Right before you reach the white dooms in New Mexico you have to cross fan of mountains that grabs your eyes and won’t let them go. Hijacked eyeballs is a real problem when Mom is driving, and makes the life threatening danger makes thing that stole them extra memorable. So Mom and I skipped the white dooms and came back just to stare at those mountains while we tripped down a trail rather than swerving down the highway.
We were waiting at the gate when the Unlocking Man came to open it, because Mom insisted we start hiking at sunrise to beat the heat that was in her imagination. But once we saw the trail, it was clear that we wouldn’t need all day to climb it.
“Sheesh, we could practically run this,” Mom said looking at the flattish dirt and low rocks that made up the trail.
“Not with the number of pictures you’re taking,” I said. We were climbing toward the huge crown of spikes that were the centerpiece of the bouquet of eye-sticking granite, and Mom was stopping every minute to have me pose for pictures.
“Yeah, but it seems a shame to waste a trail like this by walking. This is the kind of trail running that could actually be fun.”
“Then why don’t you run?” I asked. “You can drop the leash and…”
“Because I have about 15lb of water on my back,” Mom said, like 15 extra pounds had ever stopped her before.
Even though it was very easy to follow, Mom tripped and swore almost as often as she took pictures because the big rocks above our heads kept stealing her eyeballs making the rocks under us steal her feet. Before long the trail slithered away from the crown and over to a side saddle of the mountain dragging us with it. When we reached the lowest high point in the entire comb of rocks Mom said, “Well I guess that’s why they call it a ‘pass.’” She shrugged.
“As in, ‘I’ll pass on this trail?’” I asked. I was glad we weren’t doing any rock climbing, and didn’t think it was as bad as all that.
“As in, it’s the easiest part to pass through,” Mom explained. She looked back toward the more exciting peaks behind us, “but I almost wish we had tried to climb them.”
The pass wasn’t only a passageway for dogs and their Moms, it was also a freeway for wind to travel from Las Cruces to the missile playground. “If we climbed onto one of those rocks I would be blown away like a kite!” I said.
“There were trails to the top, but all the reviews started with warnings. But now that I look, I think we could do it,” she said wistfully.
“You always say that,” I said. Usually our rock climbing involves Mom getting me into scary situations and then laughing at me doing heroic things to avoid serious injury.
The trail continued down the other side of the pass, and now that the views were behind us where they couldn’t reach Mom’s eyes, she decided that it wasn’t too hard to run with a quarter Oscar of water on your back after all. Mom thumped and lurched behind me as I ran, hopping and flying over the rock steps, and floating and flowing down the dirt sections. We ran until the picture frame the mountains made to each side opened up to a wide view of the missile testing ground, accented with highlights of canary grey wildflowers. When the scenery stopped changing much, we turned back around.
Mom tried to run, but when the hill or the rocks sucked away her momentum, the mountains pulled at her eyeballs again and slowed her pace back down to a slow tripping stomp. “Oscar, I think I can see an easy route to the top of those spires. They’re not the big ones in the middle but…”
“Mom! NO!” I said, in the same voice she uses when she reads my thought bubble about borrowing someone’s snack.
“Okay, fine,” she said, lowering her head so that her hat would protect her eyes from the mountain and let her run again.
Since we were the first ones on the trail, we didn’t meet other people until we turned around. Once we did, we found that half of New Mexico had come to this trail to shake off their cabin fever. We met a scowling woman who didn’t return Mom’s greeting because she was staring at the ground like she’d lost something small. We met a group of students who I liked for all their smiles and loud barks, but who made Mom scowl at the ground like she’d lost something. We met many people who asked stupid questions, and a few who acted like coronavirus could be spread by a smile.
“I’m glad people are getting outside, but I was kind of enjoying the world being empty,” Mom said.
“How long before the world goes back to normal and people want to hang out inside again?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think that people are going to make it,” Mom said.
“Will the world ever be the same again?” I asked.
“No, it won’t. But you know what I think? I think that this experience is going to change the world for the better in ways that we don’t expect.”
“What do you mean?”
“People are being forced to compromise on things that they never thought they could live without,” Mom said.
“Like toilet paper?”
“Well, I was thinking like going to the office or hanging out with friends, but I guess they’re getting creative with smaller details too. Anyway, people are finding out what really matters, and they’re inventing creative ways to get things that they took for granted before.”
“So how’s that going to change the world?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but whatever it is I bet it’s going to be pretty cool,” Mom said.
Oscar the Pooch