Mud Springs, just outside of Safford, AZ – 3/10
The snow came. First clinging to hidden corners, tucked away into shaded patches of ground, then slipping out as I rose until it blanketed the mountaintops and left white as far as I could see.
I scampered across it at first. The cold crust barely sunk under my weight as I followed the trail’s slight depression in the snow. I chased the footprints of a mountain lion as it followed a deer higher and higher.
Their left before the conclusion played out, sticking to the forest as the trail broke away from the trees and into the open. A blue sky shone over the white coat on the mountains. The sun shined above, its heat wearing at the snow.
The crust couldn’t hold me in the open. I sunk to my knees on each step and understood why there were no more tracks to follow. I picked my way higher, sometimes finding solid ground, sometimes smashing forward through the snow, until I reached 10,000 feet and a fire tower perched on the top of Mt. Webb.
From the little box in the sky, I could see the world stretched out in all directions. The Santa Teresas, the sea of a desert floor, all of it.
Then the trail dropped. Falling like an elevator down, down, down. Past the snow, past the pines, past the oaks, past it all, 6,000 feet in a few miles, until my legs turned to jelly and I stared at cactus and wondered if I’d imagined it all.
But I only had to look back as the sun dropped away to see the mountains rising behind me, grinning down with their white-capped smile.