocked her legs out of my way and bolted to safety.
As we hiked along the cliffs, we could look down at the tumble-down houses. Each one was bigger than our Stuck House and had lots of circle rooms and square rooms and windows, and walls, and holes where they could put tree trunks. I think I was supposed to feel something when I saw them, like curiosity or something, but really the landscape was much more interesting. Even the tumble-down houses seemed to think so, and be trying to turn back into the landscape.
Once we got back to the Covered Wagon, we had to get back out of the park. We drove down the one-way road through the Choco canyon to the exit, and when we got there, Mom said, “Uh oh.” Not even Heisenberg could drive around this gate. There was a big ditch on both sides, with lots of bushes and rocks and things. Luckily, we were wild west outlaws, and also luckily we knew we were the only ones in the canyon. We turned around on the road that was narrower than the Choco roads, and drove 8 miles the wrong way up a one way street to break back out of the park.
Next stop: The most exciting thing on our trip… The REAL white dirt.
Oscar the Outlaw