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Sunday, July 10, 2011


Maybe it starts with an archeological sketch in a book…
…snippets of conversation in a bait shop…
…river guides telling a story…

Ordinarily, water courses through the bottom of canyons, but here, opportunistic desert vegetation greedily converts all available moisture into an impenetrable jungle.

We end up with information one would expect to acquire at the end of a game of telephone – information whispered from connection to connection until it is all but unrecognizable.

…walk half a day up the canyon…
…look for a rock shelter…
…3 meters high by 20 meters long…

It’s the kind of thing where having the skills of an investigative reporter would come in very handy.

So we set out…looking for the path of least resistance…trying to skirt the jungle of stickers, nettles and jumping ticks by clinging to the sides of the canyon.

Game trails crisscross the slope, but whatever made these trails has little respect for gravity and is more interested in grazing than in arriving at a predetermined destination. The cost in energy to follow them is high.

Every talus slope teeters at the critical angle of repose – a booby trap waiting to sweep careless bipeds away in rock avalanches.

We continually run the cost/benefit ratios and occasionally choose to dip down into the jungle.

Armed with a machete, I hack out a path next to the rock wall, but the going is slow and the stinging nettles have a diabolical tendency to fall on my arms in retaliation. 
Wikipedia says this about stinging nettles: The plant has many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles that inject histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. Wikipedia goes on to say: The plant has a long history of use as a medicine and as a food source.

It never once occurred to me to try to eat a stinging nettle.

Troy sagely notices that we can cover more ground if we split up.

Peering into the green hell.

Eventually, the jungle really does become impenetrable, and I climb out of the humid darkness to find shelves – a veritable super highway – lining a massive Rincon.

WILD TANGENT: Sometimes, when people encounter beautiful landscapes – vast natural panoramas – awe inspiring features like waterfalls - they report a sensation of feeling spiritual, or having a transcendent moment, or even being closer to god. Sometimes I even have ‘transcendent moments’ (see My Transcendent Vision at Netarts Bay) but I’m trying to figure out why I perceive such moments that way. Now this landscape was not so beautiful except for two things. (1.) It was somewhere between three and four o’clock in the afternoon and as hot as it was going to get that day and I had just come out of the jungle, covered in sweat and stinging-nettle-histamines, my arms disfigured with a blotchy red rash, and rounding a corner, this curving section of cliff was entirely in shade. (2.) There were layered shelves of stable rock, wide enough to walk on in comfort - and…um…except for three things - (3.) A cool breeze.
I was tired, and wondering how long I could go on, and then suddenly, it was as if the very earth itself sheltered me and wrapped me in shade, dried my skin and provided safe passage. Suddenly I felt energized and optimistic. I think I also felt, just briefly, like I fit.
But the earth hadn’t changed. The jungle was still hot and the shade was waiting there all along and the same goes for the terrain. All of my feelings appear to be the result of responses to events that happened on my unique path through time and space. In short, my personal narrative – my interpretation of my physical encounters – creates a subjective fiction.

Then faintly…I hear yelling from around the corner. Then Troy appears. “I found it!” he yells.

A massive basalt layer cake forms the wall of the canyon. Evidently accelerated mechanical erosion at the level of the creek has created an overhang/shelter that stretches almost a hundred yards.

At the south end of the overhang, there is even a deeper impression that comes close to matching the vague description of the shelter we’re looking for.

Indeed, the alcove is decorated with paintings.

Isolated paintings can be found further north along the overhang.

If Shamans set up shop here, maybe it should not be surprising to find a wealth of plants (like stinging nettles) which have medicinal properties.

Now it is time to rest and eat.

Why bring a multi-tool Swiss Army knife when you can bring a multi-functional Army Man instead.

mmm…wild boar.

Mission accomplished.

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