I Thought It Pulled Heavily!

The Dream. The Sea Of Cortez and all of Mexico around it . It exists even as you look at this image.

As noted in my previous blog, a week ago Jack and I were in a campsite on Sproat Lake just west of Port Alberni. It was a nice enough place although a bit too civilized for me. Yet I found myself in bliss because the trailer was proving itself as a close-to-perfect unit for my needs. This would be my mobile home for months on end so I could take exquisite photographs and make inspiring videos and write. It would be this old fartist’s (not a typo) studio and make for a healthy, affordable retirement. With that lifestyle in mind, I know my state of being and longevity will improve. I was fantasizing about sitting beside the trailer under a brilliant starry desert night sky, with a gently flickering mesquite campfire. Coyotes yipped and howled in the distance. My plan was to come home and repair the delamination in the front of the trailer. It would be an easy job for an old boat re-builder guy like me. The trailer would then be ready for adventures south. It is supposed to be a light-weight trailer. It thought it felt a bit heavier than it should, sort of like driving a loaded logging truck. I was essentially correct. The damned thing was water-logged throughout, top to bottom, front to back.

The joy of the trailer a few weeks ago. That reality was too short-lived.
Reality today.
“Whadya mean I’ve taken apart the wrong trailer. This belongs to who?”
NOT! Metal frame or not, you do not build a product like this and sell it to the public. “Good enough” is never good enough. The gap in the insulation and the poor joins are inexcusable as is the longitudinal piece which is an added chunk at the end only 8″ long.
Let there be no doubt as to who built this sorry mess. It is 12.5 years old and should not be  completely filled with moisture and rot. And…I don’t care who else builds crap like this, it is wrong. “Make America Great Again?” Start with some integrity!
Like can be simple. A motor bike and a pop-up tent. The best days of my life were when all I owned was a backpack.

Today I’ve just removed all my personal effects from the trailer which is now proven to be a hopeless rotted-out wreck. The more structure I opened up, the worse it got. I can see now that there were obvious signs of water damage but this arrogant Mr boat-fixer guy, with decades of marine experience, was too smart to get a seasoned RV person to come and have a look before I bought it. I’ve seen the same thing happen to knowledgeable mariners who decided they did not need a third party to survey the vessel they were buying in a fit of nautical lust. Now it is my turn to affirm that you cannot see objectively to pick out obvious signs when you are in a passionate state for a thing or a person. That is why so many marriages fail. Now I have nothing but a trailer frame and floor with working appliances. Worst of all, it was purchased with precious funds from the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’.

Despite plenty of tough times in my life I have never lost something so important so quickly. A dream one minute, a disaster the next. Now I can understand the vacant look in the eyes of those who have endured a flood, or fire, invasion or earthquake or… well, there are plenty of ways your life can change instantly. Just a quick drive to the corner store can become a life-shattering experience, or perhaps a slip in the bath tub.

Part of the “South Library.” I’m keeping it handy.

This problem is not life and death, it just feels that way. Suddenly, in this moment, my dream is dashed and all looks hopeless. I know sailors who have put their boat and their whole life on a reef and considered themselves lucky to have survived the swim ashore in shark-infested waters to some distant foreign country, without water, money or passport. A while later, they had rebuilt their life and continued on, somewhat the better for their adventure. I am left wondering how to turn this into an adventure instead of an ordeal. There is a way. I will find it.

“The dream never dies, just the dreamer”
“Hope springs eternal.”
It’s up to you.

Self-produced videos online are testimonials to what a wonderful trailer a ‘Fun Finder’ is. I interviewed owners who could not offer enough praise and love for their Fun Finder. So I bought this trailer because several points of research told me the product was built with an aluminum frame and was a rugged, off- pavement capable trailer. Check out their website https://www.cruiserrv.com/travel-trailers/fun-finder.html There is, in fact, no aluminum in the structure anywhere. Perhaps my trailer, built in 2006, was before these people began using metal superstructures. I am not claiming the product was misrepresented and admit that clearly, my research did not go deep enough. I know that I did not buy a new product. That aside, the workmanship I have found points to a shabbily-built product which would have begun self-destructing as soon as it was pushed out of the factory into the weather. That is where I find an outrage. So let me suggest:

-DO NOT buy anything called a “Fun Finder” or “Shadow Cruiser” or “Cruiser RV”.

-If there is any evidence on a used RV of re-caulking anywhere, run like hell.

-A simple test for water damage (I’ve now learned) is to pull aside the insert strip in corner mouldings and remove a screw or two in the lower part of that seam. If the screw is rusty, or spins freely without backing out, the wood beneath is rotten, run like hell.

-If the vendor objects to an inspection, run like hell.

-If any interior covering such as wall paper is even slightly wrinkled, that’s water damage, run like hell.

– DO NOT but anything susceptible to the ravages of time and weather without the second opinion of somebody intimately familiar with that specific product.

I will be producing and posting a video of the damage. It will be on You Tube alongside all the accolades for the same product. It has been suggested that I park my wheeled hulk on the side of the highway with a sign saying “I’ll never buy a Fun Finder again.”

I did give  the trailer an interior sniff test, like all old boaters know how to do. It is actually a very good test for rot detection to the experienced nose. It seemed fine. I thumped and bumped all over and except for the “delamination” it appeared, to my unknowing eye, to be dandy. I’d researched that rippled front skin. Videos on YouTube show how to fix it easily. The vendor was a very nice fellow, who passed my street-smart tests for honesty and integrity. I truly believe that he was unaware of any problems behind the “delamination” which he pointed out absolutely up front. I thought I had bought myself a bargain and after a little work, I would be off to see the world. Since my dark discovery I have noticed several trailers and RVs with similar exterior signs of water ingress and clearly there are a lot of products out there in varying stages of self-destruction. Those signs are glaringly obvious now. They are out there as I write, hurtling down the roads of this long-weekend oblivious to the horror that awaits them. So, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

It’s Indian Plum time already!
Six months from now the trailer has to be rebuilt and in Loreto Baha for Christmas. A tall order, but I you don’t make plans, guess where you’ll end up.

After a few troubled night’s sleep, I’ve determined there is only one route which is forward. I’ve some debt to clear up, no money, no workplace and can easily fall into a state of utter hopelessness. (It’s that old manic depressive thing) I know it’s just a tiny trailer, but it represents the rest of my days. So I’ll sing the old lemonade song and get to work. Creative busyness is, for me, the best distraction. So I go.

So Caveat Emptor, there’s no fool like an old fool.

As smart as he looks. The old fool himself.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”…Frank Tibolt

Blizzard!

I left Baker in mid-morning after editing photos and posting a blog. It always feel good to be caught up. This trip has been a breathless rush of events, people and images which I feel are truly worth sharing. Reader’s comments confirm that. I began the day’s travels by visiting a local archaeological site. It was wonderful. I had it all to myself to speculate on the wonders of mud ruins, apparently seven-hundred years old. The wind was keen and shrill and cold. I wore no hat and soon had an ice-cream headache. My hands throbbed painfully. I am just not nineteen anymore!

Handyman special! View home in need of TLC. Quiet neighbours. These ruins left me with a whole lot of questions. Why here? Water? Game? Defenses? Each question raises three more.
Spring Valley, Nevada. There are five rows of these monsters steadily turning in the face of the approaching storm. it is an impressive sight to say the least. They are huge. It is hard to guess but I reckon each blade must be about ninety feet long. Maybe it was because the wind was shrieking, but the whole weird scene was dead quiet. Eerie!

Turning west onto Highway 50 (Called the loneliest highway in America) I again climbed and descended several mountain passes and traversed more wonderful valleys. I stopped to absorb the wonder of a huge wind farm in a place called Spring Valley. The wind was increasing and it was obvious that a storm was coming. I reckoned I could make it to Ely (Pronounced eely) and hunker down somewhere if the weather was indeed as serious as it seemed. The snow blew and thickened. When I finally arrived I passed an RV Park that looked so dismal in the deepening snow I could not bring myself to stop. I filled up with gas at a “Loves” truck stop and then decided that in consideration of the weather I should stuff up my own tank. The truck stop is adjoined to a sort-of casino and a Carl’s Jr. Fast burger joint. I know better. I still have a souvenir of that joint riding in my belly over a day later.

Sure glad I had my shorts and sandals along!
…And my bike too!
Struth! Of all the things a person could possibly see!
Slowly, the visibility improved and I could see what I was passing.
Can’t call it the Pearly Gate, and Horny Gate would upset some people. How about “Bone Bower?”
Those antlers represent an awful lot of dead deer and elk.
Eureka! I’ve found Eureka..which sure beat being back at Carl Jr’s in Ely watching the drifts pile up.
Somehow, in the snow, the old freight wagon does not look so romantic.
S’no dog like a Blue Merle Collie on an ATV in the snow.
These folks have known a winter day,or two, before.
This town knew some high times…before the gold ran out.
Mule Deer antlers, goat skull, maybe a clock some day? Too cold to ponder any longer.
“America’s Loneliest Highway.” Nevada HWY 50.
How’s Business?
Yeah, they’re everywhere!
Some Logo! What does a Fist and Whip really mean?
Not a place I’d want to work.
A big hat, a long range coat, the clink of spurs, a a horse’s steaming breath, the squeak of snow shoes. Wasn’t I in Mexico a few days ago?
We’re outta here!

All the employees there, mostly chunky ladies who looked like the Michelin Sisters wore company T-shorts with “Beyond Meat” emblazoned on their chests. The irony did not escape me. Clearly the management has an all-you-can eat policy for its employees. There’s an old country song that says, “I love the way you fill out your skin-tight blue jeans.” Not! What rhymes with sweat pants? I suppose it may be cheaper than a retirement program, but pity the pallbearers! My ubiquitous gang of Asian tourists arrived, looking completely bewildered. Their patriarch, an aged, shuffling fellow was dressed incongruously in a Russian fur helmet, a pair of John Lennon sun glasses, camouflage trousers and open toe sandals with bright pink socks. And I thought I was a snappy dresser! While we snacked on our gristle burgers, a full blizzard descended with swirling fury.

I am a former great white north guy and reasoned that if I could make it to the other side of the mountains, conditions would ease and the storm could heap as much snow as it wanted…behind me. Hell, I’ve driven in everything. Fool! My photos attest to that. However, the most weirdly wonderful thing happened as I set out on that trek. I could smell coal smoke and put it down to an over-reaction to my lunch or perhaps my angst about the weather. Then I saw it! Had I also begun to hallucinate? I leapt out into the wintry blast with my mobile phone. (My serious cameras were not going to be taken out into the driving snow.) There, in that raging blizzard, was a steam locomotive backing an antique work train onto a siding. I could not have been more amazed had I been looking at the ‘Queen Mary’. I’ve reviewed my short video and photos repeatedly to confirm what I saw. It is still hard to believe. You can google up information on the railway museum in Ely) Go closer to spring. I drove on westward into that storm; sometimes my speed was down to fifteen mph. I had to stop repeatedly to clear the ice from my windshield and wipers.

I was right. The snow eased and visibility improved and I arrived in Eureka Nevada. It was winter-bound and the RV park I saw looked closed. After a short stretch and breathe and shoot- up with my camera, I drove on west into the now-brilliant sunset hoping to find a place to stop for the night in Austin. Everything there was wintered out as well. After almost colliding with a large herd of mule deer on the main street I drove on down the mountain into the darkness. I looked back and saw that Stokes Castle was cleverly lit with golden light. Every time I drive across Nevada, Austin is on my route. This time I closed a loop of my south-bound leg to San Carlos. I hate looking for a spot to spend the night in the dark when I’m not sure where I am. Eventually I found a safe turn-out which proved to be the former site of a Pony Express station called ‘Cold Spring.’

In the morning I took photos of the surrounds and also ruins of a former telegraph station. Later, in perfect light, I came upon an archaeological site with loads of ancient and beautiful pictographs near Grimes Point, looking down on the Fallon Naval Air Base. Yep, right there in the desert! Tonight, I discovered I’d done something wrong and have no images to download from the day. Swear words! My water pump had again frozen last night. Later in the day as it thawed, a hose came loose and the water tank under the bed emptied itself inside the van. Grit! You’ve gotta have grit!

Blowing snow. The view did not leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.
Into the setting sun he drove, Westward, ever westward, California or bust. Hwy 50, Austin somewhere ahead.

 

Red Bluff California offered no room at the inn. It was full of homeless refugees from last year’s horrible wildfires in the surrounding area. I drove on into the gathering dusk, once again, looking for a level place to park for the night. I awoke in the morning beside a stockyard, beside a gurgling stream. “California!” I thought, I’ve made it, the snow is behind me now.” Haa!

It was fortunate that I made a decision to put my head down and just drive, ignoring some great images along the way, (which I would have lost as it turned out.) I drove through Reno (Eeeech) and then north, heading for Susanville California. Then I chose to head for low ground and put the last mountain passes behind me. Eventually I arrived in Red Bluff a few thousand feet ASL lower. In the wake of last year’s horrific wild fires, there is no space available in this area for the likes of me. Many of those displaced folks are living in RV Parks all over the interior of Northern California. So with no wifi again, no blogs will be posted tonight. I am in some very beautiful countryside, about one-hundred miles from the coast, parked on the side of the road once more. Think of the money I’m saving in fees. There is a gentle steady rain falling which, I know, is more snow in the mountains behind me.

I have always loved this region of California. The lush, rolling hills covered with open Oak forest and filled with grazing cattle soothes my soul. Sadly, everywhere you look there is a”Posted” sign. Private, no trespassing, no looking, threats of prosecution and execution. Where have you gone, Timothy Leary? Peace man!

Hard winter conditions have pursued me for the past week. I’m frustrated in not finding the rest and reboot I sought. I am in fact, exhausted. Meanwhile, at home, snow is piling up with more to come. Folks are emptying the grocery stores in anticipation of continuing harsh weather. I try not to feel guilty about being out here on the lam. Silly bugger!

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” … Scott Adams.

Beyond Zion

Kanab, Utah. Just over the border I was seduced by the pink sandstone, its texture, arches, caves and pools. I wanted to stop. But something drew me onward through what had already proven to be an amazing day. I expected to see Mormon churches everywhere. I was right. All mileage boards, no matter which road i travelled, always displayed a distance to Salt Lake City.  Plenty of women and girls wore  ankle-length dresses. Fortunately, apparently, no Burkas are required. Yet!
How does one adequately photograph this? You need a good local knowledge of both the locations and when the light is best. The sun was setting, the light was fantastic and I raced on like a giddy child looking for the next awesome spot. The arch is several hundred feet high and wide.
The afternoon light was fading quickly. I stopped, grabbed a few frames and hurtled off to see what was around the next corner.
Quick! The light, the light!

 

Oooo-ah! Yeah right! This old blue-collar boy dropped many expletives, all four-lettered and no ooooh-ahs!
A portal in the Mt. Carmel Tunnel. It is 1.1 miles long and drops/climbs 800′. There is no lighting other than that emitted through random portals carved out through the side of the cliff. It was built by the CCC, and is an amazing piece of engineering, as is the entire roadway through the park. The
Civilian Conservation Corps was founded by President F.D. Roosevelt to provide relief employment for young single men during the great depression. Their projects across America are a continuing legacy for the infrastructure of the country.
The workmanship is amazing. The tunnels, bridges, road grades and hairpin turns are an achievement that should be listed among the man-made wonders of the world.
Last light
Loads of photographers, some with very serious equipment were there to milk out the last drop of workable light.
Mind how you go!
The Zion River RV Park.
A very classy place!
Spawning of the Airstreams.
They are apparently the ultimate in travel trailers, including price!
No, not my dog! A racoon, I believe, this way went along the Zion River.
Say no more.

Bob Marley and other Reggae musicians often sing about Zion. So, I’ve been there, I want to go back and spend time working with the changing light. I’ll need some sort of motorcycle so I can park easily along the roadside wherever I need to stop.Finding a pull-out is a challenge. For the moment I have to go home and reload. Just west of the park I came upon a fabulous place(They claim a 5 Star rating) and I enjoyed my stay in the poshest RV Park ever. In the morning I discovered the park is located on the banks of the Zion River where it flows through Virgin Utah. How did folks name their towns? By the way, I met a lady while there who makes hand-made high-top moccasins. They are beautiful. Her website is Moccasin Lady.com. Check it out. 

No jokes please.
Well maybe one.
Virgin, Population None.
Terrorists need not apply.
A Scotsman this way came. Who else would build a free-standing dry stone wall? Beyond Cedarville, Utah I point myself toward the Nevada border. Yep, lots of snow ahead. Little did I know how much!
A former glory. What keeps folks hanging on in these old communities? What do they do for income? For dreams?
The way we were. Milford, Utah.
Hey Frodo, I think we’re in Mongolia!
Quick! somebody’s coming! I swear that I could see this load of hay a half-hour before it passed. There is no sneaking up on anyone here.
The black spot in the distance is a dead cow. There were three ravens sitting on it…until I stopped.
First a little water.
Then some slow-growing trees.
Then a well. Then a small corral.
Then a small ranch hand’s house.
Then…abandoned.
Home on the range. There were four heifers penned in without feed or water. I assumed someone would be along to tend to them. As a stranger, I knew better than to mess with another man’s critters. Mormon bullets leave you just as dead.

 

Water, bull rushes, trees. sloughs, homestead, abandoned, posted ‘No Trespassing.’ So where did they get the building logs? There must be some sort of civilization within fifty miles.
Sho nuff! Sod roofs and all.
Garrison Utah, on the Nevada border. Endless rustic scenes, eternal valleys and passes with a thousand sideroads heading off over yet another pass. I’m hooked.
What yuppies drove in the late’50s. Options included V-8 engines, 2-speed automatic transmissions, power steering, power brakes, push-button radios. It was not uncommon to have a six cylinder engine and a three-speed manual shift on the steering column with non-power brakes and steering.
Many, like me, took their driving test n such a vehicle. “Son, see that space between the two cars on the hill? I want you to parallel park in it. Use your mirrors, do NOT roll back when we pull out.” This old beast’s last license plates were dated 1967.
A haven for the night in Baker, NV. Their water was frozen but I was happy enough with my little electric heater. I had the place to myself.
Actually, the manager took my trade at the roadside bar which she opened from 4-8pm. I had no gun to leave at the door.
The workshop…my kind of campground!
Beautiful downtown Baker NV. where the air is clean and free. So is the view.

As I drove northwest the skies became duller, snow began to fly and I speculated that I may have to find a niche to wait out the storm. North of a community called Cedar City I found the highway that would take me across the Utah border. I arrived in Baker, Nevada shortly before sundown at a lovely RV Park. Their water supply was frozen up. Fine!

My trip for the day encompassed traversing several mountain passes and broad, wonderfully dramatic valleys. The light there reminded me of Scotland in the way it constantly changed as the shadows raced across the broad plains of the wide valleys. What a wonderful journey! Again, my photographic efforts seemed pale against the task of capturing the feeling of that vastness.

Beneath a desert elm, complete with an old Oriole’s nest and setting new moon, I went to bed wondering what tomorrow would offer. It would prove to be another grand adventure.

We do not really know what draws a human being out into the world. Is it curiosity?A hunger for experience? An addiction to wonderment? The man who ceases to be astonished is hollow, possessed of an extinguished heart. If he believes everything has already happened, that he has seen it all, then something most precious has died within him … the delight in life.”

Ryszard Kapuscinski ‘Travels With Herodotus’

____________________________________________

High Plains Drifting

High Plains Drifting

I’ve described arriving in Page, Arizona. It was a time to buy provisions, do laundry and purposely begin heading in a vague direction toward home. It is amazing what can happen in one day. The next two blogs will be pictorial accounts of an amazing and ongoing trek.

And a partridge in a bare tree. It is going to be a good day when you are bid farewell by a Mourning Dove. There are thousands of these beauties in the Southwest. They are considered a game bird and  are hunted aggressively.
Dam it all!? Page Arizona, where the Colorado River was backed up to make huge Powell Lake. This mighty but sorry river never reaches the Sea Of Cortez as it used to. It is pumped dry for irrigation of the rich farmland in a radius of Yuma. That happens after it is again dammed by the Hoover Dam near Las (Lost) Vegas That dam’s reservoir, Lake Mead, is almost dry. It is still an amazing river despite all the effort to destroy it.
Run ponies, run. Horses are another cornerstone of Navajo culture. The creatures are allowed to run wild and free. They are extremely wary and will herd up and charge off with the simple provocation of your stopping. They are difficult to photograph. They are beautiful!
The photographer’s shadow. I cannot get enough of this country.
I hope this cut was not made with pick and shovel. They are a feisty lot in this part of the country.
After doubling back from Page, i drove through the cut and down the long, steep grade to Bitter Springs on the plain below. Here one leaves Highway 89 and heads westward into the magic of Marble Canyon, the Vermillion Cliffs and the hig snowy North Rim country of the Grand Canyon. Bleak and desolate perhaps but I was overwhelmed by the stark beauty of it all.
More wild horses, wary as ever. Surely another good omen for the day ahead. They quickly vanished beneath the rise of land as if I had only imagined seeing them.
Uh Huh? Would this sign make a difference if you were really going to take the plunge? This is on the old Navajo Bridge at Lee’s Ferry, a crossing of the Colorado River.
Head-Smashed-In-White-Man Jump. Turbid and swift, the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry is cutting its way toward the Grand Canyon.
Nice Canyon Ya got there!
The Vermillion Cliffs drew me westward. I found a notation on my map about a place called “Cliff dwellers”. You know what I was thinking. I began to get excited.

 

WTF!? Bedrock City! In 1927 a couple driving by had their car break down. They decided to stay and built an abode with out-buildings (outrockings?)
They constructed walls and roofs beneath the immense boulders, opened a restaurant, put in a gas pump and…? Cliff Dwellers is listed among Arizona’s ghost towns.
C’mon on in. Set a spell. D’ya bring any water?
An old Scottish expression came to mind. “Long may your lum reek.” Translation: Long may your chimney smoke.
The In-law suite.
Doghouse?
Graffitti. Some from 1878. That’s cool!
Oh SHIT! Really? What’s with the Porta-potti security? Guess we’ll have to go behind a rock. Paper? No! Really?
Who let the rocks out? Why the hell would anyone go to the effort of fencing this? My dirt! It was intriguing but I couldn’t bring myself to trying to live beneath any of it. What if, what if?
Car-squashed-flat-native-jewellery vendor. Don’t lean on anything!
“She died, and left me the deed to the ranch.” That’s a punchline from an old Paul Harvey joke. Dang! that’s a lot of fencing to look after. There are ranch buildings at the bottom of the hill. The vastness, solitude and endless beauty are overwhelming.
Fredonia!? Old Fred drove onwards. Jacob Lake is where you turn in to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was closed, and heaped with snow. I was amazed at the number of people who live up in every one of these high, desolate places.
Descending into the Kanab Valley, the Utah border is a few miles ahead. I can never get enough of these broad, spectacular vallies. There were fresh deer tracks in the snow everywhere.
I once knew of a boat named ‘F.R.E.D.’ It meant F—ing Ridiculous Economic Disaster. Welcome to Fredonia.
The Town Center. Someone should be charging admission.
Low profile tires, spoked wheels, full cabin air. There was nothing to indicate what make it was.
A dodge tow truck. No hydraulic problems with the rig.
Home-made signal lights.
Straight-out, left turn.
Pointing-up, right turn. You used to have to know the hand signals for your driving test, car or motorcycle. Folks don’t even use their electric signal lights now.
The original Ram-Tough Dodge grill.
They delivered fuel in this!
You can still see Standard Oil on the side of the three-compartment tank. There are mechanical brakes on the rear axle only. And there are no hills anywhere! Nope.
With a little paint, I’ll bet this thing would sell!
It didn’t hurt him a bit!
Farm yard frugal. Ya could stuff it with straw and git another cupla hunnert miles outta ‘er!
Says it all, that saw blade mural on the tin wall. I did not stop at the realtor’s office.

All I’ve ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

… Steve Martin

Life Is A Journey

Life Is A Journey

(Remember that images can be enlarged by clicking on them)

The crack of dawn. It cracked because it was brittle with cold. Here I awoke at first light  in a gravel pit near Williams Arizona.

I am determined to journey homeward in a meandering fashion, with no particular route planned. The journey, after all, is its own reward. After all the repairs and expenses I knew I dare drift no further eastward, away from the general direction of home on Vancouver Island. I arrived in Flagstaff, where it was cold, snowy and blowing. I found a McDonalds and checked my e-mail and the weather. With more real winter to come, I checked for an RV Park then entered the data into my dash-mounted GPS. It lead me for miles in all directions and finally in the gathering darkness, I fired the miserable little box. The Grand Canyon was in my sights so I headed westward, where I would turn on to Highway 64 and find any old place to camp.

In the early morning light what to my wondering eyes should appear? A lifelong airplane guy, you’ll just have to put up with my occasional aviation photos. A pair of Convair 990s.
An inglorious end to a wonderful life of airshow flying. Closed for the winter, the museum claims to have many flyable aircraft stowed away inside.
Drones are nothing new. I want one for my birthday!
Bin der, Dun dat! No photo can convey the immensity, not only of geography, but also of man’s insignificance on this tiny planet within the universe. All this photo can tell you is that I was there.
That is the Colorado River down there. It’s almost a mile to the bottom and obviously much warmer. It is hard to believe that this meandering stream was the prime maker of the huge canyon. So where did all the dirt get washed to?
The nearby sign said 8000′, ASL. A ski hill close by was on Humphrey’s Peak, 12, 600′ up in the frozen desert sky.
That’s better. This is the through-road from the Grand Canyon where it arrives at Cameron AZ. I would have been here six hours earlier if the road had not been closed, forcing me to backtrack through Flagstaff.
If I had not been forced to detour, I would not have had the joy of meeting these wonderful Navaho ladies selling their handmade crafts. Who can resist smiling, waving people on the roadside out in the lonely desert?
They even sold mutton soup! An arrow and a bookmark were the only only souvenirs I bought  from these women on the entire trip. We had a great chat and I discovered the Navajo people endure the same issues as the North Coast natives at home, of whom these folks had never heard! That’s Lady laying there, guarding the jewellry.
“Honey, I felt the earth move.” A section of old highway. Things take a very long time in the dry desert to vanish into the earth.
A horse in the Painted Desert. The country is beautiful. I was left wanting a horse of my own so I could ride and ride. I can feel my saddle-sore bottom even as i think of it. Then there is the aching back of the poor horse who had to carry me!
A hogan. This was the traditional Navajo home. No matter what these folks live in now, they still also have a hogan for traditional religious purposes. With roofs made of different materials, the doors alway face east to catch the morning sun.
A Navajo community.
Beautiful but hostile to gringos like me. It is amazing to this outsider how indigenous people survived and thrived in this environment. Their art demonstrates enough free time to develop a rich cultural cornerstone.
Neo-native art at a roadside craft marketplace.
There were several murals, all very poignant.
While taking my photographs, a young Navajo girl stopped to shyly ask if I’d seen her runaway dog, a young brindle female pitbull named ‘Jinx.’ Hope you found your way home doggie!
One more
Sheep are an important part of Navajo culture.
The Painted Desert now holds a piece of my heart. Imagine a desert night’s sounds under a brilliant moon and star-studded sky. Whistling wind, coyote’s howl and all the things that go bump in the lonely night. Then comes the golden light of dawn against the vermillion cliffs. It is said that if your dog runs away, you can watch him going for the next three days.

 

The night was crackling cold. I piled on all my blankets and thanked the Gods for my propane furnace. The stars were amazing. By morning the potable water pump had frozen. I was worried about split plumbing but all’s well that ends. I arrived at the Park Gate, paid the horrific fee, and found my way to the snowy parking lot. I’ve seen thousands of photos and films of this incredible hole in the planet, but nothing can prepare a person for the moment when you first look upon the Grand Canyon. If you are not rendered speechless, then you are a sad creature indeed. My photos can only confirm that I was there; they cannot do justice to the expansive and overwhelming feeling of the place.

Unfortunately the price of being able to easily attend one of the world’s greatest marvels is that there are people, bus loads of them, steadily arriving in an endless convoy. They overwhelmed the place, with hordes pushing, shouting, being rude in every possible way and seemed oblivious to any sanctity or wonder. They’d come half-way around the planet to take selfies on their mobile phones and absolutely nothing else seemed to matter. I really do try to love all of God’s creatures and I hate categorization and racism so all I’ll say is that it is holiday time in celebration of Chinese New Year. “Gong Xi Fa Cai” with all due respect! These tourists were everywhere, I mean every-bloody where I was to go in the following days. Their behaviour was consistently rude and arrogant. Shop keepers and vendors expressed dread at their invasion. I’ve been in China, the folks there are charming and considerate. I cannot explain beyond my personal observation of what happens when they are visiting here. I should quickly add that I’ve found other cuacasion cultural groups just as abominable when on their vacation. People!

With the fabulous shifting light, I could have stayed, but after having actually been shouldered aside a few times, I decided to proceed forthwith. My plan was to drive on to a place called Cameron, where I could consider my options, but the road had been closed due to wintry conditions. Swearwords indeed! Why the hell could the National Parks folks not have made the closure clearly noticeable beforehand?

Frustrasted, with no other option, I headed the sixty miles back to Flagstaff, fortunately in part, on a different route. I ended my day in Page, Arizona on the shores of the great man-made Powell Lake where the Colorado River was dammed, and damned. Incredible scenery was sacrificed to make a huge recreational waterway. I had no interest in seeing it and headed off to see other wonders. Everywhere I go, I am boggled by what I see. The grandeur and vastness is too much to comprehend. I want to come back and slowly sponge it in and so the bottom is blown out of my bucket list. I am bemused that nearly all the best views are smudged by power lines. Or on clear days, by an endless parade of jet contrails streaking in all directions. I wonder repeatedly at how the world must have looked before it was “Settled” and how we have altered it so drastically and so quickly. Small wonder at the disenchantment of the First Nations People.

Finally arriving at the Arizona/Utah border I had to choose a route that lead approximately northwest. With a simple choice at a crossroads I left the natural wonder of the scenery of Kanab Utah behind and drove over yet another snowy pass into the wonderland of Zion National Park. I had barely heard of this place and can only describe it, inadequately, with photographs. I caught an incredible afternoon light and realized that everything was happening in a serendipitous order that makes perfect sense in retrospect, including some very wonderful people I meet along the way.

I’ll be back.

Beauty is not caused. It is.” …Emily Dickinson

Foresight

A traveller’s promise. Beyond Wickenburg, home of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum museum. I did not go in. Every town claims to have been the prime stomping-grounds of Wyatt Earp. He was a very busy dude!
It’s hard to believe I woke in this van under a palm tree this morning and now I’m going to bed in this! Yep that’s sleet on the windshield, ice on the ground. Eeeech.
Altitude makes all the difference. The Glen Ilah Hill is a steep winding grind from the desert floor below to a high plain and forest 4000′ higher.
His Master’s Voice. Remember that? Mainstreet Yarnell. Many of these small American towns look as if someone walked out the door one day, and never came back. You keep expecting to see Rod Serling standing on a street corner.
See what I mean?
Each little town can be easily dismissed as being like all the others. Yet, if you have a real look, they all have their own distinct personality.
Beauty in the storm. It chased me as I went along. The welded steel pipe fence went on for miles and . Even if prefabbed,it was a helluva project. (Trump Fence Company?)
The GPS says it all. On the road to Prescott, complete with several roadside crosses. Pelting rain and sleet, swirling cloud, snow plows on switchback corners. Nope, not sleepy!
Jerome or bust! Part of the bigness of this incredible country is that distances are given in miles not kilometres. You drive and drive.

Light jazz was playing on the local radio station. Saxophone, piano and pan flute. Then came a crash and a flash of light. For a moment I thought I was back in Ajo with yet another sonic boom. It was thunder and lightening. Thick rain and snow pellets rattled down on the van.

It is hard to comprehend that only this morning I was among the palms and cacti of the broad Ajo Valley. On the way, I missed a turn and drove miles out of my way and then had to drive through the heart of Phoenix. It’s no place for the likes of me and I’m glad to have that gauntlet behind me. Now I am at 6000’ASL in the boulder-tumbled mountains above Prescott, southwest of Flagstaff Arizona. I drove up from the valley east of Phoenix into the clouds and onto a high plateau which rapidly became a jumbled rocky forest and a winding, snaking road that crawled through it. The radio station is from nearby Prescott, the local forecast is for up to three inches of snow tonight. The countryside and forest are fantastic, entirely new to me. That’s why I came. As promised I’m meandering homeward but palm trees to snow in one day, that was not within my foresight.

The ups and downs of travel in Arizona. For a few hours I leave the snow behind, until I drive up the next mountain pass. Just before I could pull over and take this photo I left an indelible image behind. A huge prickly pear cactus was poking out of a snow drift. The road maintenance is excellent.
Driving in Arizona is seldom dull. Brake shops and funeral homes must do very well. “Look ma, they got no snow down there.”
Jerome AZ. I could have spent a whole day here, with my camera clicking. This funky town is perched on the side of a very steep hill at 5000′ ASL. Every home has a view.
The countryside is constantly changing. Open plains dotted with Juniper, cactus and sage, deep winding canyons, steep cliffs and weird rock formations. It is NOT boring. This stream in winter freshet will probably be bone dry by late spring.
Gobsmacked!
The dramatic red rocks of Sedona are surreal. They made many cowboy movies here.Shame they were black and white.
What does a priest have to do to be sent here? It is a stunning piece of architecture that blends with the natural surroundings. I pondered yet again how a dogma that claims peace and love as cornerstones, uses a symbol of capital punishment as its icon.
Dang rocks! Yer view in every direction gits spoilt!
Every home in Sedona has curb appeal. This house also has my idea of a lawn.
Front yard shrubbery. Now try pruning that.

I am determined to take some gorgeous photos of my own in the Sedona region and then meander on northward on routes which are new to me. All the repairs I’ve had to make on the van have gobbled up my already tight budget. So there is a stress factor but I am determined to return home refreshed and recharged. Old aviation clichés about wings and prayers and groping through the murk with dusty gas tanks are coming to mind. Well, ordeal or adventure, that it is up to me. I have had some wonderful moments, making wonderful new friends and seeing amazing things. And, the grandest times of my life have been when I didn’t have the proverbial pot. No, not the one you smoke!

Tonight I’m snug in a National Forest Service campground, parked on a level asphalt pad with a lighted outhouse only a few long paces away. The fee is a modest $5. The forest around is open, a mix of Ponderosa Pine and Juniper. There are punctuations of clear rushing streams among jumbles of smooth, large boulders. It is the sort of woodland where I could wander blissfully for days. Look there’s another deer! I am warm, dry, fat and happy inside the van. As I edit my day’s photos the radio station KAHM, Prescott Arizona, 102.7 continues to play a lovely mix of music. It will be a long dark night and it sure beats sleeping in a ditch. I realize that, for the moment, I don’t want to be anywhere else. That’s a grand feeling! G’night.

Over the pass and down through the funky old mining town of Jerome I descended to the broad, undulating valley below and began tacking and gybing across the country like a good sailor should. The suddenly I found myself in Sedona. The natural scenery is stunning and beyond description. The whole town has been designed to blend in with that natural wonder. Despite the reek of money and the glossy architecture it is elegant and makes this town, in my opinion one of the most beautiful inland communities I have ever seen. Even in February, the sightseers were everywhere. I can only imagine how it is in the peak seasons.

Travelling northward from Sedona the scenery changes dramatically yet again as you wind up along Oak Creek, famous to Southwest nature photographers. Unfortunately there are few safe places to pull over and where provision has been made, they have gates and toll booths.
Everywhere is an essay on Rocks and water. Here a trickle of water belies the eons it has taken to carve the earth.
Oak Creek was a dream. Note the waterfall up high, coming down from the ridge.
I drove for miles to find a spot to turnabout and come back to this piece of the creek. Fortunately the light was still good.
I’ve said it before. “Hi mom, I’m home.”
A cave across the road from where I parked.
The cave evolved.
On up the creek.
It began to snow yet again. I drove on and up yet another twisting steep grade. At the top I travelled for miles through a snow-laden pine forest. Fresh elk and deer tracks crossed the road everywhere. I emerged from the forest into snow-shrouded Flagstaff where Old Route 66 is the main drag. It took me three tries to get out of that town for good.

I know those devastating numbers of people need to be controlled but it gets frustrating. No matter where I wanted to stop for more photos there is a plethora of signs and concrete preventers of some description. You are expected to display a permit but there is no indication of where to purchase one. Other places one is able to stop will not accept the day permit from the last place. Travelling north from Sedona along incredibly beautiful Oak Creek there is no place to pull over and work your camera. I finally emerged out of the spectacular scenery, miffed about all the photo opportunities I had to pass by. It is cold and snowy and blowing. I am sitting in the van tonight somewhere west of Flagstaff apparently on a road to the Grand Canyon. It will be beautiful with all this snow. Yesterday I was in Ajo. It is a long way away now. Was I ever really there?

Power To The Peeples.

Part of being sane is being a little bit crazy.” …Janet Long

Ba Bam Part II

The Ajo Mountains
Looking back into Mexico. Within the vista of this harsh desert as I take this photo there are illegal immigrants making their way toward a faint hope. They may have walked thousands of miles. Although it is illegal, some folks take out caches of water and food. There is a slogan here: “Being humane should not be against the law.”
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a very large forest of huge Sagauro cacti
Dennis and Laurie, charming hosts of Belly Acres RV Park in Ajo. Everything you need is within a short walking distance and the facility is great. You are treated as family. It is pet friendly, and affordable They are online. Laurie, by all accounts is a great cook and I can attest, makes the world’s best baked beans. Dennis is the world’s friendliest gentle bear. Don’t worry about the pistol on his hip, it’s just Arizona!  www.bellyacresrvpark.com

 

 

I’ve now stayed for three nights in Ajo this time. I’m not sure I want to move on, but the long trek home has to begin and the meter of life is ticking. Deadlines and commitments!

The folks who run this RV Park, Belly Acres, are embracing, charming and provide a lovely place to stay. They had a Super Bowl Football gathering and pot luck supper with copious heaps of very good food complete with a keg of beer. I am not a football guy but how could I say no? All the folks here are lovely. There is a NAPA store and garage next door. They fitted my van repairs into their busy schedule and I can go back out on the road with a renewed confidence.

In the NAPA repair yard
OK! Enlarge the image and read the small sign.
Inside the NAPA store a 1952 Harley Davidson for sale. The same age as me, with only one oil leak, it is in much better shape than I’m in.

 

I’ve finally been able to get to really know an acquaintance of several decades. I know Frank through a mutual friend and we hit it off well. He took me for a drive into the desert in his SUV which was amazing; both the desert and Frank. The vehicle has a standard transmission and Frank has only one leg. The man uses a wooden cane to work the clutch as smoothly as anyone else. He is a genius and a very inspiring character, having courageously worked as an advocate for disabled folks for decades. He is clearly more enabled than a lot of folks who have the use of all their bits and pieces. That does not change the simple fact that he is a great fellow. I’m proud to count myself among his friends.

My friend Frank
with more friends, Zena and Charlie.
Now fill it in again! How’s that for an environmental disaster? That turquoise bit in the bottom is water. This is one of the world’s largest open pit copper mines and one hell of a pile of pennies!
A funky Ajo home. Homes in an abandoned mine town are cheap so you can afford to do some creative things.
Funky Ajo art school.
The old Ajo Mission now turned mine museum.
Your sidewalls are gone!
There is a load of cool junk,um, I mean artifacts. Check out the etching on the rock.
A desert home with a spectacular view. It’s for sale!
The View
May I have this dance?
Dry camping
On BLM land you can camp without fees, or services, in exchange for the reasonable expectation that you will respect the land and take or leave nothing.
Locally known as the pipeline road, this will, if you are tenacious enough, take you over the mountains and down into Tucson.
And now for something different. How do you fry a frozen egg? At least the fridge is working!
“Flying high in April, shot down in May.” Folks sure do like to shoot things down I here. I try to stay polite!
I did try!

There is a vicious, cold wind blowing across the desert this morning. I ave had a sleepless night and am waiting for dawn to pack up and move although reluctant to leave this fantastic place. Ajo is home to one of the world’s largest open-pit copper mines, or at least home to a massive work of environmental devastation, now closed. The small town is also the hub of the American Sonoran Desert. With the Air Force Gunnery ranges and several intriguing places of interest, including Baboquivari, within a short radius, I could happily spend several months here. Adios Ajo, for now.

Ah Arizona!
I have enough excellent photographs of the desert to put together a fine picture book…and maybe I will!

To be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what you do have.” …anon

Ba Bam

The peace of morning and a first coffee is shattered with the distinct double crack and earth-shaking clatter of a sonic boom. It is soon followed by another. High overhead jet fighters hone their deadly skills. They are too high to be seen but the eternal thunder of their presence is oppressive. I am on the Southern edge of the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range. The military actually posts schedules and provides passes for folks who want to sit in bleachers and watch as ground assault aircraft practice “Ordinance delivery.” Bizarrely the range is adjacent to the Cabeza Prieta National wildlife sanctuary. Run rabbit, run.

The desert weather has been wet and windy and cold. This is another bleak Sonoran morning. I finally get to know an acquaintance of over thirty-five years and it is grand to find a kindred spirit. The day speeds by. I have been introduced to the amazing area around this small Southern Arizonan community of Ajo. My old van has been repaired and I am very glad I did not attempt the job myself on the side of the road. I will begin meandering northward in the morning. I am grateful for the camaraderie and the rest my stop here has provided. This place is fantastic and I want to return soon. Hostile as the desert may be, it has seduced me.

It is nearing midnight as I start this blog after editing another day’s batch of photos. Outside, nearby, coyotes yip and howl. I will sleep well.

Fred’s Mexican roadside repairs. I was very grateful for the comforting light of the sign for a night’s stop. Check out Barb’s website, this place does great things.
I drove in to say thank you.
This place shelters hundreds of dogs. It is a very small dent in dealing with Mexico’s stray dog problem, but it offers hope and humanity. The dark female on the right made it very clear she’d like me to take her with me. Heart rending!
Even in the bleak damp dawn of that morning, desert flowers bloomed beautifully.
A grey, cold morning in the Sonora Desert while it was snowing at home on Vancouver Island. It was hard to photograph anything without plastic trash showing everywhere, a very sad problem throughout all of Mexico and I can suggest no solutions other than the obvious.
A Sagauro cactus corpse, bizzarely mummified. Yep, that’s my little old van in the distance, dwarfed by the enormity of the desert.
And then the sun began to emerge.
Early springtime. I am told that April and May are stunning.
I find the desert impossible to photograph and convey the sense of grandeur, wonder and amazing detail all at once. One needs to stay in a single place for at least several days, observing the scene with the ever-changing light. I really want to stay for months.
Everywhere one looks there is beauty both stark and subtle.
President’s Wig? No. It is firmly rooted.
Well, it’s a start. Mexico is definitely becoming more environmentally aware. Now do something about all the plastic trash!
One of the wonders to me is the thousands of half-vast projects never completed throughout Mexico. This building is typical of someone’s abandoned ambition. It is clearly unfinished and unused.
Crossing the border from Sonoyta Mexico to Lukeville Arizona. No photos please! Shut off cell phones! I drove northward toward Ajo with a grinding, shuddering driveline, my third serious mechanical issue of the trip. … Ba Bam part 2

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

… Stephan Covey

Down From The Mountain

(Click on images to enlarge)

The entire desert environment is harsh and no place for fools (like me) to wander alone.

As is often said, there’s no fool like an old fool. An arduous climb, and harder descent lead me on to the next quest, the same day. I did not find the petroglyphs and ended up stuck in an arroyo for a couple of hours while I jacked the van, again and again, shovelled and stacked rocks until I finally found the high ground. Fool! You may tell me how clever I am to get myself out of my fix, as darkness fell but, this old backwoods man often recites the mantra “superior pilots use their superior knowledge to avoid situations requiring their superior skill.” All’s well that ends.

The path zig-zags ever upward. Each step is a conscious placement of your boots. The rocks are loose and grabbing a bush for support is a definite NOT! Nearly all vegetation is covered in vicious thorns.
The changing views are spectacular and draw you ever upward.
Homeland Insecurity sneaky-cam chained to a tree. James told me drug mules come over the mountain passes..yep, way up there. There are electronic sensors strategically placed and the soon the helicopters are on site.
Fresnal Canyon. It looks lovely, but there is no gentle strolling here.
It was stunning
A Godshead?
A view eastward toward Tonopah and Sells. The water towers are the giveaway. I find it impossible for this alien to to judge height and distance here.
In the distance beyond the cactus, San Miguel and then Mexico. There is an ominous incessant thunder far overhead as fighter jets practise. You can never see them.
I took this photo when my old injuries stopped complaining and started screaming. I reasoned that I was entirely alone and had forgotten to bring my cell phone. One slip, one sprain or broken bone could have been drastic. Going down was even more arduous. I would later learn that the cave I sought was at the  base of the cleft, in the tan spot. I was only ten minutes from the Creator’s Cave where legend has it he emerged to create the world and distribute the people of different colours. I did not feel quite ready to go meet my maker.
So…I sat a while and chatted with a cactus. He was even more prickly than I am.
Someone went to a lot of work to build these walls. An old camp on the mountain? How old?
Everything commands/demands respect.
Even in January the shade felt good. I can’t imagine clambering here on a summer day.
A ground squirrel sunning himself atop a huge boulder ponders the passage of the apparition I must have been.
I order my used Minolta 400mm reflex lense from Japan. It is fantastic for these sort of shots. The photo was taken hand-held at a distance of about sixty feet.
Ahhh! An underground stream emerges briefly to fall into this pool. Everything gathers there, wasps, flies, moths and all sorts of creatures that make tracks. The sound of that trickling water was sweet music indeed. Then the water disappears underground again.
This character was as tall as I am but was definitely not leaning out for a hug.
Dumb ass! I knew better and told myself so during the two hours of shovelling, jacking and packing rocks while darkness began to fall. The van is not a back country vehicle.
Night fell. Ominous but beautiful.
And so I spent the night.
Pre-dawn. Night creatures provided a wonderful symphony.
Don’t fence me in. Part of the coral where I spent the night.
Water is everything. Note the moisture flowing down the cliff face. What is its source?
Up the arroyo (or, wash). These are the super highways of the desert, where the going is easiest and ambush most likely.
Creak, clatter and squeak. The traditional windmill is a green source of retrieving the essence of life. This one was still pumping but the rest of the system needed attention.
Photographer in the well. I imagined falling in. What a place to die in the desert!
An offering in the desert.
Arroyo beans. Each seed contains the future.
Antcano!

After spending a night at an abandoned cowboy’s corner in the desert I finally made my way back to pavement and the small native town of Sells. I emerged from the grocery store to discover coolant again weeping form the van. Oh Golly! Uh huh.

A Caracara, desert hunter and scavenger, watches my departure.
I’ll be back.

After an eighty mile quest for an auto parts store, whereupon checking the length of a new hose, I discovered that my young Yuma mechanic had not properly tightened a hose clamp. Exhausted beyond words I drove around Nogales arranging Mexican travel insurance, finding a friendly ATM for cash to turn into Pesos and finally a place to park for the night. I am writing this in MacDonalds in Walmart. The van is parked, it seems, a mile across the parking lot in the far corner. An antithesis from Baboquivari, but damn, they do have good wifi! I’ve discovered this during yet another sleepless night in the van.

When I walked back to my urban camp I thought my weary eyes were deceiving me. There were creatures snuffling all around it. To my utter delight, the creatures turned out to be Javelinas, a type of peccary and not a feral pig. I was stunned but managed to grab some cell phone footage of these Wal Mart wanderers. By the way, about my Ajo Bird in the last blog. A reader commented to suggest the bird was a curve-billed Thrasher. By guidebook to birds of this region confirmed that. So, at 03:30 from the Nogales Arizona Wal Mart parking lot, this blog’s for you.

In a pig’s eye!
Walmart marauders. You thought I was kidding? So did I at first.

A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” …Victor Borge

Baboquivari

The beautiful old church in Ajo. Look at this and hear the coo of Mourning Doves
My Ajo Bird. He sang while I prepared to move on. I’ll have to learn which flavour of desert bird he is.
Downtown, old Ajo.
The centerpiece at the general store in Why, AZ. Rock music droned from speakers in the cab. I want one!
The store. What visitors can pass without stopping?
And why not indeed? This nest is in a cactus in front of the store.
I’ve seen plenty, but they’re always on the run…away. So are the wing-eared Desert Jack Rabbits who are almost as big as the coyotes.
Wild mustang stallion. I saw the herd crossing an arroyo so I raced ahead, slammed on the brakes and leapt out. This guy, was very patriarchal and stood guard till the rest of the herd ran ahead. Look at the scars on his chest! He’s a feisty old guy.
Run girls, run!
Once they were safely out of sight, Old Studly brought up the rear. What a thrill to see!

Can you smell the smoke? It’s mesquite. There is a campfire at my right elbow. A breeze blows the heat my way as well as a fine shower of ashes. Above me, through the still-bare limbs of a Mexican Blue Oak, the desert stars throb with a spectacular energy. Towering over me, a mile above, are the stark black cliffs and peaks of Baboquivari. Until a few minutes ago they still held an eerie glow from the distant sunset.

Arizona backroad to Fresnal Canyon and the foot of Baboquivari. It’s the high one in the distance.
A pilgrim arrived. Baboquivari is in the background. behind the tree.
Look closely.
See?
Another offering to the creator. This place is the ultimate church. Folks come from all , mountainsover in answer to its call. Others come to climb the lofty vertical stack at the top of the mountain. I barely began that ascent!
The west-facing cliffs held the sunset even into darkness. In the morning I would climb to the base of the long shadow to the right of center. It looked easy!
Slowly, the light faded as if reluctant to let go of the mountains.
Last year’s birdnest and a promise of new leaves in the new year.

Have you ever felt excitement and peace all at once? I am here, finally, after dreaming of it for five years; and I’ll be back! This is a sacred place to the local Tohono O’odham indigenous people whose history here goes back at least 12,000 years. Other native nations in the American Southwest have successfully declared themselves sovereign states, complete with their own passports which you are required to have to enter their land.

Night falls
Only the crackle of the rising flames and calls of night creatures punctuated a silence that you could feel. Wonderful!
Night desk. Where this blog was written. The desk lamp is a wonderful solar lamp/USB charger imported from Norway.

The Tohono embrace you as a visitor to their hallowed mountain. Shinto priests have come from Japan to meditate here. I understand that, I can feel why. The resident guide/caretaker, James, welcomed me and issued me with a free permit as well as telling me where to hike to find some secret places. I will rest here for a day or two. I would stay longer if there were good company to share this with. On my bucket list, coming here was very near the top. I have been summoned since I first saw this place five years ago from the lookout on Kitt Peak. It will take more than one blog to complete this essay.

James, my mountain mentor and guru. This man exudes an aura. The peace in his eyes and the lines on his face tell of his life’s time in a radius of this mountain and a deep spiritual attachment to his land. He is eager to share his knowledge if you are eager to hear him. We have promised to meet again….in the same place.
Trump this! A traditional and effective method of fence-building.
James told of meeting illegal immigrants who were “In rough shape” and doing what he could to help fellow humans in desperate need. While
I understand the reasons for going through the legal process of
immigration, I also ponder about people who walk all the way from the bottom of Central American to take the risks of illegal entry. Aren’t those the kind of folks you’d want in your country? The US Homeland Security Forces is a massive military force and seems, to my eyes, to be waging a huge battle largely with their own paranoia. But I can hold no opinions, either way based on what I’ve seen. I am an outsider, and also an alien intruder.
Devil’s claws decorate and protect Jame’s home at the base of the mountain.
First Light…and the climb begins.
I was watched.
…And watched. These feral, free range cattle roam everywhere. how they pass through the thick, tangled and massively-thorned brush is amazing. It is even more incredible that native cowboys are able to round them up and coral them.
Up through the shadows I climbed. The pathway is very rugged and not for the faint-hearted. Next blog will be images of the climb and descent.

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” …Oliver Wendell Holmes