Chapter Seven: To the Vail of the Creek
"Hey, wait!” You exclaim. “I came here to read the long story of your many decades ago thru-hike on the functionally extinct 2,722 mile long Agua Fria Trail that I've never heard of, an epic but modest account of your youthful fears, your triumph over idiosyncratic, self-imposed challenges, and a tale of wilderness wonder grounded in the hard spirituality of the real world.”
Then you add firmly “I did not sign up for talking jackrabbits!”
Oh. Right. Yes.
The top of the Canticle Rim, despite how its name feels, was not exactly a cliff edge. Already the rocky plains of high dessert and scattered chaparral was breaking up and changing. A small creek, looking like a hopeful place for a camping spot, was beginning to work a steep way down into the West Pine Creek Canyon. Biologically the area was immediately growing richer as well, and I noticed more plants and a couple kinds of cactus I hadn't seen on my 60 miles of hiking so far, a barrel cactus and what might have been a saguaro, though the latter was so bedraggled and stunted that I wasn't sure that's really what it was. There too were the first small trees of my trip as the land broke in the distance down the canyon.
Don't worry. There were no talking rabbits at all.
Except for the one that said “I am the same rabbit you saw on the first day of your trip.”
I have passed and failed many tests in my life- tests of courage, or self respect, or perseverance, or of human kindness. The failures in these tests have always stuck with me far harder than the successes. So I think it is only fair to note here, on the test of talking animals, I passed.
I said to the rabbit “You didn't say anything to me that time.”
“You weren't ready.” Said the rabbit. “And you didn't have the meteorite.”
A great many things raced through my mind. Whatever else was happening my main feeling was that getting to talk to a rabbit was a rare opportunity. And, frankly, something of an honor.
I said carefully. “I have some questions. If you don't mind.”
“Do you have any carrots?” The rabbit asked.
“No.” I replied. “Sorry.”
The jackrabbit wrinkled his nose. “Get me some carrots and maybe we can have a little chat about them.”
“The carrots, or the questions.”
“I am equally interested in both.”
And with that, the rabbit ran off.
I took my pack off and sat down on it in the middle of the trail. I was there for a long time, a bit blank, a bit wonderstruck, but I wasn't, apparently, changed by the experience, and neither was the world. Furthermore, I worried about night because... night was dark. So I got up and found a place for my tent over by the tiny stream. I scouted the trail heading down into the canyon. And I got a ball of cholla cactus stuck to my boot that was a long, almost comical process to remove.
If it were funny I'd totally tell you about it. It was just really close to being funny.
As the sun set I ate a gorp in salami sandwich. It was not a successful dining experiment. I treated some water with iodine. I photographed the creek for my daily picture. I took out my meteorite and sat down looking at it. It was dark and plain and small, though maybe it was heavier than a regular rock that size would be.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” I asked the meteorite.
The meteorite didn't answer.
That would have been silly.