Trail maps usually list the length of the trail followed by the difficulty. In this case, things seemed normal. There were three levels of difficulty; Easy, Moderate, and Difficult. The map showed “Trail: 1.2 Miles; Difficulty: Difficult; Elevation Change: 800 Feet”. In my mind it said, “Trail: 1.2 Miles“… A walk in the park. In New Mexico, every single element here is out to kill you. There is no soft cushion of grass or a nice tree limb out there to hold you up when you fall. If there is, there is a rattlesnake in that grass and a black widow in that tree. I had forgotten what an unrelenting place this is. Soft and well worn Colorado spoiled me. No worries about cactus and yucca, just big wide trails. Colorado does have some tough trails made for equally tough people. I know trails that have taken lives. Each time I hit a “trail” in New Mexico, I find myself surprised. However, it is no surprise to me that the fishing a quarter of a mile upstream is so good, if you make it alive.
Looking over the map, lights turned green and I was off with haste. Within 5 minutes I was bleeding and suffering from a twisted ankle. 10 minutes, torn shirt and bruised elbow. 1 hour, soaked from the shoulder down. 1 hour and 10 seconds, the smile on my face would not go away. As I chased fish too big for the stream down river, I dropped into holes that instantly dropped four to five feet from ankle deep. I was wet and sore, bleeding and smiling, cold and thinking.
Losing track of time is not alright when you are deep in a canyon. The sun sets at five and sunset is closer to six, giving a false idea of how much light you have left. With the idea that the trail is 1.2 miles, I poked around the stream a fraction of a bit too long, the fishing was almost too good. Before long, I was fishing in the actual sunset and light faded quickly. Not knowing where exactly I was, I figured simply hiking up the steep hill behind me would reveal the trail. A shortcut, back country style. When I could see the point, to my right, there was also another parking lot. I had hiked in well over a mile upstream. I remembered passing a large dead ponderosa and could see it in the distance, but light was fading fast. It was time to put the screws to the hike. Scrambling over sage and cactus, the incline began to become steeper with each step. Then again, the burning in my legs could have simulated the effect.
When in peril, sunsets begin to fade exponentially. The same can be said about life. They say that just before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. I began to think that if your life flashes before your eyes like the fading twilight, the time is not nearly long enough. Before I die, I want to relive my life entirely or not at all. Every scratch, bruise, the time I crashed my bike for the first time, when I laid in some long lost trail for hours not able to move on, the heartbreaks, and every moment in between. They also say hindsight is 20/20, but no matter how well we can see something we can not feel it, nor can we bring it back. If we planned it all to work out perfectly in the end, where would we be in life. If we saw the future, we would know what to expect and every moment leading to that one event and would be diminished by knowing. I had found my old tree. It came to me then, the tree never asked to be in this place. It just happened to tumble here and take root. Such is life. We can plan and make goals, but our actions do not make our future position. Our lives are one big beautiful tumbling accident. Sometimes, we take root and grow where we never expected. If we try to change it, our roots will be in sand and we will not be able to grow to our full potential.