This is a New Deal trail. I can feel the sweat of men saturated into the steep canyon walls, young men put to work during the depression, strong men learning to love the outdoors, men soon to be sent to war. The bare limbs of Arizona sycamore rise up like white veins from the earth to the metal walkway; the wooden walkways made by the CCC were replaced 50 years ago with steal grates. The trail is a saga of hardship and struggle. Before The Great Depression brought the CCC, miners and pioneers came west to look for money, to rise in the ranks of a new and expanding American dream. The catwalk was originally an 18-inch steel pipe carrying water to a burgeoning town made of people seeking something different, something more from the life they once had. Most talked about the prospects of gold.
Chico, with terror in his eyes, tries to stay close to me; he low-crawls across the metal grates. I holler at Chico to hurry up across the bridge and threaten to leave him; he listens because he trusts me. Kendra walks behind Chico and speaks softly to him. She encourages him. I get ahead of them both and stop to take pictures. She hides her eyes from the camera, but it is her eyes I try to capture along with her heart. We imagine the hundreds of men swinging metal against rock.
Life is such a struggle at times. We love and lose; we work and die; we sweat and stress for money. The men of the CCC worked for food, shelter, and medical attention. Most of the 30 dollars a month they made was sent home to their families. The CCC blossomed as the first recruits fell in love with the work. Most arrived to their work camp malnourished with ragged clothes hanging to their gawky bodies. Going to the wilderness gives hope. We are here for a bit of that hope too. The sound of metal against rock rings inside us. There is something about these places where water flows over rock. This place is the remnants of an ancient caldera, part of the geologic history of creation, the tumultuous explosion and formation of this place we now call America. After millions of years, the descendants of the Mogollon migrated into the Gila. Nobody knows exactly where they came from. Like the Ancient Pueblo to the north, they left little record in the rock. Large tribes of people survived and left. They didn’t disappear; they changed and adapted.
We are both water people and if it wasn’t so cold, might even dive into a deep pool for a swim. Winter is still on us. Water wears down rock. It only takes time. Some say, time can heal everything. I think it changes everything.