One the morning of August 4th, our 17th anniversary, we drove to the War of 1812 battlefield site and found a parking place beside the mouth of the harbor. There was an encampment of re-enactors close by and we wandered among their canvas tents admiring their period clothing, muskets, canons and uniforms.
Badlands National Park got its name from the early French trappers and American settlers because of the eroded spires and hoodoos of rock that made travel difficult. I couldn’t find out what the Lakota (Sioux) called the beautiful (to me) land,
Drove to Wind Whistle Rock and struggled along a double sandy track to find a bush camp with beautiful view of La Salle Mountains and red sandstone capped with white Navajo sandstone and vast expanses of grass, sagebrush and Utah juniper. We were expecting (courtesy our weather radio) high winds and perhaps rain in the afternoon, so we hunkered down, only to find reasonable, if breezy weather. We hiked around Wind Whistle Rock instead, of the planned mountain bike. Our walk gave us a close up reminder of what is so special about this part of America; you can be within a mile of a road, and never see or hear another human all day. We threaded slickrock, and drainages to avoid damaging cryptobiotic soil, saw several delicate spring flowers and a new (to us) blooming cactus.
Our first night out of Tucson we parked in a dirt lot next to the Apache Gold Casino and had a quiet, if somewhat warm night with a good NPR signal. We cooked a pork roast in our combo microwave/convection oven, along with a big, yam and a glass of Chilean red. Life on the road is tough.
Our second night we drove about eight miles back in the woods from McNary to the Los Burros campground on the Coconino National Forest. We read about it in Matt Nelson’s column in the Desert Leaf. We wanted to try some of the great mountain biking he described.
Around dark we heard the loudest commotion not far back in the ponderosas; it morphed into a chorus of howls the likes I have never heard. I would swear they were wolves, but I’m not sure the relocated Mexican Wolves are this far west. Maybe they are migrating this way because of all the New Mexicans shooting them. A few minutes later we heard the usual yips and yaps and sing song of a pack of coyotes. Nice go-to-bed sounds.
We love looking at the stars through our 16 x 24 inch (approximate) skylight above our little nest/bed. I was wondering at some very unusual low lying black as ink clouds, silhouetted against the starfield, when a huge shooting start burned out from behind the biggest cloud, fading out the stars for a couple of seconds. It was then I finally realized the black clouds were not clouds, but big ponderosa pines leaning in over our Turtle. We are so unused to tall trees in the desert that I had been fooled. I love it!
The trails were indeed wonderful, snaking through aspens and ponderosa in the cool 8,000ft. sunny mountain air. We hadn’t ridden trails for yonks and the first few miles were challenging until we got our looseness back, and then it was a hoot. However, the blue sky turned black, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, and we had to turn tail back to Turtle before we were ready to be done. Still a fine day, particularly the cool air after experiencing 100 degrees or more several days before leaving Tucson. We now know why so many Tucsonans come here for the summer; it’s an easy day drive and 30 degrees cooler.