Clouds mingle amongst the ridges of the Pinaleño Mountains. Photo by Bradley Harmon.

Written by Bradley Harmon, Wild Stew Field Crew Member.

There was I time that I can recall, among fond memories and flowing wine, when I felt higher than any man born of mud should ever dare to ascend. A laborious time, yes, but a time spent among Gods, ancient and dormant.

The crew hikes in to the work site. Photo by Bradley Harmon.

I was on hitch with my mosaic crew of beautiful, caring souls, tasked with the maintenance of an extraordinary trail in the Pinaleño Mountains: the Round-the-Mountain Trail. The weather report loomed in the back of our minds and between the pauses in our words as we prepared for the hitch. Three days of rain were expected yet we pressed on with our tents, loppers, and picks.

Before/after of brushed trail corridor near Marijilda Canyon. Photos by Jonathan Patt.

For four days we worked in the sun and hiked many miles each day, dutifully caring for this trail by clearing the brush that had choked it beyond recognition. But as the sun set every night, the weather inched ever closer. However, with the formidable experience of each of my wonderful crew members, we were prepared. With rain gear, hand warmers, and boot conditioner, each of us had confidence despite the stark forecast. By the fourth night the weather had arrived. I can recall the sound of the rain gently crashing into the thorns of the desert plants, desperate for water, and the exasperation that kept me awake that night.

Dexter works to brush the trail. Photo by Bradley Harmon.

We began our day as usual, with a hot breakfast, hand warmers, and a brisk hike up the mountain. But as I looked up toward the peaks, I noticed the sky had descended and now rested on the trail we were looking after and, as we ascended the trail, we reached what must have been heaven. Cold and wet made no difference when walking among clouds. Through the mist that engulfed us I saw trees that I believe to have been gods. They were ancient and mighty, they commanded my attention, and as I hiked further, I saw the bones of ancient trees, but they were merely birthing more gods. We began to work on the tread of this trail and, having put my mark on this mountain with rock steps and clear drains, I looked through the mist at an alligator juniper watching me work. I felt a bond and thought about how lucky I was to be working in what must have been heaven, in the presence of gods. On our lunch break that day I sat down and wrote a poem: 

How blessed am I,
Lounging in the clouds,
Walking on high,
Nestled in trees, ancient and proud

Yesterday’s woes
Now seem more vaporous
Than the clouds kissing my nose
And tomorrow’s strife grows tenuous

How could I forget
The peace among the clouds
The joy that life collects
And the happiness that birds sing aloud

We continued to work in the heavens and fortunately the weather showed us mercy, and only rained two of the three days. But it didn’t matter as much because of the privilege of working with such a fine crew, and the blessing of walking among the clouds.

Marijilda Canyon looking to the high country of the Pinaleño Mountains. Photo by Jonathan Patt.