It's very difficult to look at this photo and think that there's any way anything could possibly be "alive" on this barren, dusty landscape. The sky is hazy with dust and heat.
It tends to make you thirsty just looking at it. I must add an amusing anecdote at this point. Well, it's amusing now as I look back on it but was anything but funny at the time. I've always loved hiking, but have to admit that the majority of my outdoor adventures included walks in the rainforests of the Hawaiian Islands or following the wooded, mountain trails of the Adirondacks and Blue Ridge Mountains. In my mind, I was completely ready for my desert hike. I'd carefully packed extra water in my tiny backpack. I'd applied my sunscreen. So off I went.
As I approached my destination, my excitement was building at the prospect of exploring a place I'd never been before. I slowly maneuvered my car along the winding road, gazing out at the rather ominous looking terrain that surrounded me. It almost seemed to be taunting me to explore if I dared to.
After a long two mile drive, I reached the outpost/gift shop/restroom perched upon a plateau and parked my car. Grabbing my "gear," I eagerly set off for my hike, the map I'd been given at the park entrance in hand. Gauging the distance by eye rather than using the scale, I set off for what I thought was only suppose to be a two mile jaunt. I walked in quiet amazement as I looked up in awe at the sheer size of the palm trees looming above me. The canyon floor was cool and I easily understood why the Indians had chosen such a spot to call their home.
I continued to meander down the winding trail, taking in as much of what I was seeing as I possibly could. It's important to note at this point that the terrain had been basically flat, interrupted only occasionally with the gentle slope or rocks to step over. I came to what was suppose to be a stream crossing but was nothing more than a dry creek bed as the sun's blazing heat bore down on it. Once across, I followed the trail which was progressively getting steeper. It's important to note at this point that I'd lived in Florida for years prior to my adventure and rarely came in contact with a hill of any kind. Not to be intimidated, I marched on. Finally, I reached the sign I'd been looking for and turned onto Victor Trail. I was immediately cast out into the wide open desert terrain, leaving all semblances of shade behind me in the disappearing canyon. I slowly began my ascent of the mountainside, stopping often just to catch my breath and take in the amazing view from my cliff-side vantage point and take a sip of the water I'd so cleverly packed. Well...I kept on walking and walking as the landscape on both sides of me began to look exactly the same. There were rocks and sticks and cactus everywhere. At one point, I stopped just to sit on a rock and regroup. Looking out over the canyon, I could see my starting point way off in the distance but the trail I was following was becoming harder and harder to discern from the desert around me.
Gazing out at my far-a-way destination, it hit me....I was lost...lost in the desert the very first time I'd ventured out on a hike. I was soaking wet with sweat and very grateful for the water. I searched my backpack and found a package of Tic Tacs and began to put them in my mouth sparingly, in case they would have to last me for a while. Being a novice desert hiker, I didn't have a whistle or even a snakebite kit...and cell phones? Well, I'd have been better off to stand up on the highest rock I could find, shouting "Can you hear me now?" I have to admit that I had all kinds of odd thoughts racing through my mind as I sat on that rock, out in the middle of the desert...where no one would find me, mainly because no one even knew I'd gone up there. At one point, I caught myself laughing at how after all I'd been through, my life was going to end that way...alone in this God-forsaken desert. Refusing to accept defeat, I stood up and forced myself to move on, talking out loud and reassuring myself that I would reach my final destination if I just kept pushing on.
All's well that ends well....I did finally make it back to my car, feeling a bit stupid but also very triumphant. I returned many times to hike the Victor trail. In fact, it became my favorite place to go. I chose a place perched on the highest part of the canyon wall and stopped there each time, often spending hours at a time just sitting there, being one with nature and for me, with God. I wanted to share some of the beauty I was graced with on some of my other hikes. I watched as the melting mountain snow turned the barren desert landscape into a brilliant, living place...if only for a few short weeks. I hope you will appreciate the beauty of it all as seen through my eyes...
The desert truly is a living landscape that holds beauty hidden within, waiting only to be discovered by those who are not intimidated by her harsh, unfriendly greeting. I go back to this special place time and time again through my pictures and hope to return one day to my "little piece of heaven here on earth."