Exploration is challenging and involves much focus and effort. Decisions of substance are frequent and the senses are alert on all levels. The longer the effort, the more consequential decisions become. Eventually, the crux is reached and the route bent to head back toward civilization, usually with the path ahead getting easier as time goes on (but not always!)
On Sunday morning, Abraham and I headed up Frijoles Canyon in Bandelier National Monument and eventually decided on a side canyon to explore cross-country style. Navigation was a challenge due to huge boulders and vertical scarps all around. What looked promising might cliff out at a moment’s notice at a turn hidden from below.
Abraham took one side and I stayed to the other. We discussed the level of commitment required for an exploration to succeed. I am in the middle of the definitive book on the conquest of Mexico, and I told the story of how when Cortés was ready to head inland toward Tenochitlan (after founding Vera Cruz), he ordered that all the ships but one be burned. That is commitment.
We climbed steadily and both heard it at the same time. Something large a good 50 feet above us, headed our way! It was a huge hawk who flew right over our heads, circling around once before zooming out of sight around the cliff to the east. We laughed and continued the climb, wary of stumbling into another hawk or maybe a nest.
Eventually we made it to our final level. The pour off was over 100 feet above us and it was the end of the line for us. We enjoyed the pinnacle of our fine adventure while being secure in the idea that the way back would be not only all downhill, but also known territory.
Returning to familiar terrain quickens the pace and accelerates the whole enterprise. Once a route is established, the next time it will be much easier and might take only half the time to get to the far point than the original exploration did.
The time coming back passed too quickly for us, though we enjoyed every moment, and knew that we still had a 35 minute drive back to Pojoaque to continue the conversation. The wilderness is our office, after all – where we catch up, strategize and plan our next steps. May each of you have an outlet like this and friends to share it with!