I’ll be gearing up soon. Time to cut roots, pick another dot on the map, and drive. As the time dwindles in my current resting place, urgency grows to take in all the sights and sounds possible in this oasis.
I study maps and locate a pristine spot that holds great promise. A place where perennial streams meander through desert canyons. A place bursting with life. But I discover you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Such are many places here. Primitive roads where only a bulldozer has preceded you. Signs warn that you’re driving at your own risk, and being out of cell range you want to be sure that car is up to the task. It could take a day or more to hike out if stranded and returning with a tow truck may even be difficult depending on where and how you get trapped.
Forty years ago, I off-roaded in an old 1970 Plymouth Satellite. It did ok for the most part. I knocked the muffler off once and a while bottoming out, but I’d just reattach it and move on.
It would have been quite the sight, if anyone had been there, to see me driving that car right through the middle of forests, across open grasslands, or over rocky flats. In search of the mythical Escalante.
Freedom then was being surrounded by Ponderosa Pine with fifty cents in my pocket, half a tank of gas, and some food to cook over an open fire. Most probably food I had caught that day after making the proper offerings.
But the world has changed and I’m outfitted quite a bit differently now. I’m driving a Prius with about 8 inches of ground clearance. Smooth ride on the highways, but cautious trolling on the back roads. I’ve had to turn around many times where the rains have washed out gullies big enough to swallow this car.
With one destination scratched from the list, I search out another. It’s not far away from the original target and promises a good hike through the mountains. Unusual mountains. They look like some giant had fun rearranging and piling boulders to the sky in very unnatural configurations. I wonder what this terrain must look like from the Eagle’s point of view.
How did this mountain range form? Was it volcanic? Was it upheaval? Metamorphic stone smoothen by the rains and bleached by the sun over millennium.
I have good road most of the way, but the last five miles are primitive washboard. I creep along at 10 miles an hour. Any faster and the Prius shakes violently. I bridge cattle guards in this open range country and cross four low-water washes. They dip gently enough to cross, and a few inches of water reflects the recent rains. If it rains again, they’ll fill rapidly. Flash flooding is common during this season.
It is the Monsoons.
As I reach the base of the mountains, I discover the road is gated. This segment of national parkland is “closed for the season.” The sign doesn’t say what season, but I’m here and so I park on the road.
I check my gear, settle my backpack. Essential to fit it correctly to avoid strained shoulders, neck or back. But as I head towards the trail dark clouds start rolling in. They appeared so distant on the horizon only moments before. What appeared to be days away now envelops the area.
The temperature drops rapidly from the 80s to the 60s. And as the rain drops begin to fall, I scramble back to the car. This is not a time to hesitate. I have to make it past those low-water crossings and can’t speed to do it.
As I splash through the first one, I glance back and the sight is amazing. The mountains have virtually vanished in the veil of heavy rain. Like a magic trick of monstrous proportions, the Monsoon rains have made the mountains disappear.
No time to gaze, I creep back the way I came and I’m grateful to make it across the last wash intact. Now I can pause and reflect. Marvel at what I’m witnessing. But I can’t pause for too long. Time to finish finding my way back to that paved road.
Once back on solid ground, and with hiking out of the question, it’s time to pick a new destination. The rain forces me east, and I find an old historic town with the navigator. The navigator wants to save me time, but I choose the backroads.
As I streak out on that gray ribbon and back into the warm sunshine, I notice I’m in a valley, a flat plain between 4 different mountain ranges. The Monsoons blanket the north and the west, and I’m treated to a wonderful display of wrap-around lightening from the Thunderbeings.
This dessert grassland has been brought to life with water. Water that hides in underground streams. I’m driving through orchards, and pecan farms. Corn fields and pistachio trees.
Vineyards and wineries dot the horizon. The soil here perfect for developing the favor and sugar the grapes need for their fermentation.
Hawks ride on the trusses of the center-point irrigation systems that pull water from the buried aquifer. The perfect vantage point for any prey attracted by both the water and cultivation.
I pass a gin factory and a bean plantation. A cattle feedlot appears, surrounded by planted pines – an attempt to hide the final forced growth before the trip to the slaughterhouse.
Dust Devils spring up in the cultivated fields. Mini tornados spawned by the Monsoon winds not far behind.
Herded out of the mountains, I find myself in an almost two centuries old town. I park on the street next to the railroad tracks and soon a freight train rumbles through town.
First stop, a cowboy museum. Not where I expected to be, but the storm brought me here so I explore the town the same way I explore the mountain trails. I walk the streets and feel where my body is pulled.
Of all things, I find a bar of old-fashioned lye soap to purchase. Something suggested to me to avoid modern soaps and detergents to which I now have chemical reactions to. I didn’t know where I might find some, and wasn’t looking for it today. But here it is.
Next stop, an antique store. Now the Monsoon catches up with my retreat and as the high winds blow and torrential rain pours, I take my time in this shelter of shiny objects. Glassware, military medals, old clothing, hats and rocks and minerals.
The proprietor turns out to be a Cheyanne Indian and she gifts me with a beautiful feather.
The symbolism associated with feathers refers to ascension and spiritual evolution. A flight to other realms, Shamanic Journeying to gain knowledge. Feathers also represent the Thunderbeings, along with the power of the wind. Both clearly present today.
Feathers are also used ceremonially, fanning the smoke from sacred tobacco, sage, sweet grass and cedar. A way to carry prayers to the heavens.
The proprietor and I talk and trade stories of life as historic figures might have traded coffee and sugar for furs. It never ceases to amaze me how we meet kindred spirits on our paths. In the middle of nowhere. Some 1500 miles away from where I call home and a hundred miles away from where I’m currently based, my soul recognizes a familiar soul. Had we walked together before, a different time and place perhaps. Had I gifted her with a power object in that past life time, a gift now returned?
As we talk, she shows me many treasures in her shop. I elect to add one to my collection. A piece of rutilated quartz. Quartz with inclusions of Titanium Dioxide – golden filaments. This stone has also been called as the “Venus Hair Stone.” It is said to be an energy amplifier to aid meditation and intuition. To help free one from the feelings of suffocation or strangulation. It is also said to connect the physical and spiritual realms and to aid in bringing out one’s true spirit. It is an illuminator for the soul. An interesting mirror image as the heavens touch the earth with life-giving water and electrical charges.
I am gifted again with a medicine bag for the stone.
The rain, thunder and lightening now paused, I give my thanks and say my goodbyes. I make one final stop. The retail shop of one of the local wineries. A glass of wine to top off the day’s unplanned adventures. As it turns out, the store’s owner, the only person in the shop, is a displaced mid-westerner from my home area. So, we remanence of familiar times and places we walked before our consciousnesses had connected in this distant town of less than a thousand households.
What are the odds of any of these encounters? These gifts – all cleansing, physical and spiritual connections, healing and growth.
Such is life in free-flow. Chance occurrences. Chance connections. Compelling feelings to head into the mountains, to drive to an ancient town, to walk inside certain buildings, to converse with complete strangers whom we’ve seem to have known for lifetimes.
But is anything truly by chance?
The storm cloaks the mountains I sought, chases me out of that remote natural world to a place with spiritual gifts, kind words, and communion.
It was a good day.
Photos: All captured in the moment. Below, a couple of shots before the rains.
Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on September 12, 2018, under the title “Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.”