Friday, August 26, 2011

Snake Canyon....

As part of #100blogfest, I was asked to write a childhood memory.....

I spent the majority of my life in Emery County, Utah; a beautiful area with the mountains to the west and the majestic desert to the east.  My parents were avid outdoorsmen. My dad was a fisherman and a hunter. My mom loved archeology and she spent years volunteering at the local museum. Together they shared a passion for collecting rocks and fossils.  Needless to say, we spent the majority of our time outdoors. I have many wonderful memories of the time I shared with my parents and some of my very favorite recollections are the times I spent exploring the desert with my family. We often picnicked on the high ledges, we hiked the deep gorges, and we explored the trails and roads that weaved between the giant mesas and stretched across wide valleys. 

However, one “desert” memory stands out among the rest. When I was twelve, my parents took my sister and me camping in the desert for a weekend. We were hours from civilization. We'd spent the morning hiking, and decided to break for lunch before heading back to camp. The area was flat and desolate. The only shade was provided by sparsely growing junipers and stubby shrubs. Seeking better shade, my sister and I struck out on our own. We walked for a few moments and soon discovered a shallow gorge cut into the flat landscape. 

Curious, we explored the twisting ravine only to discover a beautiful, deeply-carved canyon below. Excited by our find, we raced back to where our parents rested and led them to our hidden gorge. We followed the ravine, and once we reached the bottom of the canyon, we were excited to discover ancient Fremont Indian petroglyphs carved into the stone ledges. I remember studying a coiled snake depiction carved into the stone and several trapezoidal figurines. The petroglyphs were unspoiled by graffiti, and hadn’t been riddled with bullet holes like so many other panels in the area.  High above the canyon floor was an old Fremont ruin built under an overhanging ledge. These ruins were called “Moki” huts. My parents were ecstatic. It was an exciting find. Deciding we still had a few hours of daylight left, we hiked further into the canyon, hoping to discover more ruins.  I ran on ahead, jumping from stone to stone. Then, just as I was about to leap from a particularly high boulder, my dad suddenly yelled. His voice filled the canyon, his hand closed about the neck of my t-shirt, and I was jerked, mid-air, to the side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement and heard the unmistakable sound of a Great Basin rattler. 

 The snake struck the bottom of my boot as I was propelled through the air and I landed, startled, in a nearby cactus.  The giant snake coiled, and my dad quickly stepped from its path while my mother, sister, and I huddled together near the cactus patch. It took several terrifying moments, but he was able to scare the nearly 5-foot snake away. Later, after we’d all managed to gather our nerve, I asked him how he had known that I was about to land on a snake. He said he hadn’t known, but he had felt something wasn’t right and he had decided to catch up with me. Then just as I’d jumped, he’d noticed the snake, coiled and camouflaged beneath the rock. Amazingly, my dad reacted fast enough to save me from a deadly bite.  From that moment on, we called the canyon “snake” canyon (for obvious reasons) and it became one of my family’s favorite places to hike and explore. I learned a lot that day; I had a deeper respect for nature, and of life, and I knew a greater power had prompted my dad’s actions and had kept watch over me and my family.

*Written by Mandi Slack author of The Alias, fiction suspense, available on Amazon kindle for $3.99
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