Hiking in the desert of Arizona: March – splendorous – swimming holes/red rock shelves/blissful naps in the wilderness. May – tolerable. By July the heat was only bearable if you succumbed to it. We carried liters of water and let the salt stains have their rule on the underarms and necks of our Forest Service uniforms.
By the end of the summer, wilderness rangers no longer existed on the trails. We had hiked them too many times. Now we were off, finding alcoves, squatting and letting grapefruit juice cool our chins. Indian ruins in the middle of nowhere, hidden passages through red rock walls that could only be discovered on close examination.
By four o’clock we were always back at the truck, but each day, I passed the agave. Their cool mint green. I touched their smoothness with my hands as if their color would cool me. Spanish Dagger. To fall on one would surely be the end. They were strong as hell, strong enough to pierce a body. Cool enough to sooth scorching eyes.
This agave, from New Mexico – a road trip through the North. Chimayo, Chama, places with paintings of La Virgin on the walls. El Norte. I summited a desert peak and sat alone at a bar that night, drinking margaritas. Watching. A million memories of agave.