We're livin' on Mountain time
Up in high country
In the shadow of the Ponderosa Pines
To the North are the San Francisco Peaks
And the Sunset Crater's glow
To the South the cold waters of the old Oak Creek
Rushing over our swimming holes
To the East the majesty of the Painted Desert
Every color of the rainbow
And to the West don't forget there's the grandest of canyons
Where the Colorado flows
- Muskellunge Bluegrass
Upon arriving back to High Country in late September, I decided to work with a trail crew until I found a job. Driving up 89 through the Painted Desert, I began to both sympathize with - and regard as unhinged - the young desert vagabond who spent so many nights traveling this country by foot and mule. On the macro-scale the landscape is simply too emotionally evocative to dismiss - every shade of red towers above you in vast, otherworldly sandstone fortresses that call out, making the soul yearn to dwell among their wisdom and protection. Yet, on the micro-scale, the dried and cracked red ground, laden with thorny plants, and the inherent dangers of the steep walls of the fortresses bring the mind back to the present, warning it to escape the Sirenum scopuli-like landscape. Here, the passion of the soul fights to overcome the reasoning of the mind to take control of the body. Everett, the desert vagabond, lived life balancing on this line - and quite a life it was. In the end, his soul won out. Or perhaps the beauty of Davis Gulch won out, giving his soul enough power to win the battle. Either way, Everett lost his balance early.
Although the physical work of building trails brings me great joy, the act of shaping nature to allow greater ease of human access is a bit unsettling. Leopold's great paradox surfaces - the only way for humans to care to protect wildness, is to truly know wildness. Yet, once there have been enough people that have seen a particular wildland, it ceases to be wild.
The goal of building trails is to allow the most people possible to see and love wildness while minimizing the space trampled and altered by human passage. This is the fine line our society currently walks - a balance of the battle between the soul's passion for nature and the mind's concern for ruining it. Walking that line through Dixie, I pondered ways to keep that balance.