|Pioneer Pass Campground, near Globe, Arizona|
Sometimes the whole family went. We'd play Rook, a card game I always associate with the outdoors. We read a lot. I remember devouring The Black Cauldron there when I was quite young, sprawled on the big boulders that were so fun to climb around on. I pretended I was Princess Eilonwy, a character in the book, and made up my own scenes around her. When I try to think back on when I started writing stories, I often find myself there, clinging to a rock and imagining trolls and bandits around me in the woods.
My brother David has always liked hiking. The mountains rose gently up and up away from Pioneer Pass, and the two of us would climb, climb, climb up the slope slippery with fallen pine needles. It would look for a moment like we were almost to the peak, and David would call out "to the TOP of the MOUNTAIN!" like a hiker's battle cry. We'd reach the point we thought was the top, only to reveal more mountain above. We never did reach the top, but I didn't mind.
|Alligator bark, Pioneer Pass, Arizona|
|A butterfly that literally flew into my camera frame, Pioneer Pass|
|Arizona wildlife: a sleepy black rattler|
The old-fashioned water pumps are gone. The sites have rearranged themselves. I can't recognize where we hung the pinata on one church campout, or where Dad and I made the village of sand and fire, or where I and all the characters from The Black Cauldron fought off the bad guys. But I remember the feel of it. The quiet happiness. The times I spent with my dad.
And at night, in the crisp mountain air, the stars still shine as bright.