The morning heat drumed lazily on my forehead as I read The Sun Also Rises in a hammock on my aunts back porch. This would seem like an ordinary porch, but that would be under ordinary circumstances. At this moment, I hear a loud rustle, then a squeal. It was a fully grown havelina with family. At first I was startled. These dog like pigs could be truly protective of their young out in the Sonoran desert. I kept still, halting the rocking hammock with my hand on the floor. After a few minutes, the creature looked up at me questioningly, snorted, and left, beckoning its kin to follow. "Like most animals out here, if you don't bother them, they won't bother you" chuckled my uncle Bruce, who witnessed the scene, "Hey Ethan, are you up for a hike?".
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
This was the life of my Aunt Patti and Uncle Bruce, who lived on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. I was only visiting for a week, but I already felt like I could live there. I looked to where the havalina had disappeared to, and saw the wide expanse of the sonoran desert, complete with suguaro sentinels and humongous hiking trails. In my naivete I agreed to this trek with my uncle. I didn’t know what the foreboding mountains had in store, and I wouldn’t unless I braved its face.
I got on pants, long socks, gloves, sunglasses, and a hat. All of these were crucial to keep safe. Each new hike always contained surprises, even to experienced hikers like Bruce. "Be on the look out for snakes and scorpions" he said in his southern accent, as if this were the normal everyday thing to be wary of. Part of me was nervous, but this feeling was overshadowed by my heightened sense for adventure. To see nature in its pure form was an Emersonian opportunity that I could not give up. The sun was risen and beginning to heat the earth like an oven. I could feel the radiation on my skin and hear the cicada flies buzzing louder than beehives. The sentinal saguaro cacti greeted us with unthreatening gestures similar to high fives and even hugs. The “teddy bear” cacti begged to be cuddled with. Of course, the illusions quickly faded when one of the saguaros pricked a few fingers, and the teddy bear cuddled painfully into my skin.
Bruce and I climbed. This entire atmosphere was the exact opposite in my home town of Pembroke Pines, Florida. The air was dry and more thin than I was used to, the ascending mountain underneath my feet was larger than anything I had seen back home. At two hours in to our journey, I was amazed to see that we were above helicopters and birds! Eventually, we stopped at one of the peaks just off of the trail. “This is what I really wanted to show you” said Bruce proudly. He pointed to the looming rocks, which had white, chalk-like inscriptions on it. One said, “Jesus, I will work for you the balance of my life”, and another read, “Have faith in Jesus”.
These markings struck me deeply; the thought of the man that came to the top of the mountain for enlightenment made me wonder for the rest of the hike. With this thought still looming, I didn’t even notice how exhausted I was until we made it back home. We had hiked for five hours, yet I felt that I had barely scratched the surface of what this beautiful barren wasteland had to offer me.
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