Sunday, January 15, 2012

A post in pictures...Beautiful Behemoth

Beautiful Behemoth is my pet name for a mountain that I adore called South Mountain. I would say its proper name is uninspired, a directional label that does not attempt to encapsulate the humble, friendly spirit of its scrubby, cacti-dotted slopes. But I consider everything pertaining to this mountain, including its pedestrian name, to be special by association.

This mountain brings me joy just to look at it, just to drive down the street nearly every morning toward it. When its gentle lines are smeared with the smog of this wide city or rare storm clouds obscure its shape, it disheartens me. My eye is always searching for it; it's my natural compass in a vast valley of human contrivance. Thus I am anxious for true blue of sky to carve it plain against the western horizon.

A couple days after Christmas, my family hiked its trails with a friend and her family, at last Matthew keeping his promise to take me up it. It was a post-Christmas celebration of nature in the Southwest, and I loved every minute of it, even when the shortest trails were closed for wildlife, even when for tactical reasons (in favor of future hiking) I relieved my husband of the hiking backpack with our youngest in it (Matthew warned me how heavy it was even as I stoutly insisted he give me a turn, my shot at the physical burn), and even as couples and solitary urban adventurers marveled and exclaimed at our bravery in traversing its crests and valleys with a gaggle of six children in tow.

In fact, I was glad to have the company of those children, especially of my own for whom hiking is a fresh experience. And I thought it fortunate that we had to take the long route and that our feet were forced in longer communion with the mountain. I was glad of the company of my good friend and her family, because without them, my husband would have paused at the first good rise in the trail, clapped his hands together, and announced with finality that it was time to go home. The company of my friend's pug Buster was a blessing, too, because my eldest son had the little dog's company on the hike among so many little girls, and it built his confidence when he was able to keep the eager little animal from nipping at the pounding feet of runners or from chasing the hypnotic wheels of the bicyclists.

It was a long hike for a family so foreign to the exercise. I am proud to write that our kids did not complain but instead were invigorated by the views and by the climb, eager to plan the next trip. Miraculously, my muscles did not squeal the next day when I attempted to walk. My husband's and my own shoulders ached a little from carrying our youngest, but they didn't cramp at all. Even more of a marvel, my husband said he was not adverse to doing a hike again, someday, if the trail was shorter.

This hike was meant to be, I plainly and gladly believe, the first of many up South Mountain. I can't wait to drive to its base another fine, clear winter morning, jumping with anticipation and ready for my visit with Mother Nature.


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