On our way out of town we drove along the fence holding in the park. We stared longingly out the window at the white sands that looked like a beach vacation advertisement had gotten lost and found itself in the middle of Walter White's desert. Then, like a miracle, the dirt busted right through the fence and to the edge of the highway. Silly park people, you can’t hold in nature.
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.
It wasn’t just the big cactupi that had spines. The bushes did too. There were round Oscar-high poofs that looked like something you could sit on… if you wanted to get poked in the butt. And there were bushes that looked like they were made of spiny ping pong paddles. And other bushes had tiny little delicate spikes that looked almost like floofs of cotton unless you tried to touch them.
We drove to a dark that smelled like the ocean, sounded like waves, and felt like sand. Then Mom let me off the leash. Behind us in The City there were lights, and cars, and people, and all the human things, but here on the sand there was only dark and the invisible ocean going on and on forever. I ran around in big circles until I heard Mom calling my name, then I ran back to check on her before she let me run more circles through the deep sand and waves.
All the people who weren't at the mountain were really missing something special, because with the crowds gone, the cows were chilling right next to the trail. Not only that, but because cows are wide and flat like sails, they were all lying boneless on the ground so that they wouldn't blow away. I barked at a few of them, but they just rolled their big moo-cow eyes at me and stayed lying on the ground like dropped blankets.
"Mom, mom! Come here and look! Quick! There's a man dressed like Smokey the Bear!" Then Mom came clattering out of the bushes. If she were a cartoon character, she would have had twigs in her hair, hashtags on her cheeks and forehead, and her tongue hanging out. But in real life she just looked like a lost person.
Remember when I said that I wished we could just walk across the desert forever? Well... I changed my mind.
We left the main trail and followed the footsteps and rock piles back to the secret passageway that would take us back down the cliff. The only problem was that the trail disappeared as if by magic. We found a pile of rocks wedged under an overhang like it was trying to tell us something, but we couldn't figure out what. We went back and forth over the same 1/10 of a mile of trail over and over, and couldn’t find anything trail-like anywhere; no packed-down snow, no shoe prints in the sand, no rock piles, not even a long stretch without things to climb over.
As we climbed higher, even the mountain we were on started to grow a little stubble of white dirt. It was funny to see the spikey desert plants and tumbleweeds sticking out of the white dirt like that. There was even white dirt as we came down into Roadrunner and Wily E Coyote country where cracks became canyons and the white dirt made the mountains look more like wedding cakes than muffin tops.