What Is Man

It’s a rough and untamed land. In the middle of Phoenix there are mountains—rugged, steep, unconquered by pavement or irrigation. Like other mountains in other places, they exude power merely by being there. People think that by scrambling to their respective peaks they have bested the mountain, stolen its power. They are all wrong.

I live right next to a mountain called Camelback. Climbing Camelback at sunset is an awesome experience. The mountain is rugged, the trail nothing more than a trafficked area through a field of boulders. Few plants exist other than cactus and those scrubby desert trees that thrive where water is not. There are lots of saguaro but many of them are in poor health, I suppose, due to the crowds that hike this trail and throw stones and stick sticks at them. The cactus flowers that are open in early morning are tightly closed at the end of the day. The mountain is a reddish-brown, the trail is reddish-brown, and this sort of matches the brown cloud-ring at the horizon—the cloud I am breathing every day. Somehow it’s still an awesome experience.

I went the other day, after work, at sunset. It was over 100 degrees the whole time, even though I was hiking in the dark for the greater part of the evening. I discovered a running route that includes the climb up, and back down, Camelback Mountain. This loop is a respectable ten miles and traverses the entire ridge—a spectacular experience at sunset above the lights of Scottsdale and, all around me, the greater Phoenix metro, the planes stacked in the sky waiting to land at the airport. At night, on Camelback, it’s quiet, and I can sit and watch the lights twinkle.

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