The temperatures were high but the tiny stream running through Havasupai remained icy. My pack hung in a tree to hoist my food above hungry critters and by then my sleeping bag and clothes were settled in the tent. Blisters covered my feet – four on my right foot and three on my left. I’ll never doubt the importance of Moleskin again. One of the experienced hikers had athletic tape; wrapping my ankles and elevating my feet brought the swelling down considerably. I also had the foresight to stuff a jar of Nutella in the bottom of my pack, which all of the other teenage girls went nuts over. You’d have thought it was a nip of Popov on a detox unit.
We met a local Native American named Gloria*. Tall with calloused hands, she wore cut off shorts and a Beyonce t-shirt for the week we knew her. She also listened to Beyonce’s Dangerously In Love album on her MP3 player continuously, one ear always plugged with a head phone while the other ear joined in conversation. She followed us around and by default became part of the youth group that week.
On the third night of our stay someone grabbed a guitar. A small group of us hiked to a hill in the deep Canyon. The hills serve as refuge should a flash flood come down the falls and cover the campsite during monsoon season. Hiking at night in the Canyon I easily lost track of time. The depth of the stars above me made it feel like midnight, but it could’ve been eight o’clock for all I knew. But I wouldn’t complain, to lose track of time gazing at the night sky is still one of my favorite pastimes.
We sang songs together, our voices carrying through the Canyon. Quiet and then loud and then quiet again. Simple songs of gratitude and joy, covering each tent in the campground with a blanket of peace. Between songs and gazing at the stars, I heard snickers and giggles from some of the girls when Gloria joined us on the hill.
“How’d she find us here?”
“Why won’t she leave?”
Even the older boys couldn’t help making fun – especially when Gloria singled out a varsity basketball player as her crush. I knew she was tall. I knew she was sort of weird. But then again, who isn’t? The teenagers’ disdain didn’t make sense to me. Then I saw Gloria stand along the edge of firelight, peeing over the bushes. Gloria could pee standing up. Never mind that it was weird to urinate in front of a dozen minors – anyone who had keene observation skills now had an answer about Gloria.
I was young. I was slightly surprised. I didn’t have a political thought in my head. But I hoped she would be shielded from the sneers and sarcasm. I hoped she would stay with us on the hill that night. To sit under the stars and ponder the meaning of life. Why should we not sit together and sing and look at the moon above?
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Photo Credit: oxDarkPhoenixo via Deviant Art
See also Big Mystery Part 1: Stumbling on the Rocks, the story of my eleven mile hike into the Canyon.