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something the size of a small kitchen stove, asked me as he strode by, “Señor, cuán-
tos años tiene usted?” We had fancy gear and by then I was resting every few dozen
steps, but my Cincuenta y uno!” brought a smile to his weathered face. That night,
New Year's Eve, over fettuccini Alfredo made with powdered milk and canned crab, we
recalled the marsupial treefrog found hopping in a bog by our tent and a hovering giant
hummingbird seen earlier, so large its beating wings were visible. On the fourth day we
strolled through the Sun Gate, down to Machu Picchu, and marveled at how its stone
ruins harmonized with the surrounding cloud forest. Later that afternoon, local teen-
agers in the steamy public pool in Aguas Calientes regarded this bald, hairy Caucasian
with shocked curiosity, as if I were some supernatural oso!
Kelly is sharp-eyed, often seeing animals before I do—in Sonora's Sierra San Luis,
hiking behind seven male naturalists, she alone spotted a ridge-nosed rattlesnake in
trailside leaf litter. Nonetheless, on August 8, 2002, stalking Yarrow's spiny lizards in
Arizona's Peloncillos Mountains, she heard explosive rattling, jumped backward, then
saw the blacktail and two bleeding punctures on her shin. There followed an hour's
drive, during which she mentally isolated the branding iron fire to below her knee,
and a little bordertown hospital, where she was stabilized with IV fluids, antivenin, and
morphine for a helicopter flight to Tucson. Next came two weeks of hospitalization, in-
cluding an emergency fasciotomy to relieve swelling, removal of the 70 percent of her
anterior tibial compartment muscles that was necrotic, and a prognosis of permanent
foot-drop. During two more weeks in a motel, I nightly changed the dressing on her
fifteen-inch open surgical wound. Finally, back in Ithaca, we were surprised that some
of our friends thought she'd blame the snake or even me, since I studied its species.
After a year of hardcore physical therapy and surgical removal of internal scar tissue,
Kelly's feet were working fine and we returned to Paria Canyon. At first my pack shoved
down on tender shoulders, a reminder of how long it had been since I'd done this, of my
fragility. We were struggling, my load and me, but by the third day the pack was com-
fortable—one foot in front of the other, mile after mile of boots on rocks, gravel, and oc-
casional quicksand. As my mind looped back and forth, old losses and fears didn't make
so much noise or bump each other as often, left room for other things to fall into place.
I drifted mentally for hours on end, reflected on time's passage in a cottonwood-grove
campsite where, in 1995, we'd been delighted by orange-headed spiny lizards leaping
after low-flying June bugs. As for Kelly, always out in front, she'd run three marathons
since the snakebite and was publishing a paper on how the severity of her symptoms
might have been ameliorated by better-informed treatment. 50 For her, that hike was a
piece of cake.
Both trips to Paria we'd watched without success for California condors, arguably ex-
amples of Pleistocene rewilding. Back in the early 1980s, soon after I arrived in Berke-
ley, a bitter controversy erupted over what to do with the last few individuals of the spe-
cies. Some environmentalists claimed the birds would irrevocably lose their wilderness
spirit if they were subjected to captive breeding, and a Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
colleague argued against expensive management of what he viewed as a lost cause;
however, a consensus to save condors won. I never saw those big vultures in California,
but within a decade tens of millions of dollars were spent and now they fly over several
western states—the catch being that $5 million a year are spent provisioning them with
cattle carcasses, curing them of lead poisoning, and so forth. 51
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