People used to camp on the summit. It's no longer allowed, a certain percentage of nature lovers having abandoned too many beer cans, uprooted too many plants, and left evidence that they had not been toilet trained. But you can stay up there after dark. Night on the summit is impressive. Darkness takes away everything but the sky, the wind and the rock. The people down in the mesquite flat cannot be seen or heard. Enchanted Rock takes on majesty; it becomes an island in the ocean of time. If you want to pretend that it's the 10th century, there's little to spoil the illusion. Moonrises, meteor showers, thunderstorms far away—they seem to have been staged just for you. Most nights you have only the stars and an occasional jet flying five or six miles overhead, sending down just a whisper of sound.
In the hills 15 miles away, lights flare and fade in a curious, codelike pattern that repeats itself with slight changes and at irregular intervals, night after night, year after year. The lights suggest some crackpot trying to call down flying saucers. Actually, they are the headlamps of cars on a road that winds through cuts in the hills.
A few years ago, when sleeping on top was still allowed, we used to awaken every two or three hours, as campers do, and find that the constellations had made a big jump across the sky. Around 4 a.m., even in August, the wind would chill you to wretchedness if you were unprotected. One morning before dawn, curled in my sleeping bag, I listened to three great horned owls calling, presumably to each other, with dignified pauses between calls—one of them in the middle distance, one startlingly near, one faint and far away. With daylight the owls fell silent, and soon the sport-loving buzzards, tireless, observant and silent, arrived from their distant dormitories for another day of fun.