Monday, September 2, 2013

Extreme Hike El Paso

The Hillcrest Cottage family hit the road, past the Pecos, all the way to El Paso, Texas. 

Destination: Fort Bliss, military son and daughter-in-law. It was a very cool cultural experience for us. Lots of antiquing,mercados, seeing the post where my son works, eating local tacos, and, best of all being together (minus college son...sad face).

Mac the Labradoodle, AKA "World's Best Dog" traveled the 1000 miles with us while Lucy the Beautiful but Goldendoodle-less kept watch over Hillcrest Cottage.

On morning number five of our El Paso visit, my husband began to read about a very interesting, yet tragic, event from local history. It was the story of the 1953 B-36 crash. I have a very limited knowledge of airplanes and the details of the event, therefore, check out this blog to read the interesting story.

Back to morning number five: while drinking my new favorite beverage... Mexican Coke with real cane sugar instead of the high fructose corn syrup we Americans have been duped into drinking (a story for another time)... my husband formed a plan to hike up to the crash site.

Rattlesnakes, no hiking shoes, and lots of heat (100 degrees in the desert) were all it took for me to reply, 

"No way! I'm going shopping."

However, anyone who knows me even a tiny bit could have guessed...

... I gotta hang with the boys. 

The goal was not the top of this mountain but about one third of the way down. One thing I learned is that perspective is deceptive. This is one big, steep, rocky, cactus-filled hill. It helps to see how small my red-shirted son is in comparison.

The trail was rocky but passable. Soon I was falling behind but only because I was enjoying the landscape and the new experience.

Oh, and El Paso is 4000 feet above sea level. I was not feeling out- of- breath yet, but the higher altitude was definitely part of the challenge.

I learned that anything green is not my friend. Anything brown is not my friend. Pretty much every plant dead or alive had a mission to suck my blood. I know now it was God's way of telling me to turn back. But, while I was still on the rocky path, I kept on hiking.

I was enjoying this desert-thing, until... was time to exit the nice, rocky path and to discover of what this mountain is truly made. And, stinks for me, I wore the wrong shoes.

"I'm cool," I reasoned to myself as I fell further behind the guys who were swiftly becoming small ants on the mountainside, "I will simply choose my steps carefully." 

One step off the path and a thorn pierced my big toe. Next was my leg. But, even with blood rolling down my right leg and oozing out of my left toe, I continued.

Somewhere, in the midst of my solitude (not the good kind of solitude like when I think profound thoughts but the scary kind of solitude like when I think about slipping down the mountain and landing with a broken leg or  think about the rattlesnakes of which the trail head warned), I began to doubt the wisdom of making it to the top. 

There were zero sounds except the crunching of my feet on slippery rocks and an occasional buzzing insect (My silly Arkansas self had no idea how quiet and lonely a desert can be!)

"Wrong shoes!" said a loud voice inside my head. Not "wrong shoes" like walking into an event to discover  my fashion sense is incorrect but "wrong shoes" like I'm gonna slide down this mountain and die because I have zero traction. At this point my common sense trumped my desire to catch up to the guys. 

I didn't feel like I was a quitter; I was simply not prepared for the trek.

However, turning back was not as easy as making the decision to do so. Gone were the friendly piles of stones other hikers had left like bread crumbs leading the way to the top. Left were the slippery rocks and all kinds of spiky things. My fear of rattlesnakes and the mountain's strong gravitational pull grew quickly. If there had been a place to rest my behind without a thorn sticking me, I would have sat down to have a small cry.

Every step I took was accompanied with a prayer. 

Soon, I noticed the many long, dried, un-prickly sticks along my way. I found a sturdy one, and my life was changed. Hope of a safe journey down entered my heart! With my new BFF stick, I was able to hold back the dangling tentacles of cactus- death and provide stability for each step. I recanted that I had playfully called my husband a "bedouin shepherd" because of his walking stick and new hat ($6 from the local mercado).

Meanwhile, the guys had reached their destination.

And the view from the top was awesome.

And the remains of the plane crash were sobering.

Landing Gear


Jet Thrusters

I am sorry I missed the top, but I am alive to tell the story. No one died. No one suffered injury beyond some blood, slight sunburns, and sore muscles.


"Moderate Hike"... with the proper shoes. Chacos not recommended. Definitely take a walking stick and tons of water. Apply sunscreen. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Pray a lot.

The Happy Hikers

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