We walked in over multicolored gravels eroded from some long-lost range. Some were petrified wood, glossy and tumble-polished. Among them a second generation of trees had grown; these too had fossilized, then eroded, and now looked simply like wood chips inexplicably turned to stone. Among them the ponderosas of today stood, living wood.
Next to a dissolving petrified log, recent woodcutters had left their beer cans and pile of slash. Old woodpile, new woodpile: the two looked remarkably alike, though the ancient one was yellow and bright as new wood, and the new one was gray.
Heavy logging in these mountains in the Twenties. Many trees were felled and left to checker into soft, rotten punk.
One enormous, old-growth Ponderosa had been spared the clear-cut because its trunk had split and split and split again, so it wouldn’t make straight lumber—perhaps a genetic trait? A beautiful and noble tree. I laid my face against it. It felt a living being, as though I could sense the subtle movement of xylem and phloem.
Maybe I could.
We followed the water-scoured sandstone channels until they petered out, then crossed to the next gully west. This ended in a series of tinajas and a plunge pool. We crawled up to a rock shelter above—charcoal and sherds and rat poop—and clambered down to a second, even lovelier set of pools. There we put our backs against the stone and listened to the ponderosa sigh. Most beautiful tree, the ponderosa. Most beautiful voice, the peaceful tree.
In the midst of this communion with nature G. discovered that a thermos of coffee—cream and sugar—had come open in his pack.
Red Mesa. Up the roughest canyon to the plunge-pool cave, the scoured sandstone channels. We put our backs against the stone and listened to the Ponderosa sigh. In the midst of this communion I found a thermos of hot chocolate had come open in my pack.
Along the arroyo I picked up a clump of breast feathers, each pointed with a tiny dark heart.
A day both cool and warm. Hazy clouds, pumice sand underfoot, soft wind hushing in the ponderosa. The water of Peralta Creek was icy with runoff, milky with pumice dust.
We bushwhacked up a box canyon full of oak brush and wild roses; I bled furiously. Strong smell of skunk or weasel. A swallowtail butterfly in erratic flight, bright yellow among the worn boulders.
Caught the first horned toad of the year: a fat one, with salmon belly and yellow side-fringe. About the size and heft of an Oreo cookie.