The trail went confidently both ways and there was no sign. The three wooden steps to the right were a signal for safe trailing, but I’d surely come down those before. In pursuit of adventure, down the wide, red gravel road I hiked. I hiked as it narrowed and gained elevation, water-bottle in hand. The road became a ditch, shoulder-high on both sides, the wayward roots of the trees grabbing at my belt loops, and I hiked. The ditch became a tunnel as the shrubbery bent low to roof me in. Hike, hike, hike. What looked to me like a trail came and went in the overgrowth. I crawled in and out of the ditch, which I began to think was a dried up river and not necessarily meant for me. If it rained, the rush would float me back to where the road first diverged. But I kept hiking.
The landscape changed at a bend in the river: a wooden wheel, a monster truck tire buried in the dirt, an overturned wheelbarrow. I emerged the trail of trash obstacles into a sort of grove where the only ways to go were up or back. The dried up river had lost its glory, the thrill of adventure reduced to chapped lips and heavy breathing and I had no intention of returning the way I came. Up, then, was the only way to go.
Too quickly, the “up” was uncertain. The dirt was loose. The protruding logs were deceiving, they pulled easily from the ground when I grabbed at them. The holds in the rock, a trick, they crumbled in my grip and disintegrated under my feet. Three risky steps up the decaying rock, I’d changed my mind. It was time to turn back, but my footholds had broken off the mountainside and fallen into the grove below. I was stuck and all I had was up.
I sliced and scraped my hands in desperate attempts as maintaining my elevation, ripped my jeans in two places, saw a snake that decided not to bite me, but not a person for miles. I don’t know how I made it to the top. No idea. I thought for sure I’d have fallen. I was wheezing and dizzy when I finally scrambled to the top, laid on a boulder at the summit in a messy pile for thirty minutes, thankful to be anything but a carcass in that grove.
I turned to the mountain I scaled and saw the dried trails of sliding dirt running paths through the grass. I saw the falling, thin rock broken off in jagged edges. The grade was the steepest I’ve been close enough to see in Colorado. It must have been a runoff, where the water pours down like a fall in a thunderstorm, drowning the route I desperately climbed up. It’s why nothing takes root, why me feet kept slipping, scaring the something right clear out of me. I’ll go the three-step way next time.