• Gretel Enck

Hike #6: Napping with Persimmons

Dang, yo! We’ve had some obstacles lately in Texas. Two weeks ago we were hunkered down for the apocalyptic storm and outages. One week ago I took advantage of the returned nice weather and wet ground to do some long put-off garden projects. I’ve also been working on my old bike, a true love, to get her back in fighting shape. So—no hiking until today.

I had an eight-mile-round-trip hike planned to a pretty canyon in Big Bend National Park. But I haven’t slept well the past couple of nights. I clocked about five hours last night. So I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle that one. But I so wanted and needed to get out. So I brewed my first cup of coffee and got back into bed with my hiking guide. And my snuggly cats. I want to leave my house? Yes, I want to leave my house.

Oh look, that Persimmon Gap Draw hike that I ignored previously because it is only a mile? It goes up a few hundred feet in elevation, up some dry falls, to a view. Huh. I think we have a winner.

Panorama from my high-point rock.

And, oh, what a sweet little hike. Only two other people crossed my path. I followed a dry wash dotted with persimmon trees, still gray with last year’s leaves. The path was easy to follow, though boulders and brush kept my attention.

The first dry fall was quite high, maybe 70 feet, too high for me to climb. Off to the side there was a sketchy, steep, gravel path. I climbed it, picking my way with a bit of discomfort. Much of the discomfort was for the idea of coming back down this way. My feet and hands got me where I needed to go, but not without thorn punctures to skin and pants.

The next dry fall was shorter, maybe eight feet, and completely climbable. Wished I’d had knee pads, but there you go. It was fun to do a little bouldering on what is called the Caballos Formation, the oldest exposed rock in Big Bend National Park.

The destination was a saddle between two small peaks, with views north and south of distant mountains. The sun was finally peeking out on this warm, cloudy, windy day. I sat on a rock with the view, a drink, and a plethora of cactus species, many familiar and a few not. More species than I recall in any one area, and on my way back down I really noticed the wealth of yucca, agave, and cactus.

View to the left, lil cutie fixin' to bloom, view to the right.

The wind was a bit much out in the open, so I walked back down to a small alcove in a rock wall just above the Caballos dry fall. I sat with my back to the rock in the shade while clouds coursed by overhead. I had a small view out to infinite Chihuahuan Desert landscape, and a foreground of hillside covered with the wondrous vegetation.

I’m always looking for a shady spot to rest, eat and drink a little something. Today I was intent on having a nap, with my lack of sleep and a scarcely traveled trail. Alas, I did not actually nap among the persimmons. But it sounds so nice to say I tried.

Each hike, I carry my blank book to take notes. I reflect on the hike and also whatever my brain decides to cough up for my inspection. With the gorgeous setting and clouds on a mission, ancient rock and needs fulfilled, I thought: this is where I want to die. Maybe I felt it would be easy to move on with such wind. Because it wasn’t the place, necessarily, but rather the situation. Of course, I have too much to do and learn to go any time soon. But it was such a peaceful thought, and I think I am meant to consider the lessons of the moment.

Mary Oliver has a line I paraphrase: dirt, stars, mud, I know you as I know myself; how can I be afraid?

The perfect place.

On the way out I passed first a dried up old deer leg, and then a javelina skull with an exposed jaw and furry crown. I scanned the clifftops for the mountain lion I was sure was playing with me. Did she hear my comment on death? How had I not seen these on the way up, especially the skull lying in the middle of the wide and level wash? I imagined the lion acting like my house cats, leaving an offering to the human. Yet as much as I hated to confront my lack of attention, that was the more logical explanation. Hmm. And yes, I left the skull where it was, little tusks growing from the lower jaw revealing its source.

Oh sweet time outdoors, even a short hike, even a bike ride to the library and post office, even a yoga cycle on the patio at sunrise (I face east, and I'm noting the sun’s northward march). How much better to know and love the cycles of myself.

Me, a persimmon, a hill; can't call it a hike until I bleed.

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