Interlude: Sore Feet and Switching Gears

5 Mar

In my last post, I mentioned that the llama’s feet were sore. Llamas are very stoic creatures, and it’s hard to gauge how they’re really feeling. One good sign that they’re not feeling so good is that they don’t want to go anywhere. That’s where I found myself Friday, the 1st of March, as I literally dragged the llamas into a horse arena. I had been directed there by a man named Dan Reber, who said the owner would let me keep the llamas there for a few days. I showed up at the same time as dozens of “duley” pickups, pulling fancy horse trailers. There was a roping competition at the arena that weekend.

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A bad photo of a roping team. I am an idiot when it comes to programming electronics. I know there is a way to set a faster shutter speed, but how to get there…

 Friday night with nothing better to do, I watched the roping competition. I’d never been to one before. The gate would open and a little Coriente calf would race out into the arena, closely followed by two ropers, each riding a horse and swinging their lariats. The lead roper would fling his lariat, and rope the calf around the horns. Then the second roper would lasso the calf by the hind feet. The head rope seemed like a real feat of skill, but the way the second roper was able to loop the calf’s hind legs seemed to be a mystical magic trick. I could only watch with amazement, a team would make their catches look easy, Later, I was told that this roping event had a prize payout of over 50,000 dollars. Roping is a big sport.

 The next day, I started asking questions to see how to continue on with my journey.  Did anyone know of anyone who had a mule or a donkey, broke to lead, for sale? Kelby Hughes, the arena owner, took time to help me out, even though he was in the middle of the big roping event. He told me about a donkey rescue service nearby in Scenic, AZ. I called them, but their regulations wouldn’t allow them to sell me a donkey. Then, Kelby suggested I get in touch with Brandy Williams, back up in Beaver Dam. “If anyone can find you a donkey or a mule, she’s the one,” he said. “She can find anything that looks like a horse.”

 This was Saturday, the 2nd of March. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I hitch-hiked back up to Beaver Dam, and knocked on Brandy’s front door. Brandy answered, gave me a cup of coffee and got on the phone to see what she could find for me. As it turned out there wasn’t much out there in mules or donkeys for sale. “What about EZ-Boots?” she asked. I didn’t know what an EZ Boot was, and Brandy told me it was a rubber boot that goes over as horse’s hoof. Maybe they made one small enough to fit on the llama’s foot.

 So on Sunday, off we went to Cal-Ranch in St. George. “We” included myself, Brandy, Brandy’s husband Ronnie, and their kids, Jonna, 15, Gavin, 7, and Tristan, 6. Ronnie is a long-haul truck driver, and one of the nicest guys anyone would want to meet. Both Brandy and Ronnie make it a priority to help out anyone they can.

 We bought two EZ Boots, to see how they would work, and in the process, decided we might be able to make llama boots, if the EZ Boots weren’t the answer.

 Back at the Williams spread, we put the EZ Boots on Jasper, who is more mellow than Chalcy about having humans mess with his feet. He shook his foot and the EZ Boot flew right off. It was back to the drawing board, literally, to see if we could make some llama boots.

 After taking a tracing of Jasper’s foot, I was able to fashion a boot out of a piece of trucker’s tarp and a piece of rubber mat from a horse trailer. I slipped the boot over Jasper’s foot, and taped it on with vet tape. It stayed on. Even after walking him around for a while, the boot stayed put. Success!

 Monday morning, I said my goodbyes to the Williams clan, and took off with high hopes. The llamas started off ok, but all too soon, they slowed to a crawl. I could tell that even though the boots protected Jasper’s feet from the gravel, his feet were still too sore for him to want to go anywhere. In five hours, we barely walked three miles.

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Ronnie and Brandy William

 

So, just before I crossed the Virgin River on the Bunkerville Road, I had to make a go-no go decision. If I decided to limp along at this snail’s pace, we could travel maybe eight miles a day, and I could keep my fingers crossed that the llama’s feet would heal as we went. But  what if their feet got worse, instead of better? The further I went, the harder it would be for someone to come and rescue us, in the event they couldn’t go on at all, especially once I climbed atop the Mormon Mesa, just down the trail. It just didn’t seem to be a risk worth taking. I called Brandy and said, “If you’re not too sick of me, I think we’ve got to come on back.”  Within two hours, Brandy was there with a horse trailer to pick us up. 

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We were surrounded by llama admirers when school let out. If you look closely at jasper’s feet (foreground, bottom of photo) you can see his booties.

So now the plan is to find a mule or a donkey to continue the journey. Brandy said, “Why not wait until Thursday, and go with me to the auction in Cedar City? We’re sure to find a good mule or donkey up there that will work for you.”

 “I don’t know enough about mules to even know what to look for,” I said.

 “Don’t worry about that. You’ll be with me, and I know horses and mules. We’ll get the right one.”

 So, that’s the plan right now. In the meantime, I’ll make myself useful around here, cleaning corrals, horse pens, and whatever else I can to make a contribution. Because of the delay, I don’t think I’ll be able to continue on to California. My work as Water-master in Boulder begins in April, and I need to be back before the irrigation season begins. So, I’ve scaled down my goal this year to make it through Las Vegas. It is only another 100 miles, and if I can find an animal that can make some tracks, I can reach the Blue Diamond summit in a week and a half.

 I want to make a plug for Brandy and her horse business. She really does know her stuff, and all you have to do is call her and tell her what sort of horse you want, and she’ll find it for you, no problem. She and her crew are accomplished horse trainers, farriers, and know every aspect of the horse business. You can find more about Brandy Williams by clicking here.

Right now I’m hopeful and a little nervous too. Hopeful than we can continue on our way and make it to Las Vegas. Nervous because I have some real desert to cross, and I’ll be doing it with a type of animal, and an individual animal, I haven’t worked with before. The good news is that in terms of total real isolation, it isn’t actually there. The route of the Old Spanish Trail will cross under I-15 on the way to Las Vegas, and nowhere along the route of the original trail will I be more than ten miles away from that freeway. It will be nice to know there are thousands of people speeding along, just over the next ridge, as I tackle this next stretch of the Old Spanish Trail.

 

 

Photos: Parowan to Mesquite

4 Mar

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Spec house nightmare or faux rock nightmare? Here’s to hoping the housing market picks up.

 

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…and the other extreme. Empty land for sale past Iron Springs, Utah.

 

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After Iron Springs, the country starts to open up. Looking out across the Escalante Desert.

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Looking up Holt Canyon towards Mountain Meadows. Pretty lotsa cold!

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Road at the bottom of Holt Canyon. Are we out of the snow yet?

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Gullies in Mountain Meadows. The Meadows was almost entiely eaten up by gullies like this.

 

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Looking back toward the Markagunt Plateau, known to the OST travelers as the “Wasatch Range”.

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Memorial at the Men and Boys massacre site, Mountain Meadows. There is another, more interpretive memorial up the road, but this one is short and to the point.

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Some of the many people who stop and ask me about my journey. From left to right: Jaclyn, Mikayla,Diana, Chalcy, McDuff, Jasper, and Judi.

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Joshua trees once I started down the Utah Hill (old Hwy 91), toards beaver Dam, Arizona.

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Open spaces, Old Hwy 91. just across the Arizona State line.

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Cory Christensen, in front of his school bus, Beaver Dam, AZ

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The Virgin River near Littlefield, AZ

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Resting at the Roping Arena, just north of the Nevada line.

 

Cold Country and Into the Desert

1 Mar

When I left of last time, I had just traded George for Jasper. That same day, Wednesday the 20th, we made it from outside Paragonah to Parowan, Utah, about seven miles. I stopped at a feed store, but the man there said he didn’t have any horse feed, and sent me across town to another feed store. He said it was near a supermarket.

At the supermarket, I didn’t see a feed store, so I asked a gentleman entering the market if he knew where the feed store was. He turned out to be the owner of the first feed store, and said, “Oh, they won’t have what you want!” He went back to his own store to get a bag of feed for me. It’s another example of how friendly and helpful people really are.

While I was waiting, another man came up and started a conversation. He was an old cowboy from the Owhyhee country, on the Idaho Nevada line. He asked me where I was going to stay that night, and I told him, “Right across the street, in the hotel.”

The man, who introduced himself as John Wilson, said he just lived a couple of blocks away, and offered to put the llamas in a pen for the night. So, just like that I was all set up.

The hotel was very nice, but it always feels strange to be cooped up in a little cubbyhole like that. In the morning, I noticed it had snowed some. John had invited me over for breakfast, so there I went, and got some delicious pancakes and eggs, washed down with boiled coffee, the way we both make it.

I bid farewell to John, who was 80, but looked 60, and onwards we went, into the teeth of a storm that was to last over a week. That night, we had considerably less comfortable acomodations- we had to camp in a vacant lot along the main road in Enoch, Utah, just a block from the City Hall. It snowed again that night, and we got underway, more than a little cold and damp.

From Enoch, the OST headed straight towards the Iron Spring Hills, and then, between a gap into the hills, out into the Escalante Desert. We had to follow a grid of roads to get to the open country, and then we hugged the line of cedars until we got into the gap. It was a pleasant walk, once we got out into open country.

We camped at Iron Springs. The map shows a settlement there, but the only sign of life was a railroad siding with a few tanker cars and some railroad workers who were repairing the tracks nearby. There was no water. I nosed around to see if I could find any, but the only thing I found was nine full unopened plastic bottles of drinking water. When I cracked one open, the water tasted like plastic. I didn’t throw it away, but I knew I didn’t want to drink it.

I diecided to hitchhike back to the county landfill I had passed, just a mile or so east. I got a ride with a guy who worked at a plant out in the desert that made rocket fuel. At the county landfill, the manager told me their well was contaminated with arsenic. All around, the hills had been strip mined, and the tailings had polluted the groundwater. He said the water would be ok for livestock. I filed my bucket and then dipped  some water for my own use out of a mud puddle nearby.

Back at camp, I sipped some of my puddle water. It tasted like hydraulic fluid, probably from the machines used at the landfill. “So”, I thought, “Chose your poison!” Plastic water, arsenic water, or hydraulic fluid water. After mulling it over, I chose the arsenic. After all, didn’t doctors use it as a medicine, back in 1848, the era of the Old Spanish Trail? At least, I couldn’t taste the arsenic.

The next day, we followed a road that stayed right on the OST, and swung around the Antelope Hills. After a long slog, we reached the Antelope Springs, which had wonderful, pure water, delivered all the way to the roadside and into a stock tank. We all had a good drink then, and I threw out all the nasty arsenic water.

In camp that night, we met some ranchers- a man and wife. They only said their name was Adams. They were very friendly and said there was a little store in Newcastle, about seven miles down the road.

The next day, Saturday the 23rd of February, began windy, and then got windy and cold. I stopped at the store in Newcastle and bought some dog food. There was no feed to be found, and the store didn’t have oatmeal, which is a handy substitute. After getting something to eat for myself, we moved on. I did meet a relative of Leo Gardner, but unfortunately, I didn’t get his name.

The wind died down some, as we headed into the hills near Holt Canyon, the corridor up into Mountain Meadows. We camped that night up on the slopes of the side of Holt Canyon, and it was one of the coldest nights yet of what has already been the most continually chilly trip yet.

Every night, I crawl into my sleeping bag, and enjoy what I call my, “five minutes of bliss.” For about five minutes, the sleeping bag is warm and cozy, and all my muscles relax. “Ahh, I say to myself, “five minutes of bliss, and the clock starts now.” After five minutes, I begin to notice little cold spots. These spread until the entire sleeping bag is little more than a plastic freezer bag, in which I shiver the night away. I am so tired, I cannot help but fall asleep, where I dream vivid and fantastic dreams. I awake from these, and then toss and turn, trying in vain to find some semblance of warmth, while I shiver and sweat simultaneously. This is the life of the pioneers, only a lot more comfy.

The next day, Sunday, brought an even icier wind, blowing snow, and dark clouds. We struggled over the Mountain Meadows summit in arctic conditions, and the only thing I could think was that now the way led down, down, into the warmth of lower elevations.

At the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, I stopped and said a little prayer. I actually felt a pang in my heart, a real pain, and the dreary, overcast, inhospitable day seemed appropriately gloomy for the site.

That night we slept behind a UDOT shed in Central, Utah.

The next day brought us to Veyo. There, I was able to buy feed, take a shower and wash my clothes. Everything I needed was in Veyo, sort of. The store was all out of horse feed, but they had rabbit feed, which llamas love, check. The shower got me clean, but the hot water ran out after three minutes, check. The washing machines were so old that the spin cycle left the clothes sopping wet and I had to spend five dollars just to get everything dry, check.

The Old Spanish Trail, when it left Mountain Meadows, followed Magotsu Creek in a straight shot south to the Santa Clara River. Erosion has ruined Mountian Meadows. The northern part of these once extensive meadows are all eaten away by giant gullies. Just a little bit of the old “vegas” or meadows exists as fenced in ranchland. Magotsu Creek itself is so steeply gullied it is impossible to travel in what is now a brush-choked, impassable ravine. That’s why I stuck to the highway and came around to the Santa Clara River bottom via Central and Veyo.

Once the road dropped down into the Santa Clara, the temperatures moderated a bit. Cholla cactus and a few mesquite bushes appeared, harbingers of the desert country that lay southwards. By the evening of Monday, February 25, I found myself passing through Gunlock, Utah. It is a magical little town, full of kids playing in the street, and freindly dogs, all of whom wanted to meet McDuff. We met a man named Jay Leavitt, who stopped and offered to sell me a donkey. It was spoken as a joke, but as it turns out, I may take him up on the offer. Jay runs a rock quarry in Gunlock, and offered the town rodeo grounds as a place to stay for the night. He even brought over a big flake of hay for the llamas.

The llamas were doing great, and we were logging fifteen or sixteen miles a day. “At this rate,” I thought, “We’ll be in Las Vegas in a week!” But it was not to last. The Utah Dep’t of Transportation, due to the increased cost of asphalt, has decided to resurface roads with a special machine. This machine chews up the old asphalt and lays it back down as a new surface. Doubtless this technique saves the State millions of dollars a year, but it makes one of the roughest pavements I’ve ever seen, and by now, I’m a real connoisseur of asphalt. By the time we reached Beaver Dam, Arizona, on the evening of the 27th, the llama’s feet, which had been healing up, were worse than ever. We needed a rest. I stopped at an RV Park in Beaver Dam, and Cory Christensen and his mother Marilyn adopted me, and fed me supper and breakfast the next day. Cory is a real seeker of truth, and we had a good time sharing our faith in Christ together. But the RV park didn’t have camping, so I pushed forward on the 28th, hoping to find some place to camp, where I could take a shower, let the llamas rest up, and get my blog written.

As it turns out, there is no camping available in Beaver Dam, Littlefield, or Mesquite. There are lots of RV Resorts, but no campgrounds anywhere. That night, we found our way down to the Virgin River, and camped by two old cottonwoods. Like the OST along Magotsu Creek, time and changes have not been kind to the erstwhile OST traveller along the Virgin River. Dense, impenetrable thickets of tamarisk block the way downstream. If one were willing to ford the river every two hundred yards, perhaps a way might be found to traverse the river bottom, as in the days of the OST traders, but for me, I decided to stick to the old Highway 91 byway.

Today, I am in the Mesquite library, typing up this blog post. McDuff guards his water dish in the shade outside. It took us all day to walk six miles. The llama’s feet are so painful they refuse to move unless I drag them. It is simply too much. There is a horse arena just across the line in Arizona, and the man who runs it, Kelby, has kindly let me put the llamas in a pen there for the time being. It’s a time to rethink the remainder of the journey. I don’t think the llamas will be able to finish this trek. They only made it 175 miles and their feet are done in. I have a plan. I’m going to call Jay Leavitt, and see if I can trade the llamas for his donkey and a pack saddle. If he’s willing, then we’ll continue. If not, I think we’re done for the time being. I love my llamas, but as pack animals, the species just doesn’t seem to be able to handle the rigors of a pack trip such as this one.

I apologize for not posting photos just now. It takes me a long time to prepare them for the web, and I don’t have the time to do it right now. But stay tuned, and I’ll post photos soon!

Thanks to everyone who has stopped and said a kind word, and to everyone who has helped me out along the way. There isn’t any way this trip would be possible without the kind assistance of friends and strangers everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

George Has A Complaint

13 Feb

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George is a llama, so his spelling is not very good. However, I think it’s important that George’s voice is heard- he will be a big part of the coming trip, as the replacement llama for Jasper, who is just a little skinny for such a long journey. George is a big, strong, well- built llama, and Brynn and Scott, George’s owners, have been kind enough to lend him for this leg of the Old Spanish Trail. Anyway, George wanted to know how he could air his feelings about becoming a pack llama, and I told him to submit a piece for the blog. Here it is, just as George wrote it.

-Loch

WTF???? I mean, I was kickin’ it with the milk cowz down at the Red House Farm. Me an Peaches iz tight. Delilah is cool too. Then Peaches sez, “oooh, I don feel so good,” and she layed down and had a calf. Then the human [Brynn Brodie -Ed] came and put me in a pen all by myself. The next thing I know, here comes another human, all bald and goofy lookin, and he takes me away down the road.

At first everything seemed cool. There were some other llamas there, Chalcy and Jasper. They were jive llamas and when I sed, “Hey, whats up? How come y’all are here too?” they just started laughing.

“Hoo boy,” they said, “You’re greener than a krismis tree.” Whatever that is. They just laughed at me.

“You like to walk?” Jasper asked.

“Yeah, I like to walk,” I said. “Sometimes the other human takes me out for a walk now and then. It’s fun.”

Huh. That just made those guys just laugh even more. Chalcy laughed so hard he started to roll around on the ground. “He… says… he likes to walk!!!” Good grief, they thought that was the funnyist thing anyone had ever sed.

“Wuts so damn funny?” I asked them and finally, after they stopped laughing, Jasper said,

“You’re gonna walk all right. About a thousand miles!” Then he told me how this human, the bald, goofy lookin’ one, made them walk around all winter.

“He’ll stick you in a trailer, and then, after like forever, you’ll get out and you wont know wer you are. Then he’ll put a pack on you and you’ll walk every day, day in and day out, for hundreds of miles. You’ll walk through snow…

“And mud,” said Chalcy.

“And rocks.”

“And thickets where there isn’t even any trail.”

“What’s a pack?” I asked. “And, what’s a trailer?” That just made them start laughing again.

“You poor sunuvabich”, said Jasper.

“He’s got more hair than you do”, said Chalcy. “At least he won’t shiver like a leaf every morning.”

“What about that crazy, long-haired, blue-eyed dog? Is he coming too?”

“Yeah, he is coming. His name is McDuff. He’s cool, but he sucks up to the human like nobody’s business. Then he walks behind me and acts like he’s going to snap at my heels, so I keep moving. But he’s a good shit, even if he works for the Man. He’s got all kinds of jokes and tall tales. He’ll sleep out with us and make sure we’re safe.” That was Chalcy  talking.

I had lots more questions, but both those llamas told me is was too green to understand the answers, and just wait, Id find out. Boy did I.

So this morning, this human comes up and ties me to a tree. Then he puts this thing on my back, and fiddles around with its straps. The next thing I know, he’s messin with my junk! What the hell! So I reached around and tried to bite him. The human didnt like that, because he tied me so tight to the tree I couldn’t even turn around. Then he sinched that thing (Jasper tells me its called a saddle) up so tight I thought I couldn’t breathe. I thought that was bad, but then, the human comes back with these bags, and heaves them up on my back so thare hanging from the saddle. Then he unclips me and gives me some kind of evil grin.

Man! I tried to run out from under all that weight, but I couldn’t! I ran around and around in a circle, because the human was standin there, holding on to the lead rope, which was clipt to my halter, and he just laughed and let me buck and run around in circles. McDuff started jumping and nipping at my feet, which made me run and buck even more, until the human called him off.

No mater what I did , I couldn’t outrun those heavy bags. Panyers is what Jasper calls em. Him and Chalcy just laughed at me the hole time, and called out, “Hoo, your gonna be a dandy pack llama!” Huh. Who needs em.

Then, the human hooks me up to Chalcy, who’s also packed up, and Jasper, who isn’t, and off we go for a walk.

“Where we goin?” I asked, but the other two wouldn’t say anything. I  tried to get in front of the human, so I could see where we wuz goin, but he kept slapping me with his hand to stay back, so I spit on him and then tried to bite him. That seemed to make him mad, and he yelled at me and then he put me in the back of the string. We started up a long hill, and I was so upset at the heavy packs and being told to stay back, and there was McDuff, right at my heels, just like Chalcy said. It was maddening. By the top of the hill, I was worn out.

Chalcy whispered to me, “You’ll get used to it.”

“F -off” I said back to him. But I was starting to settle down. The other two didn’t seem to mind. I guess thare way used to this.

Anyway, this is a complaint. We walked all the way out somewhere where there were lots of llamas, and the human put Jasper in with them, and Jasper ran off, saying, “Good luck- suckers!”

Then we walked all the way back to the human’s house and he tied us up and fed us. So here’s the deal-

I didn’t sign up for any of this! Was I asked? Was there a call for volunteers? NO! Did I ever say, “I want to be a pack llama?” NO! I was perfectly content, hangin with the milk cows, and eating grass and pretending to like humans. Now I know I don’t like humans. This human who took me, he keeps saying “Good dog!” to me. As if that should be some kind of complement! Sure, he seems kind enough for all that, and he does stroke my neck and tell me I’m going to make a good pack llama, but hey, what choice do I have?

So, for the record, I don’t want to walk the Old Spanish Trail. So what that I’ll be one of only three llamas ever to walk that path. Do I look like I want fame? Do I have an agent? Did anyone offer me a contract? NO, NO, and NO!  But it looks like no-one is out there to watch out for the rights of llamas. There’s no ACLLU, American Civil Llama Liberties Union. I guess what it comes down to is that I’m just a beast of burden.

The Third Leg Begins!

7 Feb

I finally managed to get the last (and hopefully final) leg of my OST adventure moving. It seemed for a while, in January and the first part of February, that the journey simply wasn;t going to happen. Bitter cold here on the Colorado plateau saw the mercury sink to 30 below. Old timers say they have never seen such cold.

The weather brought paying work to a screeching halt. My high hopes for a sale of the manuscript for my book about the OST also fell through. but at the last minute, the funds arrived, and now I’m scrambling, trying to get everything in order. I’m taking the llamas again this year, although it looks like I’ll substitute a llama named George for Jasper. Poor little Jasper- he’s a short-haired llama, and the cold weather took a lot out of him this winter. He’s a bit skinny. I’ve been trying to fatten him up, but I think George, who’s a little bigger, and has a bit more meat on him, will fare better.

I would have liked to take a mule, but it wasn’t meant to be. The window for my journey ends on the 1st of April- the beginning of the irrigation season, so I have to be back here in Boulder by then. If I had been able to get a mule in November of December, I could have worked with it and gotten up to speed on that animal. As it is, I have had about ten  days notice to get ready and make the trip happen this year. It’s just not enough time to find the right mule and get to know it.

So, some things remain the same, but other things will be different. Instead of xeroxing a newsletter, as I have done the past two years, I’m going to blog about my journey here. I’m bringing my ancient, obsolete laptop (why jump into things when you can go kicking and screaming?), and whenever I come across an internet connection in the wilderness (more often than not, I suspect), I’ll pop out a blog post about the adventures I’ve had thus far. As I figure out how the wordpress thing works, I’ll add photos and other neat visuals as well.

I’m going to try to begin the journey on Wednesday, the 13th of February. It just happens to be Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent. I suppose what I’m doing is some sort of fast- we’ll see what happens to me after 40 days and 40 nights in the desert.

Aside

Boulder’s Old Spanish Trail claim to fame.

28 Jan

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Quiet

7 Dec

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It  gets loud when it gets quiet. Loud, because the roar of the creek is the soundtrack of winter. During the summer, the creek bed is dry- all the water is diverted for irrigation. After the 1st of November, I close the diversion head-gate, and the water runs down the age-old channel with a hearty roar. On a moonlit evening, I step out onto the porch to get another stick or two of firewood, and there is the white rumble of water, racing down the steep grade of the canyon towards the Escalante River.

It’s quiet for other reasons as well. Work slows down, as the agricultural and irrigation seasons end. The tourists have all gone back to their real lives, taking with them memories to tide them over in their various states of predictability. The restaurants are all closed, save for the Burger Joint. They’ll stay open for a month or two more, until the very dead of winter.

Kelly has left for two weeks to attend a nursing class. She’s making a career change. It’s very exciting, and I breathe prayers for her throughout the day. What changes this will bring about are still unvisited, even if signs of them appear on the horizon. Right now, all is quiet.

When I awake, my mental to-do list is fairly short. Ah, this means I can get distracted and “drawed-off” in all sorts of unanticipated directions throughout the day. It’s quiet enough for that.

The big buck steps with deliberate high steps across the hillside behind the house. I can see him through the back window from here, his antlers silhouetted against the sky, intermingled with the branches of the dead juniper. He’s husky and fat with a thick gray cape around his shoulders. Off to the side the tortoiseshell cat creeps along through the dry grass on her daily migration from the old pump-house shack to the mobile home. She stops and scans- looking for the dogs, who would chase  her as a form of amiable sport. They can’t bother her now, because they’re inside with me, sleeping in the corners of the house. The cat and the buck ignore each other, recognize the mutual absence of threat by complete indifference.

It’s one of those days. High cirrus lends a gray overcast to the landscape, one that promises no rain, and no snow to the mountain tops. There is no wind. The grass moves only because the cat shifts through it, slippery like smoke. The buck drops off the hillside and out of sight.

This quiet is the space in which the Old Spanish Trail lives. It is an expanse of empty landscape, a canvas blank with promise, yet overshadowed by presentiments of events yet to be experienced.

I have a lot to do in this space. I savor the emptiness now, but I must furnish it with all sorts of endeavor. I have to find some pack animals to purchase. I need to contact certain people in order to obtain permission to cross the Fort Irwin military reservation in the Mojave desert. I have this blog to refine- I’m not so sure WordPress is the most user-friendly blog platform. I have to make shoes, get an authentic Mexican aparejo  (maybe two), etc, etc. Sew some buckskins… Lots to do. But right now, the quietness sings whispers through the grass and across the slickrock, and tumbles with a white roar down the canyon towards the Escalante.

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