Mom and I had unfinished business. Last year Mom and I took our expedition North too early and were turned around by white dirt in too many places. There were a couple of spots that we vowed to return to later in the season when the mountains had sweat off their white dirt cloaks. Our first piece of unfinished business was with the Devil’s Punchbowl, where we had spent a whole day driving a seven-hour detour, had been stopped miles from the trailhead by a road block guarded by a monster, and had hiked through white dirt taller than Mom for miles before finally losing the trail and turning back.
reviews carefully this time, and one thing that every review mentioned was how hard the switchbacks were. According to one very credible reviewer, it was hard enough to have to carry your hiking partner piggy-back when she gave up. So Mom and I were nervous about what we’d find when we finally reached the switchbacks, and I wondered who would have to carry who piggyback. When we got to the switchbacks, we almost walked past it. It looked like the kind of short trail behind a bush that shy humans make when they don’t want to be caught using the dog bathroom. Other than the mapp, the only sign that this trail was important was that someone had made scratches into a log like the letters people make with their keys on evil cars to teach them a lesson. It said, “Devil’s Punch…” and then the keys gave up.
When we popped out of the woods at the top of the mini-trail, we were in the bare rock crown of the mountain. From the way the mountain peaks stuck up around us, I could tell that about a quarter mile ahead of us, all of the peaks would meet in a crater like the shape of a back tooth. When we got over the hump to the middle of the molar where the filling would go was an unbelievably grey lake the color of a sparkling Valero sign. I drank a little bit of the devil’s punch, and Mom had a snack, we took some handsome pictures, and then we turned around to go back.
Oscar the Lifeguard