• Gretel Enck

Hike #1: My Day Among the Rock Wrens

When I spent that summer in Juneau, people joked that when you land in Anchorage you are just a half hour from Alaska. When I took flying lessons, the joke ran: what’s the difference between people who can’t fly and pilots who don’t fly? Nothing.


I spent the first seven months of COVID driving only as far as the two closest towns, 22 miles and 25 miles respectively, and rarely at that. I walked around my neighborhood and as far as the post office. When the weather cooled the beginning of September I went on a real hike and promptly re-twisted my problem ankle.


Thing is, one reason I live in Marfa is the nature. I have a sweet stargazing set-up in my back yard. But even at the edge of town, walking around the block does not count as a hike. And when my sister gifted me a Charley Harper puzzle, Canyon Country, for Christmas, and I was reunited with all my besties from the Colorado Plateau ecosystem, I realized that I could love the Big Bend ecosystem equally if I made more of concerted effort to really know it.

Today I began with Hike #1 on my year’s aspirational list. Inspired by neighbors who have an annual 52-hike plan, I am making my list. I may not hit 52: I have priorities to balance, and today I drove 288 miles round trip to hike just under four miles. Yet, completely worth it: two small hikes, one to a spring and one to a high and dry waterfall. Rock wrens hopped around on the, well, rocks. They are kin to my friends the canyon wrens, though gray rather than warm brown colored and scold-ie rather than trill-ie. Reliable companions, tho'. And two sparrows sat on an ocotillo with the breeze ruffling their cinnamon mohawks.


And my ankle? Did well in the lightweight brace. I went slowly over the rough areas, picking flat spots, yet thinking the uneven ground was helping the muscles on the sides of my foot and leg get stronger.


I finished with chips, queso, and a burger in Terlingua.

I want to do a hike, longer and longer, each Saturday. Next week’s plan is closer to home in Davis Mountains State Park. See, nature really is only as good as being out in it. The sunshine, the flitting birds, the parents coaxing a small child up the gravel wash to a pretty sight, the sweat, the rapid breathing. The knowing that I earn the privilege of owning the landscape (or it owning me) with every mile explored. Sort of like Georgia O’Keeffe owning the mountain that she painted over and over. I own a little piece of the Grand Canyon and certain mountain peaks in ways not possible without earning it with my sweat.


The other joke about Alaska: where the odds are good but the goods are odd. I expect that’s true, too.


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