In the morning we start our Plum Valley hike about 7. I want to take our time and be done before the mid-day heat begins.
We’re only about 10 hours from Ojai. Am I ready to zoom across from here to there? It does’t feel right. So, if were going to take a few days, what back roads shall we drive on? What’s between here and there that I don’t know about?
Poking around on the map, I find the Anna-Borrego Desert State Park in CA. Never heard of it. A quick look shows that it’s in midst of it’s spring bloom. Wild flowers and cactus. Nice! So, that’s where we’re headed.
On the way we drive through Aho. The downtown is vibrant. Big murals painted on buildings downtown. Classic Spanish/Mexican architecture. I’m surprised. Looks like the mines are still supporting the town.
I drive through other small towns in AZ on the way. Very sad. The majority of businesses are closed. Houses empty. In Tacna we go to the park. It’s in total disrepair. The playground is overgrown with weeds. The only sign it’s ever used are two chemical toilets — 90% full, and a stack of women’s magazines on one of the broken picnic tables under the pavilion roof.
I can understand how this is Trump country. Anyone promising to improve the despair that must be a prevailing emotion here could get people’s attention. Make America Great Again could be heard as doing something to revitalize our town. Open the restaurants again. Return the tax base to clean and paint the buildings and signage. To make this a place we’re proud to call home again.
On the road about 8 toward Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I’m psyched about this one. Every review I’ve read about this park has been awesome.
About 100 miles from the park I start seeing Saguaro Cactus occasionally along the highway.
As we go, they get more common. About 50 miles from the park I see the first Organ Pipe Cactus on a hill off to the right of the highway. I see a couple more as we approach the park, but the preponderance of Cactus are Saguaro. On the hills they are more numerous than the flat desert areas. Must be climatic, but I don’t know the details yet.
We went for another walk on the road in the morning. We went further than last night and came across the biggest animal poops I’ve ever seen in the wild!
An early morning. Lots to do before 8:30. So, I set an alarm. The first in weeks. I’m also sleeping much longer. It’s nice. This started after a shift, a relaxation, expansion of my experience of Pure Subjectivity. That space where one knows and is experiencing life as a subjective process, not an objective, outside process. Anyway, my historical sleep pattern is about 7 hours a night. For a few weeks I’ve been sleeping 9-10 hours, with an occasional 12 thrown in. Unheard of in this life.
Being back in City of Rocks is like returning home.
I wake in the middle of the night with the van still rocking. I’ve had enough. Tomorrow we’re heading back to the Silver City area and then to meander our way back to Ojai by end of month. It’s time…
Tonight is the first night below 45 for a week. The prediction is about 38. It feels colder. Sherman comes over and licks my ear. He points at his water bowl with his nose. I give him water. Then he curls up between my legs. He notices that it’s a colder night too.
In the morning, I look at the maps to plan the route back to CA. I’m going to stay off freeways as much as possible, and stay south as much as possible. We’re going to wander our way to Aho, AZ which is just north of the Organ Pipe National Monument. Two full-timers told me they usually winter near Aho. That there is a lot of BLM land in the area and it’s one of the warmer areas in the southwest.
After that’s settled, I sit in the van and meditate. Sherman curls up by my legs. The wind on Weather Underground’s local station shows sustained 29mph. Then… it’s out into the wind to walk the loop where the NM spring has arrived.
Yep. Still here. We go to town to spend the afternoon in the Black Cat Books. I want to sit inside with Sherman out of the wind. They’re closed. 😝 Today is a WINDY day. 30+ mph sustained winds with 50mph gusts. I think about getting tarps to put over the shelter windows, but then what do I do with them? I don’t want to keep ’em. So, Today is a van day. We sit in the van while it rocks. I go to turn on the key to open the back vent windows and the van won’t start.
At first I think it’s the battery. But, no. Not the battery. Everything works fine except start. Ohhhh! Been here before. It’s the alarm. The rocking of the van has set off the alarm. When I try to start it, I hear the clicking of the dash lights blinking. Hmmmm. I thought the alarm was on valet mode, which means off. So, we’re not going anywhere until the wind goes down. Weather predicts it’ll be down to 10-15 all day tomorrow.
Over the last 5 days we’ve been relaxing and walking. Yesterday, we went to the other end of Elephant Butte Lake and hiked about 4 miles south then back to the van.
At the north end of the lake we find the Rio Grande flowing south. Elephant Butte Lake is a reservoir behind a 100 year old dirt dam in the Rio Grande. I can’t believe how small the river is! My image is the big river on the Texas-Mexico border.
Yesterday we went into Truth or Consequences. I found a coffee shop/ used bookstore that Sherman could come into. We hung out there for a couple hours. Then to replenish food. Yelp said the local market had a good selection of organic and local foods. It’s that or Walmart. I get what I can at Bullock’s, then finish with a couple items at Walmart. I was stunned at the upgrade they just finished at the Walmart parking lot. It’s got covered parking! A nice touch where the sun’s so hot for 6 month of the year.
We wake at dawn. Now 6:45am daylight time. We take a short pee walk. Reorder the van and drive up to the road where the shelters are. I’m curious. Are we staying here for a few days, or are we driving on? It’s about 7:30 as we go up the road from the lake. Ah! We’re staying. There’ an open shelter.
We wake to an alarm I set for 5:30. Sherman looks at me like something is wrong. It’s not even light yet! He curls back up and ignores me moving about. I want to get to the White Sands National Monument to do a 5 mile long loop trail in the dunes before it gets hot. The gates open at 7am. We’re about 10th in line when we arrive.
The gates open and we drive into the park.
A sign says: “Like a mirage, dazzling white sand dunes shimmer in the tucked-away Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico. They shift and settle over the Chihuahuan Desert, covering 275 square miles — the larges gypsum dunefield in the world. White Sands National Monument preserves more than half of this oasis, its shallow water supply, and the plants and animals living here.”
The first mile or so is paved and the dunes are a light tan color and covered with straggly plants. I’m not impressed. The pavement ends and we drive on compacted white sand. The dunes are mostly devoid of plants and the color is lightening. As we go further into the dune field the sand gets whiter and barren. We get to the parking area for the Alkali Flat Trail.
The brochure says: “The Alkali Flat Trail is a strenuous, 5-mile round trip hike. Follow the red trail markers with a diamond symbol. The Alkali Flat Trail skirts the edge of what is now the final remnant of Lake Otero. This trail is not flat! You will be hiking up and down dunes the entire way. Go only if you are prepared. There is no shade, no water, and no toilet facility along this trail. The average completion time is three hours.”
Sherman and I set out about 7:45 with water and snacks. It’s still cool. I have on my ultralight down jacket. Sherman is on a 15 foot, light weight leash. My solution in areas where he’s got to be on a leash and I want him to have some freedom of movement. He’s excited! To him, this is a HUGE beach.
We go over the first dune and BAM! This is what I expected.