A coyote chorus erupts from somewhere across the ravine, sudden and jarring as a 3:00 a.m. car alarm, three rising sustained notes high above a staccato of yips and yaps jabbing five directions at once. It drops away almost as abruptly.
I’m sleeping on an open, second floor porch. Twelve hours ago, a stranger to this country would have taken a bet against anyone with air conditioning and full command of his faculties spending the night this way. During the day, the temperature pushed 100, and entering a parked car required the same ginger-fingered care you’d exercise moving the racks in a preheated oven. But when the sun dips behind the mountains, you start thinking 86 degrees feels about right until it keeps on going down for 25 more.
To beat the heat, we’re off early for a morning hike through Rattlesnake Canyon to see some sandstone arches. We’ve taken a previous long hike in the area, but not reached the arches. This time, we have a 4-wheel-drive Outback to take us in another way over rough back-country roads. According to the map and a guidebook, this should be an easy excursion. I throw two extra bottles of water in the back, just in case.
After an hour-plus drive, we reach a sign that is subject to interpretation as to the suitability of our car for continuing on the road. Male and female opinions diverge in predictable directions. The female wins, and we park the car.
Now I discover that my half-gallon pack bottle has leaked most of its contents into a rear carpet and the back half of The End of Faith. The backup-bottles are now my prime water source. Since the arches trail itself is supposed to be only half a mile, we decide to walk in anyway.
For the first of the two miles to the trail head, I remark on how our Subaru would have made it. For the other half, I try to practice improved marital communication skills and simply think it.
I don’t know whether the guidebook author plagiarized the map or the map maker drew his caption from the book, but both should be beaten with an empty canteen and staked to a Wal-Mart parking lot for publishing a highly misleading account of trip neither of them could have personally taken.
Except for one seen from an overlook, the arches are farther down the canyon. Our half-mile morning out-and-back has turned into a 10-mile trek through the middle of the day.
My personal guidebook entry? We came this far. Might as well take a look. Yep, one looks just like the picture.
Usually, I adapt to adversity by first telling myself, it is what it is and there’s no use getting upset because it’s not what I expected. Next, I shift to meditating on how tough I am, and how this isn’t as hard as other things I’ve done. The third stage involves reflection on how I’m not as young as I used to be. Stage four: no thoughts at all. Final stage: shuffling, gaze fixed steadily ahead; in the extreme final stage, counting steps.
The End of Faith is almost completely dry by our return — one more advantage of this arid climate — although the footnotes pages are permanently curled. I take this as a sign from god.
We were never in danger, except of taking a nap when we got home, which we did, hours later than planned.
Tonight, cool or no cool, it’s the bed for me.