Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hiking is another of my favorite things. (OK, I guess I have a lot of favorite things)

Maybe sausage and pancakes for breakfast might just possibly be better than bacon and eggs while camping out. At least homegrown sausage and homemade 4-grain pancake mix is a wonderful thing to enjoy on a freezing cold morning in the mountainous desert air. Coffee with cream from a local Texan dairy, Promised Land, was great. French press is the only way to go on camping trips.

The agenda for Day 3 of our camping trip was a hike to the South Rim. An aprox. 14 mile hike up and back. The day before I mentioned that we might want to pack and be ready to leave early as it is such a strenuous hike. No one seemed terribly interested in preparations. Consequently we got off to a very late start, but at least we were sufficiently fed! And with backpacks filled with boiled eggs, smoked trout, grilled chicken, nuts and lots of water a small propane cooker and tea bags, we were sufficiently stocked for the trek.

We took the trail that headed for the Pinnacles, some amazing rock formations. Several miles of switchbacks, valleys, various varieties of oaks and pine trees warmed us up. Frost dusted the shady spots on the trail but sun was shining and sweaters and gloves were quickly shed. The warm sun toasted the pine needles and the perfume seemed to energize us.

Due to the late start I was a trail warden. No, too early for lunch. Keep moving! Not quite yet!

Even so, we paused to take many pictures along the way, especially when we reached Boot Canyon. There is a huge rock formation that looks like an upside down boot. Once we reached Boot Spring we picnicked. "Local" food tasted like food for the gods as we stretched our sore muscles. Over three miles of uphill hiking made me feel like I was not 20 anymore! Burn, baby burn. Goodbye fried pies!

Alligator juniper, weeping juniper, Texas madrone, Arizona Cypress, Chisos red oak, oh why didn't I remember our tree book?

As we hiked up the 2000-3000 foot incline we marveled at the change in flora and fauna. The meadows filled with feather grass made me want to sprawl out for a nap. I remembered past hikes and naps in the sun, cushioned by the grassy pillows! The deer especially enjoy those nice meadows.

We reached the South Rim and couldn't believe how far we could see! Miles and miles of desert, on into Mexico. Wow.

Food stores depleted, water stores running low, we made our way down the mountains. Over 8 miles back to trailhead.

8 miles.

Tired feet and legs moved across the ridge. Worried mom looked at the sky. Dark comes quickly in the mountains. With dusk comes animal activity. I suggested we pick up the pace a little bit.

Endorphins are a wonderful thing. At the beginning of our hike my legs could barely move. They burned. They complained. They told me that I haven't been using them very often over the past couple of months.

After the 6 miles up the mountain they were nicely warmed up and as we jogged down they sang with joy.

You have to understand. I absolutely hate to run. Hate to jog. Hate it. I do not enjoy exercise one bit.

But hiking is different. The smells of the air, the view of the mountains and valleys make me feel exhilarated.

As we jogged down the smooth stretches of path I felt alive! I felt strong and healthy and free. I felt like flying. Even as I laughed at myself and my silliness, I thanked God for giving us muscles that worked for us. For the lungs that breathed, for the air to breathe, for strong back and feet (even if they really did hurt at that point).

The sun set. The sliver of crescent moon rose. The lights of the campground flickered. Christine, the tired 5 kids and I sang Christmas carols loudly. I am sure that every wild animal within a 5 mile radius ran far away after 12 verses of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Victorious, we reached the campground, tired, but not too tired to cook up a delicious meal in honor of Patrick's 14th birthday.

Grilled Porkchops
Sauteed turnips from my dad's garden and Christine's garden at work
Collard greens from Christine's work garden, sauteed in bacon and olive oil, braised with balsamic vinegar and garlic
Green beans from Daddy's garden

And stars. More stars. Millions and millions of stars. And laughter.

PS Thank you, Natural Gardener of Austin for the treat of the greens and turnips. We LOVE eating locally!

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