You have to drive around most of the city to get to Lake Mary Road from our house. I’ve spent a lot of time riding my bike between my house and campus to know Lake Mary is closer by trail than by road, but still not that close. Erik and I took Max and Zoe and the news dogs, Bear and Zora, to Sandys Canyon Trail. It was late February. The trail dropping into the canyon was covered in ice. Zoe skated down. Max and I climbed up and around off trail, apologizing to the grass as we swung above the trail.
A couple of miles in, we arrived at a sign that said Fisher Point. I remembered it from the time I’d come down, maybe exactly a year ago—although there had been no ice then. That year there had barely been any snow.
“We should walk all the way home, we could get the other car.” Erik looked at six year old Max and 12 week old Bear.
“I don’t think they’ll make it,” Erik said.
“I want to do it,” Zoe said.
“Is that cool? I’ll take Zoe and Zora? You take Bear and Max back to the car?”
“You know the way?”
“Two miles from here to Fisher point. About two miles from there to Lake Elaine, then two miles home. We can do it. My phone works out here.”
So we were off. We had lots of water, a map on an iPhone, and a dog that probably needs to run 30 miles a day anyway.
The trail is sandy, the canyons sides are substantial, with cliffs of Kaibab Limestone and Coconino Sandstone. We walked deeper, toward Walnut Canyon. I can imagine how water had cut this channel. The Sinagua lived here, because of that water. The river is dammed now, making Lake Mary and supplying Flagstaff. There used to be walnut trees down here but, without the river, the trees are long gone. Not as long gone as the Sinagua, but just as gone.
Zoe and I don’t follow the Walnut Canyon trail but turn left and hike up toward Fisher Point. From there it’s a straight shot, although a long slog, through Ponderosa Pine forest, which is still here, but, as the snow pack diminishes every year, may not be much longer.
We hit forest road 301B so I know where we are. Erik calls. He’s worried about us. Zoe and I admit, six miles in, that we wouldn’t mind a ride home.
I’m reading Craig Childs’ House of Rain. He traces the migration and the disappearance of people living in the southwest in the 1300, 1400s, and 1500s. He wonders if maybe they who left early had a hint of what was coming. Although many anthropologists think people left primarily because of drought, Childs thinks it was a combination of drought and too many people drawing on too few resources. He wonders if people from brought too-different, possibly too-violent, social practices together, unweaving once-stable social fabrics.
While Erik was at the Bernie Sanders rally, I was reading how you signed into law, House Bill 1487. The one that forbids local cities from passing ordinances of which the state doesn’t approve. This reeks of hypocrisy: Aren’t you members of the government that doesn’t like the federal government telling states what to do? If Flagstaff wants to ban plastic bags, how does that hurt you (Oh yeah, you have campaign donors in the plastic industry). Ironically, I feel the way you must sometimes when the federal government insists you spend money on children and the homeless. Shackled. Hobbled. I feel saying to you what Princess Leia says to Darth Vader, “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers,” but then I look at the star systems: they’re really just sand. I pick up some sand that was once Kaibab sandstone and think, everything falls apart. Entire cultures living in Walnut Canyon. Entire copses of trees. Entire climate systems. (Where is the snow?) You and I just see things so differently. A government that helps versus a government that hinders. I do feel the hand of your government constricting around my throat. I don’t know if this might be the end of our social fabric as we know it or just this particularly hypocritical one. I do know when I look out at the Ponderosas, I see needles turning brown, plastic bags hanging in branches like tattered rags.