Rattle Snake Mountain is really more of a hill, but we grew up calling it a mountain, so what is there to do? It is the recreation area of the county. We have a motor raceway, a trap club, hiking trails, and off-roading there. And when I was a teenager, this is where the young couples would go to make out. It’s hard to believe that the base of it once was a dump, and that it was part, or is, the border to one of the local reservations. I rode a bike-a-thon here once too.
I started hiking Rattle Snake Mountain this in the spring. It is one of the best places to hike without having to drive for half an hour. Looking at the life size maze covering the lone hill on the east side of town makes me want to explore all the different configurations.
There are three paved roads that border the mountain. Two are well traveled and the third is almost desolate. That’s where my hike starts. I realized not long ago that I need to work on my climbing endurance. It doesn’t take long for me to lose my breath when walking up hill. So I take the road because it is a long incline that changes pitch several times before it reaches the top.
At the end of the pavement, there are several trails that lead off and a gate to the trap club in front of me. I turn right to continue climbing. This road is almost as good as the paved; it’s the main road to the raceway. As soon as I get to a smaller trail heading up, I take it. And I keep turning upward for an hour, until I have nowhere left but to go down.
As I wander down, there is a loop trail on the side of the path. It is a steep climb up, around, and down making a cancer ribbon. I take it. People have driven this, but it is a climb on the face of the hill. It is the steepest I have climbed for the day, and I have to stop several times to catch my breath. My heart beats rapidly in my chest, my legs burn, and my breathing is ragged. I love it. I feel alive.
This spot may not be beautiful to many people, but to me it is. The beauty lies in the surprises of the desert. The lonely seagull lily between the rocks, the green cheat grass alongside the road, a fat lizard doing pushups on a black rock, the yellow wild flower after a spring rain are all unexpected. They are all surprises waiting to be noticed. Then there is the unexpected man made beauty: a small cairn alongside a path and a glass mosaic trail. It is as I am wandering down a trail leading to my car that the sun falls upon the broken glass making a mosaic. It reminds me of collecting colored glass items in kindergarten and being allowed to work on the mosaic of the city. Mom sent me with the blue menthol bottles collected from our medicine cabinet and our neighbors.
Alongside the road water has recently cut through the dirt and between the rocks making intricate patterns; another unexpected beauty contrasting with the man-made trails etch-a-sketched into the land. Usually the new off-roading paths irritate me making me think about erosion. But, these are different, artful, calling to me giving me a place to walk. It is easy finding beauty while hiking.