February 01, 2012

How Much Farther Does This Go?

It felt like I'd been walking a long time. And none of the trails in Red Rock Canyon were supposed to be that long, though negotiating my way over the rocky terrain was taking me a little longer than my usual fast hiking clip.

As I hiked through the ancient forest of Pine Creek Canyon, red rocks facing straight ahead, I wondered if I'd be able to recognize the end of the trail, or if I'd get stuck at a pile of rocks again like I did at the Tanks.

I spotted a couple of fellow hikers with walking sticks, and in a rare gesture to seek help, I asked, "Excuse me, do you know how much farther this goes?"

They looked at each other. "Well, infinitely."

"Uh..." I wasn't ready to traverse the entire planet. Not quite yet, anyway.

The one hiker continued, "I mean, there are 13 or 14 miles of trails back there. You can go as far as you want."

"Oh, OK," I said, thanking them.

But that didn't help. That's not what I meant. I'd asked the wrong question.

I should have been more specific, asking how far that particular trail goes, before turning into another trail, intersecting with another trail, etc. Because even when the trail ends, you could keep walking. The earth doesn't end there, just the designated path. And as it was, half the time I spent getting to that point, I wasn't even sure if I was on a trail or a creek bed or what.

Peering into the rocks, I realized I didn't want to walk infinitely. I wanted a milestone I could reach, an achievable goal. I was tired, but I could have kept going - just not forever. But I needed to know that I would get somewhere at some point.

I went a bit farther, but I was daunted by infinity, and when the trail became confusing (AGAIN), I turned around, retraced my steps, and headed back to my car.

I couldn't help but wonder, though, how far I could've gotten if I'd just kept walking. What might I have seen? More of the same or something completely different?

Or, perhaps I would've seen nothing, or, at least, nothing new. That was my bet, anyway. I went as far as I wanted, and only that far.

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