The next house we found really needed some maintenance. It was barely more than a pile of stones with a hole in it for a window, and half of the wall missing for another window. “They weren’t much into home improvement, were they?” I asked, shaking my head. “People never think of the labor when they build their houses in such inaccessible places.”
I had never understood why humans collect things just for looking at, but as I looked at the tiny home wearing a hat of rampaging flame, I thought I understood how a building tells the story of the person inside. It’s a little bit like how the desert and mountains tell their story through cliffs, canyons, rocks and rivers both by what is missing and what is left behind.
The only way forward was to push through the branches like abominable snowmen. I let Mom go first because when she crashes through the brush, she knocks all the white dirt off the branches and carries it away in her collar, waistband and inside the packpack.
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.