Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Kings Canyon, Australia
I open my eyes and the alarm clock says 5:40. There are days when I bound out of bed eager to see what the world has on offer, but this isn’t one of them. Gray light filters through the blinds and I ask myself, not for the first time, “What am I doing here?”
I drive the trailhead at Kings Canyon for my morning death march. Eight kilometers of rugged hiking over sandstone that glows with a furnace heat in the morning sun. I climb and sweat and swat at flies. The pictures I’m making bore even me. I am so completely done with this place.
My old girlfriend had a name for me when I get like this. Mister Miserable.
I overhear bits of the tour guide narration. Blah blah 330 million years...Sandstone....Tectonics....blah blah...I can see for myself that rainwater, when it comes, collects in the canyon pools, sustaining an oasis of life. I read somewhere that the Aborigines who hunted this valley hold its headwaters sacred. A nearby line of hikers take a more secular approach.
Descending toward a verdant pool dubbed the Garden of Eden, the hikers merrily chatter, eat their breakfast and some strip down to go swimming. A group of German girls emerges laughing and dripping in lacy brassieres and panties.
Even that doesn’t cheer me up. I climb out of the gorge alone, away from the merriment and back toward the parking lot miles away.
But every once in a while, when I deserve it least, the world offers a gift.
I glance down and see a smaller pool, still as glass. Framed by ancient sandstone, it forms a perfect mirror, reflecting the palms, the vertical canyon walls and the deep blue sky. I climb back down and frame, then re-frame the scene. The youngsters pack up to leave, and one of the Germans offers me the last of her chocolate chip cookies.
I stay for a long while, watching the play of wind and light on the water. Mister Miserable will have to go on ahead without me.