This shit must have been gifted.
After getting lost near Cochise National Forest, having to get back through a secondary immigration checkpoint (40 miles from the border,) and stumbling on the winery oasis of Wilcox, Arizona (where we met a lovely older couple, Dutch Lady, and Aussie who we talked politics with for two hours,) we managed to make it to our campsite in New Mexico. Being able to pee freely while camping is an amazing experience. My mom adores shopping in a place called Cherry Creek North, which is a rich, ritzy part of Denver some chose to call home. The last time I got back from camping and went down to visit her, none of the stores allowed customers to use restrooms. I threatened to pee behind someones fancy bushes in their front yard but my mom convinced the store to let me use the bathroom. I was a little disappointed but my mom hissed something about convention and propriety and a barn. It all worked out in the end. Which brings me to Santa Fe, which is another little, old, short, white haired, rich lady mecca. We found a nice, off season hotel that allowed dogs and supplied us with free shampoo, which I promptly took advantage of to wash the dogs. We worked our way through the Indian Market, and I found a beautiful set of beaded earrings and a necklace from a woman that came from the Navajo tribe. We had a great time talking with her and bullshitting. She gave us her card, and when we got home I thought I would check to see if she had an online store or Etsy site because her work was so beautiful. Turns out that the first thing that comes up for her in Google is her New Mexico aggravated assault and battery charges. Jason said she needs to work on her online presence.
At long last, we made it home, all dogs alive, all people with all limbs and digits. And so we begin our next adventure.
After recovering the dogs, we were faced with some decisions. The storm that had rolled through was a smaller part of a massive cold front that had descended across the west, and two feet of snow had just been dumped at home. We now had to choose where we could camp based on temperature. We stayed at a motel that night and took a survey of tourist cards in the lobby display rack. “Well, I’ve always wanted to go to Tombstone” . . .was how the conversation began.
And to Tombstone we went next, but not before staying the night camping in the Verde Valley. Which I only make note of, because as we drove into the middle of nowhere to get to this campsite, we randomly turned down a road that looked promising with some fire rings. We got out and walked to a picturesque clearing, as the dogs impaled themselves on prickly pear cactus, and decided to set up camp while watching a beautiful Arizona sunset. Working our way back to the car to get our tent became more interesting when we came across a full ritual circle complete with burnt out candles and some type of animal skull. Next to it was a perfectly laid out yin and yang symbol make of rocks. At least they were peace loving, new-agey seancers? To make matters worse, at roughly 1am a car pulled up out of nowhere, left the engine running, I heard someone get out, walk over to our tent, and started shining a light all around our campground. I woke up Jason and we listened until finally, whoever it was, walked away, got back in their car, and drove off. I’ll pass camping there again.
South of Phoenix looks like the apocalypse. We went straight down towards Tucson, which I honestly couldn’t find much merit in. At any moment I was sure Mad Max would be pulling up along side us and harpooning poor Hilde. We toured the defunct Lisa Frank factory, terrifying in it’s emptiness and ruiner of my childhood dreams, the weird airplane grave yard that goes on for miles, and imbibed on my total disappointment of Whattaburger, which Jason had talked up concerning his drunken post-army nights. We continued on.
Tombstone held a number of surprises for us, one, including it’s higher elevation and surrounding grasslands. We had no idea how beautiful that area was, considering the wastelands just north. Next, was the fact that everyone in the city preferred to dress up in historical costume and play their parts, even at the bar post-work. Also, the regular “gun-fight” performances. Also, this seemed to be the place were biker gang members came to retire. The locals looked rough. We walked towards a western display town with a raised wooden walkway where some guy (dressed in western attire) was drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. We had the dogs with us because Jason didn’t let me smother them, and the guy pointed out how cute he thought Henry was and how he reminded him of his dog that just passed away. I made my typical snide comment about trying to off Henry, which probably wasn’t sensitive or appropriate, when the guy suddenly got very intense and serious. “WELL. MY DOG DIED IN A VERY AWFUL AND PAINFUL WAY.” Uh-oh. That sounds just terrible! Tell me more? “YEAH. THIS LITTLE CHIHUAHUA KEPT TRYING TO BE ALPHA, AND THE OTHER DOGS DIDN’T LIKE IT. I THINK IT MUST HAVE BEEN PACK MENTALITY, BECAUSE THE DOBERMAN IS USUALLY FINE, BUT THAT ROTTWEILER RIPPED INTO HIM AND ALL THAT I FOUND OF HIM WHEN I GOT HOME ONE DAY WAS HIS HEAD IN THE FRONT YARD. Did the Doberman have blood around his mouth or just the Rotty? Why do I think of these questions? Why did I just ask him that out loud? It’s like the time when we had just started dating and I asked Jason if human meat cooked red because we have so much iron in our blood. Or did we cook like pork? Why does pork cook white? I wish I had signal. I swear I’m paying attention. WIFE WAS REAL TORN UP ABOUT IT. BOUGHT HER A TEACUP CHIHUAHUA A FEW MONTHS AGO AND SHE TAKES THAT THING TO WORK WITH HER, EVERYWHERE REALLY. LOVES IT. ANYWAY, LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT TICKETS TO TONIGHT’S GUNFIGHT. IT’LL BE GREAT.” That’s exactly the kind of shit you hand a cocktail and parade around the front porch. We thanked him for the offer, found a bar with some delightfully saloon attired waitresses and some dude that looked like he just came from Burning Man, and made way to our campsite.
Part four to follow
To get to the Havasu trail head from Williams, you drive north through two hours of nothingness. After that, you make a right turn and drive for an hour more. Permits for this trek sell out within hours of opening for the season, and we were able to get just one night. We arrived exactly when we weren’t supposed to, early afternoon, and a large thunderhead had rolled in. The tribe members stood ready with mules and horses to take supplies and packs down to the village. If I had known you could have your bag ferried for you, I would have played this shit differently. We secured ourselves and began our descent. Going down is easy enough, as you basically begin on a lower rim of a southern part of the Grand Canyon and head in. For the first two miles, it’s about a 2,000ft drop down to a wash that you follow to the village. Very beautiful, and although always with a seasonal caution of flash flood, the hike in is gorgeous. We only had one night, and the hike is ten miles. Eight to the village, another two to the campground. The place has become popular, and the village has done well enough that they have been able to purchase a helicopter that regularly transports less adventurous patrons in and out (for a fee of course.) Considering that they are known as America’s most remote tribe, they have done an incredible job of capitalizing on this tourism, and have a griping history of fighting for their land. Walking through the village is walking through a different country. Not to mention the signs everywhere stating that all forms of alcohol and weed are illegal. Oops.
At campsite arrival, and much cursing later, we once again found ourselves in the land of the white. Everyone was either a spring breaker in quest for adventure, or an older traveler who had flown in on helicopter, and walked down to a pre-set up tent and personal chef. Other people who had their supplies brought to them set up mini encampments with strobe lights and music. Welcome to club Havasu! Then again, it’s a certain kind of demographic that will hike ten miles down into the Grand Canyon and pay $160 per person a night to camp. It turns out I’m one of them. Meanwhile, the tribe members who rode the horse trains through puffed on joints they had picked up from outsiders along the way and half the place was permeated by the smell of weed. The campground was packed and unfortunate for a misanthropist. We found a tent space close to the main trail, and called it an early night. Jason offered to work on my shoulder because my backpack hadn’t fit quite right, and I was all for it. When he first started to move my shoulder, it reminded me of moving a raw roast chickens wings around when you prepare it for the pan, and the fact it’s kind of fun to make them kick their legs out and do the Can-Can. I tried to explain this to Jason, but his reply was “Well, no, I don’t know what you’re talking about exactly, but I know your obsession with making dead animals dance, so in a way, yeah.” I didn’t know what he was trying to get at, so I ignored his comment and focused on the pain in my shoulder. OH GOD YES RIGHT THERE. NO, PUSH HARDER! GOD DAMMIT UGH YEAH. FUCK IT’S REALLY STUCK, GET UNDER IT and so on. It was only later that I realized the flashlights walking by our tent were speeding up and past when they got closer. My shoulder felt much better.
At dawn we decided to start back the direction we had just come 12 hours earlier as we woke up to rain. It was chilly leaving, but I wore shorts knowing better for the later hours to come. Backpacking is an endurance sport, and it’s not one I’m trained for. Or interested in. Just, fuck backpacking. Eight miles later, as we neared the last two miles, being a two thousand foot ascent to the car, one of the supply mule trains came by us. I had $20, two beers, and two edibles, and I was damn sure they would have taken my pack up to the top in trade. I am all for bartering, especially using other people’s things. Unfortunately, that mule train was full, with the last donkey giving me a “bitch please” look and snorted at me as he passed by. Stupid donkey. Jason muttered something about the “experience,” and I was like “whatever.” 20 miles, 2,000ft gain, 24 hours. Even better, a thunderstorm rolled in just as we began our climb. Literally, as we got to the top and made it to Hilde, it started to snow. Namaste bitch.
Part 3 to follow
Recently we embarked on a two week road trip, that inadvertently had us discovering much of the American Southwest. We packed up our camping gear, backpacker packs, and two small dogs into the Jeep (Jason thinks her name is Bertha, but I personally think she’s more a Brunhilda. I call the Jeep Hilde for short.) Our true aim was Havasu falls, which we had managed to secure permits for.
Our journey began from our small mountain town in Colorado, and took us west to our first night in Moab. The balmy 75 degrees was a relief from the sleet/snow we’d been experiencing, which was wonderful right up to the lighting strike directly in front of our car followed by a torrential downpour. The fur beasts fought, positioned, and dominated for best seat in the back, with Henry largely serving as co-captain. A beautiful sunset and blustery night later, we continued south down through Monument Valley. As we neared the beautiful towering rock, we slowed down noticing something strange in the middle of the road. Hoards and hoards of Japanese tourists had descended into the middle of the highway and were laying down in the center of the road for group photos. When they sensed our approach, or their imminent doom, they scurried from the road just in time for us to see a film crew roll past us on one side, while a large group of runners passed us on the other recreating the iconic desert scene from Forrest Gump. Because why not. Meanwhile, the dogs went ape-shit in the back, because naturally they need to warn us there are people near by, or when people dressed up as movie characters happen to be collected en masse in the middle of nowhere. Rather than stop, we made a quick exit from the area and continued south towards Tuba City, straight to our lord of saving grace, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
We made a quick stop at the Flagstaff REI. Where there is a Wholefoods and REI, there will be white people. Us being a set of them. Show me a BD’s Mongolian BBQ, and they will come. $500 later, and almost purchasing an additional $100 worth of PFD’s for our dogs, we were on our way. I’m a little fuzzy on what happened next, but we stayed the night somewhere vaguely north of Sedona in the mountains. Maybe it was one of the vorticies that messed with my perception, I dunno. What was not messed with, was my sense of all the immaculately dressed little old ladies with their short white hair cuts that seemed to flood the town, taking in wine tastings, the austere beauty of the location, and the overpriced southwestern trinkets that were in abundance in every town within a 1,000 mile radius of us. We smashed a penny and I was happy. Onward! We stayed the night near Williams, AZ, and camped nearly on top of the old Route 66, which was weird. Williams was a trip. Jason had arranged for the dogs to be babysat for the one night we were in Havasu, so we tried to stay close for easier morning drop off. As we pulled into the area where we could find camping, we passed an old coach bus that had clearly been there for some time, complete with makeshift lawn furniture and decorations. I sincerely hoped nobody would come slash our tent in the middle of the night convinced we were after their meth. However, Jason managed to break the tent anyway so we saved them the trouble.
The next morning, as we pulled into the driveway of the dog sitters, we couldn’t help but notice all of the “Cavalry Baptist Bible School” signs that were stored next to the driveway. As soon as we entered the house, Wookie knew exactly what was up and starting barking and pawing at me fervently. A mountain of dog toys waited in the living room, and three large basset hounds erupted from the kitchen. Despite the scripture quotes decorating the walls, they seemed nice enough, and we escaped any biblical conversations. And at this point in the trip, I was happy to be rid of the boys. Hell, teach the dogs some scripture. Anything to make them fight less in the back seat. With that, minus a trip to a gas station bathroom later, we made our way to the Havasupai reservation.
Part 2 to follow