Back in the day —
I was always waiting for the slowest hiker. Today I am the slowest hiker.
Not bad though, for I’ve taken a tip from one of my favorite backpacking companions, my nephew Kenn Petsh,.
Kenn always took the rear of our hiking groups, saying he was the “trail sweep” making sure all were well and getting along he trail without undue difficulties. That was well worth it when my six children were along.
However, I also noticed that Kenn took the rear when we were on multi-day backpacking trips in remote trail-less sections of the Grand Canyon and the group were all uber-backackers.
And truth is that Kenn was at least as strong a hiker as any of us. He’d literally spent the lion’s share of his life hiking and camping in the wilds of Arizona’s deserts
One ime I asked him why he hung back on those treks and he said simply, “I need time to take in all the mysteries of nature.”
I now understand what Kenn meant
I’m now thoroughly enjoying my hikes, maybe more than ever.
On our hike today in the Rio Grande gorge, I was rewarded for my dawdling curiosity, noticing things that I might have missed at my youthful hiking pace and the chatting I often did with other hikers.
(After all many of the hiking manuals tell us that a good way to know you are not overdoing it is to chat normally with others while hiking.)
I don’t even have to comment further about the talking bit. That and the awful habit of listening to audios, it doesn’t matter whether you are hiking in the Rio Grande gorge or along Fifth Avenue.
And sure, speedy hikers can and do take in a lot of their woodland surroundings while hiking. They even take a goodly number of photos on their hikes.
Speaking for myself though, I wouldn’t have noticed as much of the mysteries of the canyon as I did today had I been hiking this trail at a faster pace.
Sure, even back then I would have noticed the two herds of big horns that are now so unconcerned about the beneficence of hikers they don’t mind hanging out near the trails. I might even have stopped to snap a picture of them.
But I wouldn’t have noticed how the bigger sheep seem to protect their little yearlings.
And more likely I wouldn’t have noticed the few early-blooming desert flowers. Certainly not have stopped and stooped to take their photos.
Maybe so. But probably not.
How many times I’ve hiked this trail in the thirty years I’ve been out here, and did not know there were petroglyphs on the rocks.
I know now.
But I still have difficulty finding them.
On one recent hike an out-of-State visitor stopped to ask me about the petroglyphs.
He had a GPS and a folded paper with a map and drawing on it.
“Do you know which of these rock outcroppings has the petroglyphs?”
Too bad, but this disturbed me and I offered zero help.
I’d seen what happens when so many academics go searching for these ancient rock scribblings.
A couple of years back the area was swamped with a horde of people with GPS, notebooks and cameras.
They were with an archeological society making an “inventory” of all the petroglyphs in the area to do an education project — telling locals about “their ancestral history.”
That seemed so destructive. The locals really do know where they are — if they want to know.
The more who know about these artifacts the more destruction occurs.
I’ve already seen the results of this at a now popular Arizona petroglyph site where the ancient glyphs are now “enhanced” by latter-day scratchings and graffiti. And surrounded by trash.
I understand fully why the Havasupai Indians at the Grand Canyon are so protective and secretive about their “sacred sites.”
They don’t want “scientists or photographers” visiting them.
And try not to let non-tribal folks know about them or where they are.
As the tribes’ environmental officer explained to me, “They’ve been exploiting our culture for far too long! Making money and professional reputations at our expense. We’d rather they didn’t do it any longer.”
And personally, it is far more fun for me to stumble upon them than to be directed to them by GPS, map and illustrations!
Unfortunately, academics have to boast of knowing about them and publicizing that they know.
They even offer the “meaning” of the glyphs, as if they have some psychic comprehension of what the ancient rock scribblers were thinking.
I mean, as if their lettered degrees enable them to know what many of these ancient punks strung-out on pot meant by their graffiti stone scribblings!
Oh, I’m being really snotty now.
But truly, all these glyphs weren’t inscribed by ancient wise ones trying to convey cryptic messages for latter-day academics.
And some had to be the leavings of pot-smoking punks like those who leave their spray-can “art” on walls beneath aqueducts today.
I can’t be all that wrong. Nor can academics be all that right.
It’s no doubt why a good old friend of mine calls the small group of us that get together once in a while, the Useless Old Men’s Society.
Anyway, to be less vituperative, I confess I do have both views.
Some deciphering of glyphs is probably true — I mean if it looks like a deer it probably is meant to represent a deer.
But so may my iconoclastic grafitti view probably be just as true.
I’m not all that irreverent. (And yes, I know that is a double negative. But it gives me a chuckle.)
And I don’t mean to be nasty about it, for I also can be piously reverent.
Anyway, give me a break.
I’m an 89-year-old geezer with a machine that is gradually succumbing to the law of entropy.