We're climbing, whipped by the cold, at five thousand feet. I sailed the Gulf Stream with my father, prospected in the Arizona desert with my great-uncle, and raced my quarter horse on Alabama farms.
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Eliza and I are walking amid yuccas that were seedlings in 1660.
Because Joshua trees support such a broad spectrum of desert life, they're immensely positive figures in the biosphere, but in situ—in their eponymous park—they are a forbidding Greek chorus delivering the portent that they, not we, are at home on this range. Eliza Grace, nineteen, a college freshman driven by her own ferocious independence, is on spring break.
More directly, Chaucer's characters share the common project of the pilgrimage.
Our trek isn't built around a Christian hajj to a cathedral city, but Eliza and I will be doing the same ruminative springtime walk-and-talk that our brothers and sisters at the Tabard inn did seven centuries ago.
Our trailhead, Upper Covington Flat, is a part of Joshua Tree beloved by the Mojave green rattlesnake.
Its venom is several times more potent than that of any other American viper, approximating the punch of the southeast Asian king cobra.The temperature has dropped to forty and is headed down.We should have set off two hours ago, when we'd have had more daylight to work with.I'd hiked this desert twice before and did not think that it was going to give us time off for reading, but this too was part of her ferocious message: Backcountry be damned, we'd be reading one book—an epic poem, in fact.All (or at least the best) literature is travelogue of some sort, but the apt thing about tackling an epic in our circumstance was that such a work manifestly features the journey.Her notion was that we'd read one travelogue while living another.