IF YA DIDN'T YET, READ PART 1 :)
Now it was full blown spring, a time of magic in Calico. Dogs lazed for longer days in the sun. Shirts came off, tucked inside waistlines like oversized bandanas. The wise city slickers soaked up every second of the serene spring days that sprouted elusively in between outrageous windstorms. Yet as close as the hiking meccas of Red Rock Canyon and Calico Basin were to the city, the number of trekkers was zilch compared to the bursting Vegas population. A speechless commentary on priorities in a 24/7 gambling town.
Low-grade melancholy stirred in my core as I rolled down my window, heart breaking open into the sunshine. This would be my last hike in Vegas. I glanced left to be comforted by a cosmic sign I always translated as "You're on the right path." A dreamcatcher dangled on the dash of a white astro van with Kentucky plates. All I could see of the passengers was a woman's bent leg hoisted up on the front seat. I imagined her with long hippie hair, seat halfway reclined in the laid back posture of joy riding.
I pulled onto the Calico offshoot and parked the car about a half-mile before the basin. Other cars twinkled like dimes along the strip of dirt and rock compacted from pit stop traffic. I swapped my flip-flops for Nike sneaks and headed up a mild slope of the trail that looked pencil thin from the roadside and widened to about a foot. I breathed in deep, my lungs expanding with dry air that always felt clean in the expansive desert.
Peering over my shoulder at the top of the first hill, I caught a jogger warming up his first steps on the trail. Twirling around, my eyes shot all the way to the line of Charleston Boulevard that brought me here. The desert in between was wildly alive with flowers~cactus exploding bright magenta feathers, clusters of yellow daisies, royal blue petals popping out of dense branch mazes and lavender asters the lightest shade of heaven. Barrel cactus decorated the rolling hills, short grass filled in hillsides like mini fields of wheat and prickly palm Joshua Trees twisted every which way, like Dr. Seuss characters with funky hairdos. Clearly the work of divine landscapers, perfectly spaced and brilliantly diverse.
I strolled along, peacefully energetic, high on the day, until my eyes lazer-beamed to a familiar round shape in the dirt. A crusty penny, the star of a game I created to welcome more money into my life. One cent was equivalent to $1000. I quickly became an old pro at finding thousands scattered on my daily walks and grocery store runs~but this was a place I never anticipated finding coin!
I probably looked like a five-year-old to the jogger who passed from behind while I pinched my penny up to the sun, ogling it like a raw diamond. His "hello" was kind, hair long, scraggly and heavy with sweat, under a red and white trucker hat. I watched his smooth tan calves trading weight down the trail, every muscle visibly working to tread lightly over the crumbly ground. I followed the staggered stamps of his running shoes, still bubbling over my big score.
READ PART 3