Above Preacher Canyon – 3/7
You have to pay to reach Holdout Canyon. Pay pushing through thorn-laced bushes. Pay climbing in and out of thicket-filled gullies. Pay watching the trail disappear before your eyes and guessing your way forward.
But in return you get to stare up at Holdout’s rock towers, its domes, its sculpture-garden stone walls, and wonder if gravity took a leave of absence.
It’s the kind of place western movies dream of, the kind you think they make up, a bouldery playground that screams Wild West. You can picture a gang of bank robbers waiting in the rocks with their black hats pulled low, their rifles in hand, the loot stashed back in their hideout. And you can imagine John Wayne, the Duke himself, riding in with a star on his chest to bring them all to justice.
Then you pay again, pay to move down Holdout’s length. Pay as cactus spines spear your thighs. Pay as the sun beats down on your head. Pay as you will yourself through walls of brush.
Pay, but the whole time stealing glances upward and thinking it all shouldn’t exist, thinking it must be as imaginary as the gunfight between good and evil ricocheting in your mind. Rocks shouldn’t hang up like that. They shouldn’t stack and spire like some acid-tripped painter placed them there.
But they do.
And John Wayne brings those imaginary robbers to justice one imaginary bullet at a time.
Then you pay to leave. It’s not enough to get in, you have to get out too, out past the hideout, a towering, thousand foot castle of black rock.
I paid cross country along the slopes of the Santa Teresas, climbing higher and higher, searching out a way forward until the fortress of black rock looked small below me.
I felt the price in my body. I felt the sore legs, the banged up ankles, the shoulders that screamed at a touch. I felt the scrapes and bruises, the cuts on my hands and shins, the jagged gashes left by a thousand thorns.
But as the day faded, as I watched mountain shadows stretch across the desert, as the last rays of light slipped off the black rock’s top, I tallied the score and knew it was with every red cent.