We drove further into the national forest lands and came across a paved camping area with toilets. “On, “ I urged Jim. We drove back into the high clay-coloured cliffs. Occasionally, on each side of us were short roads that led to camping areas. You could not see the next one. A tent and an RV were tucked in next to the cliffs. We drove on just as the sun began to set. The glow settled softly over the cliffs. We opened the doors and stepped out of the Sprinter and stood. Silence. Complete Silence. I took a deep breath and let it out in contentment. Jim investigated a nearby old diesel engine. There was a wash below our camp site that was dry now, but could become a roaring creek in a flash flood.

I gathered pine cones for our fire while Jim gathered wood. He built a fire in a ring of irregular clay bricks. A slice of silver moon showed. The sky turned pink including airplane tails streaking across the sky. The warmth of the fire and the scent of pine washed over us as we settled in to watch the night sky.

Camper Mike from across the way came over to chat. He travels by himself through the southwest every winter and returns home to N.J. The first time he traveled, he flew into Albuquerque and rented a car and stayed in the main camps to be “safe.” Then he realized that he was safer alone in the desert than in N.J. Since then he drives from N.J. in his camper truck to find the most remote areas to camp. Now he shared his wealth of knowledge about the sites. He told us about the pictographs on the wall a short ways away He said good night and disappeared into his campsite.

Jim went off to bed and I lingered by the dying fire to watch the night sky appear. Finally, I joined Jim in the warm bed and we watched the stars and planets until we fell asleep.

Starry, starry night….flaming flowers that brightly blaze..

I woke up at 6am and saw beginning morning light between two eastern peaks. Sunrise was coming. I should get up to watch. But we were so cozy and warm. I’ll watch it from here. I dozed off again and awakened to the colourful sky spreading into the canyon soon replaced by bright blue. A beautiful day. We stirred, ate breakfast and drank in the powerful, silent energy around us. I walked down the wash a bit while Jim explored a rock climb. I picked up a tossed plastic water bottle to leave the area a bit cleaner. Too beautiful for manmade litter.

We drove down the road a bit to read the information signs. It seems that the area was mined for uranium that helped “bring the Soviet Union to its knees.” Hmmm most political sign that we had seen. More interestingly the early Indians had used elements of the mine to paint the pictographs. We drove back down the road to the pictographs and stood in awe of them. They had not been graffited or altered and were still clear above our heads. There was no apparent way the artist climbed there to paint them. We headed out to Hwy 24 again….contented.


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