To escape the hostile white dirt attacks, in Canyon Country, we needed to get across the Grand Canyon and through Flagstaff before we could come down out of the high desert. By the time we got to Flagstaff it was almost dinnertime, and the laptop, Mom and I all needed nourishment. Since we were almost to safety and nothing was falling from the sky, Mom and I shared a Happy Meal while the laptop sucked juice from the wall. By the time the laptop was full, I had finished my McRotguts, and Mom the fries, it was getting dark and for the third night in a row the air was filled with static. When we hit the winding mountain road out of the mountains, the road was growing its white skin and the Wagon slowed to running speed while Mom climbed to her gargoyle perch on top of the driving wheel to keep us safe until the static finally turned to rain and the road turned black again. When we got to the trailhead, we parked next to the NO CAMPING sign and rehearsed our excuses in case someone woke us up to tell us to move along. Then we let the drum corps on the roof lull us to sleep.
When we got up in the morning, the drums were still playing on the roof, so I was surprised to find it really wasn’t raining very hard when I hopped out of the Wagon to pee. We were planning to run in the rain anyway, so Mom shrugged and put on her shorts.
Now that it was light, I could see we were sitting under an enormous castle of rock and I couldn’t wait to explore it. We started climbing up the wet stone, but the leash that Mom insisted on wearing made it hard for both of us to balance, and the wet rock was slippery. Sometimes when I tried to jump up on a slippery rock, the leash pulled me back and I had to skitter and scramble with my claws against the rock until Mom scooted in closer to give me a little more stretch to the leash. Before long the trail disappeared into a long, steep crack that went straight up the base of the castle. Maybe on a dry day with lots of time Mom and I could have used our wits to get to the top, but in the wet I was worried that I would get stuck in the middle and have camp there until it was safe to come back down in the spring.
“Gorsh, the app said that this trail was supposed to be easy,” Mom said. “The definition of easy sure does vary from one city to another.” Then she pulled out The Witch and asked for advice. “Hey! This isn’t even the trail we were supposed to be on!” Mom said with excitement. That meant we didn’t have to feel like wimps for turning around!
We climbed back down to the bottom of the rock and followed a much dog friendlier trail that traveled in a ring around the base of the castle. Even though the up and down of the trail didn’t look like tachycardia (that’s a medicine word for excitement that I learned at work), it was still fun to run my paws over such exotic rocks. The rainwater ran off the castle in sheets and made the rocks shine, and the trees twisted and warped like old people’s fingers. And best of all, it was flat enough that we could run! California rocks aren’t team players and each one only gets in the way, but desert rocks flow and swoosh and I blew and swooped over them like a rock surfer. We ran and ran until we found ourselves in a forest next to a river that looked like something out of The East rather than The West.
Since Mom gets lost a lot, she is very interested in signs, which is how she noticed two different signs in two different places pointing to the same trail. “It must be a loop,” Mom said. “Let’s see where it goes. As long as we don’t lose the trail, it’ll bring us right back here.” The trail wasn’t on any of Mom’s mapps, so we had no idea if it was a half-mile loop or a 20-mile loop, nor did we know where it went and whether it went up a dangerous mountain or into a bottomless canyon. But we are confident adventurers, so I reminded Mom that no matter what we found, we’d figure out how to get back safely.
What we did find was a track that climbed up a gradual hill and over the sandstone. Near the trail were lumpy rocks that Mom found exciting because each one was a different shape. When the clouds blew away, in the distance we could see tremendous towers of rock popping out of the mist like the Game of Thrones theme song. Somewhere far away I heard a wolf howling, probably out of jealousy for my city slicker.
Suddenly I sniffed one of my favorite things. “Bacon!!!” I thought as I burst into a chasing sprint until the leash jerked me back to Mom-pace.
“Whoa!” Mom screamed when the leash nearly yanked her off her feet. Then she looked up and froze. “Whoa!” she shouted again, when she saw what was running across the trail in front of us.
“It’s Pumba!” I squealed as the leash pinned me down mid-sprint. ”Hang on! I want to hear about hakuna matata!”
“Holy dog doo! That thing’s the size of a Volkswagen!” Mom said. “I didn’t even know there were … whatever that thing is … in Sedona. What is that thing? A wild boar? A warthog?”
“There’s no way that bacon boulder can out-sprint me!” I wagged. “Lemme at him! I’ll have him teach you about his problem free philosophy when I catch him.”
“No way, José!” Mom said. “I’m not sure if I’m confusing pigs with rhinoceroses, but I’m pretty sure those things know how to fight.” So we stood there like a quivering statue as Pumba ran away down the hill before I could even tell him what a fan I was of his work.
It’s a shame that Mom didn’t get to hear about hakuna matata. I’d been trying to teach her about “no worries” since nothing bad happened on Christmas Eve, but she still didn’t get it yet. Today she had tons of extra worries about what all this rain would be doing higher up in the mountains for tomorrow’s hike.
Oscar the Hakuna Patata