Slightly north and west of Spanish Springs and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in Northern Nevada is a hillside gash called Stormy Canyon. Over the years civilization in the form of a rock-crushing operation has slowly encroached on the once isolated area.
Ancient game trails, once used as a foot path by the local Indians and later by roaming cattle, crisscross the hillside leading to the canyon. You have to take your time and look for the signs, but they are there, etched into the hard-packed earth, between the rocks and the scrub brush, eons ago.
The canyon slopes up hill some two to three hundred feet in elevation, and that is why when I hike it, I tend to stay off the canyon’s floor. In Nevada, as with most arid regions, distant thunderstorms can spring up and create a ‘gully-washer,’ sweeping anything and everything in its path away within seconds.
One afternoon, I hiked into the mouth of the canyon, working the north side of the canyon’s slope looking for signs of the old one, who roamed the lands long before it was ‘settled’ by the White man. I had walked about 20 minutes, when I saw a man standing some fifty years south and below my position.
At first I thought I’d run into an ‘old desert rat,’ long-haired and handmade clothing, long since avoiding the trappings of society. Many men and women have found their bliss living in the wilds of Nevada and it isn’t uncommon to see a person like this, if you keep your eyes open.
However, when we made eye-contact, I sensed something was different about this man. I was overcome with the feeling that he belonged to the land, something far different from being at one with oneself in the desert environment.
Stopping, I raised my right hand in the traditional sign of coming in peace. He raised his hand and signed the same.
It was my intention to weave my way between the sage and stone to where he stood so we could talk. I looked down to check my footing for but a second.
At the same time, a huge bird soared above my head, casting a darkened shadow along the ground ahead of my path. And when I looked up in the man’s direction – he was gone.
It took me about two-minutes to reach the canyon’s bottom and the place where the man once stood. I looked for sign to see which direction he had gone – and I could find nothing – not a footprint anywhere.
Far above me, caught in a warm desert air draft and lifting ever higher, I spied a large hawk sailing away.