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Spring 2012: Places

Sunday, May 13th, 2012: Mojave Desert, Trips.

On my way to the Mojave Desert for a birthday powwow with friends, I spent a night in the Wigwam Motel on historic but dilapidated Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona. From a restaurant window on Holbrook’s main drag, I watched a parade of broken men limping to and from a liquor store.

Over the years, my remote, spectacular wilderness retreat in the Mojave has bonded me with two biologist friends who also love the place. The three of us arrived late Wednesday afternoon and hiked up to the spring where one of them had placed a motion-sensor camera six months earlier. Then we returned to camp and cooked dinner as the waxing moon rose in the east.

On Thursday, I tried to follow my friends on a long hike searching for an “old Indian trail,” but became dehydrated and exhausted after trudging twelve miles under the desert sun. So on Friday I went looking for shade, walking up the gulch to the decaying shade house, built by miners a century earlier, where I had lived during my “year in the wilderness” long ago. First I found some old sheet metal and hauled it over gaps in the roof, anchoring it with heavy stones, then I spent the rest of the long, hot day lying in my Yucatan hammock: reading, listening to birds, soaking up the infinite peace of the desert. Bliss!

More friends arrived Friday evening, and we were all entranced by the “supermoon” which rose later and bigger each night.

After five days camping in the desert, I rejoined civilization, flying from Las Vegas over Death Valley, the glittering snowfields of the southern Sierra Nevada, and the waterfalls of Yosemite. As we approached San Francisco, my seatmate, an ex-stripper wearing layers of unhealthy-looking makeup, asked me if I’d seen the bird poop on the mountain tops. She said her father had told her about it and seemed truly surprised when I assured her it was snow.

I spent a few days hiking and catching up on more good conversation with old friends before attending a business meeting in Palo Alto. Before moving to New Mexico, I had lived beside the Pacific for eight years, and a walk beside the Bay in San Francisco’s Presidio left me missing the ocean. So the next day, a friend drove me over to Pescadero for a walk on the beach. It turned out to be high tide, so there wasn’t much beach to walk on, but we were treated to basking sea lions and crashing surf.


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