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Even whiter Christmas

You’re never going to believe this, but last night it rained all over the Covered Wagon. Mom promised that it was going to turn into snow in the morning and that we could try hiking in it. I was excited to see it snow for the first time in my life, but when we woke up nothing was falling from the sky.

We went to a park called Dead Horse Point where All Trails said that dogs were allowed but had to be kept on leash. “Mom, what happened to the horse???” I asked. “Erm, I don’t know. I think she died painlessly of old age surrounded by all the other horses that she loved.” “Oh good,” I said, even though I thought it was a strange name. Why not name it after her life and accomplishments? “So what about this leash thing?” “Oh, I have no intention of holding anything that will let anyone pull me in a direction that I don’t want to go when I’m standing within 100 feet of a cliff face. Safety first. Anyway, the government is on shutdown, so the rangers who give the tickets are home with their families.”

As we were driving to the park, I looked out the window and wagged my tail. Someone had decorated the whole park for Christmas and sprinkled white dirt all over everything. It looked like the opposite of a shadow, like instead of the underside of everything being dark, now the sunny side of everything was white. The decorator hadn’t missed anything, from the tiniest twig on the twisty candy cane trees to the giant towers inside the canyon.

Much to my surprise, Dead Horse Point wasn’t a horse hospital at all, but a finger of land that stuck out into the canyon so that we could hike in a loop and always be looking at a new part of the canyon. I liked Dead Horse Point because had the whole place to ourselves. Wherever we went, ours were the first pawprints in the white dirt. I had to run around to stay warm, but Mom was taking her time absorbing the sights, so whenever she couldn’t see me, I practiced my snow angels, which is what you call it when you roll around in the white dirt.

We also did lots of looking into the canyon together. What I like about looking at the canyon is that you can see all the distances. Close up you can smell where the bunnies live in the bushes and see all of the little holes in the rock that look like a giant stuck his finger inside just to see what it would feel like. In the medium distance, you can see all of the cliffs and towers and wonder about how an adventurous dog could find a way up or down them. And in the long, long distance you can see the bottom of the canyon and rim after rim going off into the distance and imagine what the world looks like from those spots. The problem with the Grand Canyon was that we could only see the far distance (

which was fake) and the near distance (which was filled with dumb humans who weren’t paying attention). “What do you like about the canyons?” I asked Mom, expecting her to say something about gift shops or flush toilets. “I feel like I can see time. It’s like watching a story that’s hundreds of millions of years old.” “You’re weird,” I said. “That’s why you’re not the writer in this family.”

After awhile we found a sign for a side trail it said, “Horse Pharmacy Viewing Area 0.25 mile” and then an arrow that pointed right off a cliff. “What the heck?” Mom said. “Is this a trap?” She cautiously got very close to the sign, crouched down so that she would stick to the earth better, and looked around and behind it. Then she stood up, “Hey, look! There’s a whole plateau down here. You just can’t see it from the main trail.” After that, Mom was very brave about getting close to the edge, and even scooted up close so she could look down a couple of times. She only screamed once when I ran down a slope into a viewing parapet and put my front paws up on the rock wall for a better look.

As we walked the plank to where the rock ended and open air began, we started to see some people who had been attracted by the Visitor Center and parking lot that someone had left at the tip. “Mom, do you need to put a leash on me? Are we going to get caught?” “Hell no! All of those people are on viewing balconies within inches of the edge. There’s NO WAY I’m hanging on to you if you do your bowling ball thing. I have a better idea…” Then she pulled out the lobster headdress she’d been making me wear all morning. “What are you going to do with those???” I asked. “I know how to short circuit your confidence and keep you from trying to make new friends!” she said, snapping the elastic under my chin that kept the lobsters stuck on my head. We walked the long way around the outside of the parking lot, and I slunk by the Korean couple who were shouting into the canyon without shouting along with them. Then I slunk past the American couple that said I was “such a cutie” without giving them my butt to scratch. I didn’t even bark at the old folks that looked like they were scared of dogs.

The walk back along the west rim was a little bit harder to find because there was more white dirt, and less red-grey dirt to show old footprints. Luckily, there were Karens everywhere. Karens the name for the piles of rocks that show you the way and look like snow(wo)men. There was even more to see on this side because the canyon looked totally different, and every time we left the trail to explore, the helpful Karens showed us the way back.

On a side trail to a spot called Horse Hospice Overlook, Mom stepped over a crack to get a better look at this part of the canyon. Something about the crack put my hackles up, so before crossing it myself I looked down into it. There was no bottom, it just went down, down, down until it was all black. My eyes followed the crack until it ended in open space… and then started again on the next rock. What had happened to that standing place in the middle??? “C’mere Oscar,” Mom said as I stared into the crack. “First tell me where that middle section of rock went!” I said. “Well… it fell into the canyon. Come here. I want to take a picture.” “No way, José! Are you crazy?! This thing could go at any second. And I’m sure you standing on it doesn’t help the situation. I saw how many snacks you ate last night.” “Treat?” “Not for all the beef tracheas in California!” I said.

The sun was shining by the time we got back to the Covered Wagon and the cold wasn’t as prickly, but Mom (who isn’t as tough about the cold as I am) was frozen was 10% frozen solid. It’s a good thing that the Covered Wagon’s only temperature setting is “sauna” because it took a long time to feel her fingers enough to scratch behind my ears properly again.

Our hike was almost perfect except for one thing: I still hadn’t seen it snow like Mom had promised, and now we had to leave Utah because there was a “cold snap” starting tonight. As we drove through the mountains of Utah and looked longingly at the signs for all the National Parks we were passing that wouldn’t let me in, some dark, grey clouds rolled into the sky, and the road climbed up to meet them. “Look, Oscar!” Mom said. “It’s snowing.”

I looked out the window, but all I could see was the laziest rain I’d ever seen. On the car commercials and in the snow globes it always seems like snow happens with bright lights to make each beautiful snowflake sparkle, but this stuff was dreary and clumpy and didn’t even make that jingle sound as it fell. It looked like someone was just throwing toy guts at us. “This is stupid. I can make snow at home,” I said, laying back down in my throne of blankets for a nap.

Oscar the Canyon Beast



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