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.
“A crater?! Like from a meteor from space?!” I looked around at the flatness around me with new eyes. Maybe this was where the crater was that bombed the dinosaurs. Maybe this crater was SO BIG that the edges of it just looked like mountains. “No, not that kind of crater. A volcano crater.”
People who don't like the desert just don't appreciate its drama. It's like they are going to the movies hoping to see something with Colin Firth, and instead they get Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a very good actor, and his movies are always very well written and artfully directed, but it is the kind of drama that has grunts, and blood, and gore, and pain, not the drama with tea and feelings.
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.
I could see that someone had decorated the whole park for Christmas. There was a delicate sprinkling of White dirt on everything that looked like the opposite of a shadow. Rather than the underside of everything being dark, now the sunny side of everything was white. The decorator hadn't missed anything, from the tiniest twig on the stubby trees that were all twisted like candy canes to the giant towers that made up the canyon.
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.