The walls swooped and lunged at us like ghosts as we wound through for almost half a mile. Then we turned a corner and found ourselves looking up at a rock taller than Mom’s head. “I’ve got just the thing,” Mom said, pulling off her packpack. Then she looked at it like someone had pulled a dirty trick on her. “Oh crap, the emergency sling is in the other pack.”
But just because it was dangerous, illegal, and a really bad idea wasn’t enough to make Mom accept that the walking rocks were out of our reach, and for the next hour she kept trying to bargain with The Witch to find a way in.
That's why I was still tied to Mom when we came around Creature Corner, where I have met a lion, a wolf-dog, and too many bunny rabbits to count. This morning there was a new creature flumping across the path. It was a horseshoe-crab-shaped ball of fur that moved like a land sting ray. "STRIPEY STINK-CAT!" I barked.
"It’s not a race.” “Are you sure it’s not a race? They’re giving out medals and stuff…” “No, it’s a challenge. There’s a difference. A race is something that you do against someone else, a challenge is when you commit to doing something difficult and compete with yourself. It’s like a competitive resolution. Challenges are different for everybody because they depend on context.” “Wait, so a challenge is a contest?”
“Are you kidding me? Now that I’m a sophisticated man-dog and have seen the mountains and deserts of 9 states, I have more to say than ever,” I told her. "The more you've seen, the more there is to notice. The first time you see something, it's like a photo. But when you see the same things over and over, the differences unroll like a movie."
There's a reason that Mom and I don't like easy peasy trails as much as we do the badass ones, and it's not just because I like to brag. Mom doesn't turn around and talk to me as much when we're not in danger, and it's like we're on different adventures.
When we got back to the swishy butt crack rocks, there was a problem. This morning there had been little puddles at the bottom of the crack, but now the puddles filled the bowls in the rock like pools.
The mountains bulged roundly out of the ground like a pair of stretch pants. The air was dry, but a different dry than the sharpened and clean dry of the desert. This was a sticky, rustling, itchy dry.