I was very curious as to the volatility of the black powder, so I reached into the can and grabbed a handful of it, and carried it all the way back to our rubber rafts waiting at the river.
The term black powder may be a misnomer, for the material in my hand didn’t resemble powder, rather it had the consistency of rock salt that one spreads on the sidewalks in winter.
Letting the powder slip through my closed fist, I made a long trail on the smooth rocks we had been sitting on, and which ended with a small pile of powder, over which I placed an empty soda pop can. With everyone standing clear, I lit the end of the powder trail, and before I could blink my eyes, the powder flashed and exploded under the can sending it to an enormous height in the air. That was a volatility I had never expected; I’m only glad the powder didn’t spontaneously combust in my hand as I was carrying it back to the rafts.
Recounting these long-ago memories of the Indian cliff dwelling, the uranium mine and the black powder, helped move me many miles along the trail. Eventually, the trail moved out of the desert and back into forested terrain, with Pinyon pine becoming the dominant tree species.
This tree produces a three to four-inch pine cone containing the nutrient-rich Pinyon nut, which is harvested in the fall. For Native Americans, this nut was an important food source, as the nut could be eaten raw or dried, and then ground into flour. To extract the nut from the cone, the cone must first be heated, which allows the nuts to fall free from the cone matrix.
I passed a number of long-abandoned mines – some were just tunnels in the hillsides, while others had extensive cement assemblages which formed the foundations for mining machinery used to process the ore. These abandoned mines reminded me of the title of one of the books in my library entitled, Some Dreams Must Die.
The elevation for today’s hike has averaged around sixty-five hundred feet, but as I approach Highway 178, the elevation will drop to five thousand feet. When driving in a car, one pays little attention to whether the elevation goes up or down, but a hiker’s body definitely recognizes the difference.
On the trail, Happy Feet passed me. I tell him that if perchance there is trail magic at the Walker Pass Campground at Highway 178, to please save me a bowl of spaghetti, as I know I will be coming in late, and as an afterthought and in jest, I requested some ice cream also.