Continued from Chapter 18.
“I have this friend, a Native American, and he showed me a place up here once, quite a few years back, where eagles nest. Although it has been a while, I think I should still be able to find it. It’s hard to lose a mountain.” LizYoung Eagles Flying
Credit: Gregory Johnston / Dreamstime.com
By Richard Juarez
We drove north from Paso Picacho past the turnoff for Stonewall Mine, and past the Boy Scout summer camp. I had gone to that summer camp a few years back. I really liked walking around there under the pine trees and out in the meadow where we played games, and hiking up Stonewall Peak and Cuyamaca Peak. We continued driving, past Cuyamaca Lake and then into the little town of Julian. Although mining was the major reason for the town’s early existence, it had become mostly a tourist attraction, a mountain get-away with little shops selling antiques, gemstones, arts and crafts, and its well-known apple pies and apple cider. While on our camping trips, my parents liked to take us into Julian to walk around the town, and sometimes get an apple pie and some cider to take back to camp or to take home.
Don Emilio told us we were going to meet someone in town. He parked the car on Main Street and we walked about a block to the Julian Town Hall building. As we approached, a woman sitting on the porch called to Don Emilio, and they greeted each other with a hug.
“So you guys must be Vicente and Antonio,” she said as she stepped toward us.
And you must be his friend, I thought. Don Emilio said he would be meeting a friend, but I thought it would be a guy—and someone his age. While this woman was older, she wasn’t as old as Don Emilio. She looked to be about forty, and pretty good-looking for an older lady.
“Elizabeth, this is Vicente,” said Don Emilio, pointing to me, “and this is Antonio.”
“But that’s not what you call yourselves, is it? I know Don Emilio likes to use our formal names. Tony and … Vince?” she asked.
“Tony and Vincent,” I answered.
“My, that’s still pretty formal. Not Vince or Vinnie?”
“Yeah, Vinnie. You’se can call him dat,” said Tony cracking up at his own attempt at a New York mafia accent.
“Hmm,” she said, “Vinnie … “
I could feel my ears getting red. “I prefer Vincent, or maybe Vince.”
“Well, Vincent, you can call me Liz, even though Don Emilio calls me Elizabeth.”
“Elizabeth and I work together with some youth groups in the L.A. area,” said Don Emilio.
“He’s also working with me on shamanism and energy work,” she said, “like with you.”
“Have you been waiting long?” Don Emilio asked.
“No, not really,” she said. “I came up early to walk around and see Julian. Then I came here and have been reading and watching the tourists come and go. I really haven’t even been waiting for you. I figured you would get here when it was time to get here.” Then her smile got brighter, as she said, almost laughing, “And I was right. Here you are!”
“Okay, so I guess we are ready to go,” said Don Emilio. “I would like to visit the town myself, but we had better go before we run out of daylight.”
The four of us walked down Main Street back to Tata’s car.
“I’ll sit in the front so I can navigate,” said Liz. So we all climbed into the car and started down the hill away from Julian.
“When Don Emilio said you wanted to see eagles in their natural habitat, I volunteered to come and help out,” Liz said, turning in her seat so she could see us. “Did you already tell them?” she asked Don Emilio. He shook his head.
“Anyway, I have this friend, a Native American, and he showed me a place up here once, quite a few years back, where eagles nest. Although it has been a while, I think I should still be able to find it. It’s hard to lose a mountain. However, I should warn you. You won’t always see eagles here, even though this is their nesting area. They may be gone temporarily, flying around another part of the mountain range, or they may not be using this area right now.”
She turned back to look out the window, and then checked the map spread out on her lap. We hadn’t gone very far when she motioned for Don Emilio to turn left down a paved road. That road went for quite a way, maybe about two miles, and then the pavement ended.
“Let’s see,” she said, pointing to the map. “We continue on this road after the pavement ends for about one-and-a-half miles, until it comes to a T.” A few minutes later, we arrived.
“Turn left, then look for a parking area a few feet up this way,” she directed Don Emilio.
And sure enough, there was a parking area with two other cars there.
“All right!” she exclaimed, seeming a little surprised that she had found it. She turned around toward the back seat and offered her raised palm. Tony reached up and gave her five.
“Yes! I knew I could still find it!” she said, sounding a little relieved.
We parked the car and got out our daypacks and water. We also put our jackets in the packs, in case it got cool on the way back, although the temperature was still very comfortable, even a little bit warm. We then walked a few feet to where the trail started. Well, actually two trails. Liz led the way and took the one on the left.
As we walked, she called out, “Up that way, behind that hill, is where the eagles are.”
This appeared to be a popular area for hikers, because the paths were so well worn and not overgrown with weeds or plants. The trail was mostly a gradual climb, with a more strenuous elevation change in only a few spots, at least in the early going. Twice our trail was crossed by other trails, both of them wider and well traveled. And at these junctions, our trail seemed to appear narrower and less used. I thought that was a good sign, because I didn’t think that eagles in the wild would be too happy next to a very busy trail.
Soon the trail got steeper and steeper. We had to stop a few times for water and to rest. The trail seemed so unused in places that we had a hard time finding it after it crossed large areas of rocks. But we kept finding it again, and kept climbing.
Liz and Don Emilio chatted away the whole time. I had never seen Don Emilio so talkative or enthusiastic. He really seemed to come alive around Liz. It was good to see him happily interacting with someone else other than Tony and me.
While they talked, I got quieter and soon was totally in my head. I could feel the connection with my eagle spirit getting stronger. Because I had done a power animal journey the night before, and had another eagle dream, I was really feeling connected with the eagles. I felt confident that I was finally going to join them in their natural habitat.
After hiking up the hill for quite a long time, we came to the crest of the trail and discovered we were just a few yards from the top. We walked hurriedly the rest of the way up the trail, anxious to see what lay beyond the large outcropping of boulders at the top. Tony and I ran toward the boulders, but Don Emilio and Liz called to us to slow down and move quietly, since eagles might be up at the top. But when we arrived, all we saw was a beautiful view into a little valley, and across the other side of the valley, another peak.
“Heck, I don’t see any eagles,” said Tony.
“Remember, Elizabeth said we might not see any today,” said Don Emilio.
“I have good news and bad news,” added Liz. “The good news is that I see some eagles….”
“Oh, where?” Tony hollered.
“There, across the valley, at the top of that other peak.”
I could see them now—two large birds circling near the top of that peak.
“The bad news,” she continued, “is that’s the peak we were supposed to climb. I guess at the trailhead, we should have taken the trail on the right.”
“Look,” said Don Emilio, “more eagles have joined them.”
“Can we hike over there and get a closer view?” asked Tony.
“That is still quite a distance,” answered Don Emilio. “I do not think we have enough daylight left to get over there and still find our way back down the mountain.”
I don’t know why I did what I did next. I didn’t think about it or plan it. But I walked away from them as they talked and climbed on top of the boulders. As I stood there on a flat area, the highest point on this peak, I closed my eyes and bowed my head, then spread my arms out, like wings. After taking a few deep breaths, I sent energy from my heart out to the eagles.
The wind picked up. I could hear it rushing past my ears. A strong gust pushed on my wings, almost lifting me up. I bent forward, turning my feathers into the wind, and jumped off the rock, while I batted my outstretched wings, catching the wind as I sailed off the peak. The steep mountainside dropped away rapidly as I flew over the void toward the opposite mountain where the eagles circled. One by one they flew toward me, then past. I turned back and followed them. We circled over a group of people at the top of the peak. Then I heard a distant sound, a very faint sound. It was one word that seemed to move toward me, until I could almost make it out. I closed my eyes as I strained to hear the word, and also heard a very faint whooshing sound.
“Vincent.” The faint word hung there in the blackness. For a moment I seemed to be caught there in the void, alone with that one word.
“Vincent,” Liz called softly, “look up!”
I opened my eyes and slowly raised my head, with my arms still spread out. Then I saw them—four eagles circling right above me, just a few feet over my head. Right where I knew they were. They were almost close enough to touch.
Copyright © 2013 Richard Juarez
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