Friday, December 7, 2007

Perk Canyon

Heidi trots in front of me, weaving back and forth, stopping only to smell or piss on items of interest; her tongue hangs out of the left side of her mouth, a smile on her white face. Within a half mile we startle the bull elk. He crashes through the brush, pounding up the ridge, his antlers snapping branches that fall in his wake. He stops half way up the ridge and we continue the trail looking up at him, then he is gone without a sound. An animal the size of a horse has just vanished.
It's still in the forest, there is no breeze, the only sound the occasional snapping of dead wood as the elk continues his way somewhere above on the ridge. I look to the right with every crack and each time find that I am looking at a dead tree. There are lots of dead trees here, but each time I look up one seems to be looking back at me, a line of ancient sentinels standing guard over the canyon.
After forty five minutes the trail turns to the right and begins a steep climb, it's cool today but I soon take off my flannel shirt and my breathing becomes labored. My breath hangs in front of me and I can once more smell the coffee I drank earlier. My legs burn as I begin to sweat and the stitch in my side flares. I welcome it; like getting a tattoo this pain is pleasure, cleansing, endorphins working magic on my mood. Heidi stops at a fallen log where we took a break three weeks ago and scratches softly at the ground, the cookie she buried then is still there. Satisfied, she moves on up the hill again. To one side there is a rock formation, the stones symmetrical and with the appearance of being placed there on purpose. In another place they would be evidence of a past civilization.
At the top of the ridge we stop and I sit on yet another felled tree. The view from here is wonderful, to the east it is as if I can see forever. My breathing slows and above me a long-dead pine sways in the slight breeze, creaking like the mast of some ancient barque.
If not forever, I imagine that I can at least see as far as Tennessee.

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