I headed into the forest in late afternoon with three hours of light left. It was dead calm in the lower reaches of the canyon and I could see that it rained the day before. Upside down oak leaves still held water in their concave undersides.
Two miles along my way, I rounded a bend and spotted two backpackers a quarter of mile off. They stood ambling around apparently taking a breather. I caught up to them on a short, but steep incline, and followed a guy hiking in Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots and a big white cowboy hat to the top, where his buddy stood decked out in full fatigues and eight inch combat boots laced up tight. Each man, in their late twenties or early thirties, cradled a stubby, military-type rifle in their arms.
Neither one of them had spotted me approaching. And the guy in jeans I followed had no clue I walked up right behind him struggling up the gravely slope. His buddy commented in surprise, as did he, when we reached the top of the hill and they both finally saw me.
They were oblivious to their surroundings, which was a bit amusing considering their outfits and what they were packing. Guess it was all show. I blew by them with a clipped, “howdy,” and stomped on down the trail pondering what the hell they were doing. Or thought they were doing.
Less than a mile later, I was walking a flat section along the canyon floor at the foot of a mountain, just beyond the confluence of two creeks, when a shiny black pointed shape caught my eye.
Right on the trail, in the weeds that have been clipped short by constant foot travel, just inches from the bare dirt path itself, laid an inch long obsidian arrowhead. It had been cleaned of dirt from the rain and was lying there as if somebody had set it down.
It was a fairly well crafted point and in near perfect condition with only a slight chip missing from one edge, which was hardly even noticeable if the arrowhead was flipped over. Still miles from the old Indian camp that was my destination and I stumble across an incredible artifact during a trip I postponed and almost didn’t even take.
I pushed on and ended the day hiking the last thirty minutes by twilight and walked into camp just as darkness really set in. An ornery wind was blowing over the mountain, but the camp is well protected and only had a slight breeze by comparison.
I made some quick grub and a cup of coffee by headlamp and then hit the light. I laid back and stargazed for an hour or so in total darkness, peering through a huge almond shaped window to the sky created by the surrounding sandstone formations.
The wind owned the night. A mighty river of air, it flowed over the mountain in a roar whittling away the monolith I was hunkered beneath grain by grain, which rained down and tinkled against my tent all night long. I lay in bed listening nervously. At the height of the gusts, it would reach an eerie howl and I waited to hear the sharp crack of a falling tree or section of sandstone giving way.
I woke at six o’clock to birds singing and more wind. A fine grit coated my face and covered everything else inside my tent. Ominous looking dark clouds were being sucked over the mountains and speedily flying through the sky. Geez, what happened to clear skies for Tuesday? I thought. Am I gonna have to hike outta here in the rain? But it soon cleared to blue skies and I spent a leisurely day wandering around the area near camp.
Late that afternoon while heading back on my way home, I passed the same guys I saw on the way in. They sat in camp aside the creek in full cammies playing cards. My curiosity continued. I walked the remaining two hours in the deepening shade of late afternoon, and timed it so I arrived at my truck at dark, squeezing every minute I could out of the day.