Lightening clashes with millions of jewel stars dotting the onyx night. With each flash the sky pales a white-yellow. Moments later the slowly creeping night clouds would groan so loudly the sound echoes off the red rock canyon. The storm remains flashing on all sides of the scarred earth, still hours yet to climb over the muli-colored mountains and encompass the valley. The night sky goes deep before us in our pocket of clearness, miles from any light pollution. From mysterious night to pale lightening, the stars battle for their majesty only to be blocked out moments later by a more brilliant flash of light.
I know, I know, I should't start the story out of order. I'll get back to the stars—I promise! For now, let's go to the beginning. After a very filling Mexican meal this Wednesday, my Dad and I began our venture through Arizona's Secret Canyon Trail. I'm weighed down by the surprisingly comfortable Osprey backpacking pack as we bushwhacked our way through the trail overgrown with desert trees and brush. Pale and purple stones shone along the red dirt, indicating rivers during the rainy season. The plants, too, show a steady income of water with their plump green leaves. As it's August currently there is, unfortunately, no water to be found on the trail tucked under the sandstone mountains.
The afternoon sun beats down on our forms and sweat pools where cotton shirt connects with backpack. I pray the cumulous clouds help us out and provide some shade. Luckily, the trail forks off thirty minutes in and the mountains cast shadows across our trek. Unluckily, this is also where the Secret Canyon Trail reveals how secret it actually is as we whack away plants with our hiking poles. Another hour and a half of trekking and we make it to the anticlimactic end of the trail. The trail spits us out onto what would have otherwise been a lovely pond but was all loose sand to us. Note-to-self: check when the best times to hit a trail is.
Backtracking twenty minutes, we pick a campsite with an already built fire pit with seven stones encircling it. There was even a woodpile already made for us! Dad points out the trees surrounding us, "Alligator Juniper, Pinyon Pine, Gambel Oak, and Shrub Oak."
We pitch our tent and I promptly change into flip flops, sweet sweet flip flops. My Dad owns dispensaries in Colorado, so I was a happy camper when he pulled out some bud and papers. As he fiddled in his backpack I sat down on a rock to roll some joints.
"Don't move," Dad says, eyes wide with fear.
Immediately my body does the opposite and I tensely moved from my rock. Looking back, a foot from the rock I had just been on, sat a fat Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. No offense to weed, but no amount of the devil's lettuce is worth a rattlesnake bite. After poking the snake with a hiking pole, pouring some water on it, and blowing campfire smoke in its direction, the snake finally slithers behind a rock five feet from us and doesn't move another inch. We shrug and get high with the snake. What can you do? It's nature.
After a wonderful dehydrated Mountain Trail chicken fajita dinner, the sky begins to gray, the real reason I was here. Thunder starts to sound around us, dark clouds just hanging behind the mountains surrounding the valley. Sunset crawls up the canyon, reflecting a pale rose that shows a more brilliant view must be happening on the horizon. Then they come.
Slowly at first, diamonds enter the hazy dusk sky. If you've never seen a full night sky without any light pollution, I would suggest doing that before you die. We sat for hours watching the lightening battle to block out the start sky, only to be fended off seconds later.
By 11pm the storm had hit us with a steady drizzle through the night, leaving the trek back damp and the colors on the desert terrain vibrant. The best part though? Always the stars.
Moral of the story—Always check for rattlesnakes when rolling a joint.