We drive 2.5 hours to Silver City, through Mimbres Mountains.
Nearing Silver City we stop in at Wolfhorse Outfitters and visit Joe, Kristi’s good friend. Joe leads horseback riding tours through Apache country. Cool guy. Couldn't resist buying one of his great silk-screened shirts.
In Silver City we join a procession of about 20 people. It’s All Saints Day and this procession is led by a woman in cape and face paint. We wind though the streets visiting one altar after another. Each time she says a short blessing/prayer, raising her hand, waving burning sage smoke and speaking a few words. Alters are decorated with bright flowers, skulls, photos, bread, fruit, cookies, lace, colorful blankets, lights, and candles. Each is personal and carries a different theme, or emphasis. I’m touched by reverence of these people. I’m really an observer and not a believer, but participating. I feel accepted. After making 14 or so stops, we come to the end. It was a nice way to see Silver City. It has numerous galleries and has a down home feel. Kristi leads us back to her friends place and are welcomed in.
There are five or six people with whom we share in eating blessed bread.
I received warm wishes and affectionate good bye hugs from Kristi’s Apache friends and we were on our way to Pinos Altos. Kristi guides us to the Buckhorn Saloon (circa 1860) and Opera House. To think an opera house in this tiny western town, once bustling with gold mining, bizarre. Observing the building exterior is time traveling. This is no Hollywood reenactment. Real thing here. Wood deck out front with adobe wall construction. Opera house is in separate building accessable from inside bar.
A few offensive tourist-attraction touches: a whore dummy scantily clad on ledge in sexy pose. Then there's the drunk Indian dummy on slot machine in the back near restrooms. Oh, and there are three or four naked women murals, painted crudely) Loved the opera house most. Six booths above the main floor for the well to do, framed in velvet curtains. Reminds me of where Lincoln was shot. Stage is in tact. Grand chandelier hangs above center of room. There’s another bar in the back corner. Black and white photos of Indian chiefs are posted around walls, including a nice one of Geronimo. The restaurant looks period correct wall treatments. Wains coating and patterned wall paper. A glass case with hundreds of native pieces on display on view in dining area. Beaded moccasins, vests, pipes, head dresses, arrowheads, and ceremonial items and other garments. All this was happening just 150 years ago. Same time period as civil war. Witnessing this place and places I’ve been on this journey are giving a more real context, making a time line I can understand. Why did I think the wild west was in the 1700's? Oops.
Gray, Kristi, and I enjoyed a beer together and drove back to Placita listening to books on tape.
Some believable and absurd story featuring slices of life around Vincent Van Gogh and Impressionists.
Been at Apacheria for nine days. Today is a special event in Monticello. I’m excited to be invited to the wedding of Natalie Jeffries and Goren Basarovi. The wedding takes place at 2pm on Plaza de Monticello. These folks must have a good sense of humor, to pick Halloween day to be married! We arrive at 2 and are rushed inside to back patio. Ceremony just about to start. Bride ready to enter the courtyard at the very moment we arrive. Guests are standing around in a horseshoe, must be a hundred or so attending. Not bad for a ghost town. The courtyard has an adobe wall with interesting window openings (no glass) One opening is a wagon wheel imbedded into wall. An outdoor fireplace is built into the wall at the corner. Fire blazing. A few people I recognize, I’ve already met. Natalie (bride) enters escorted by father who is seriously dapper in dark suit and sporting long gray braid.
A woman greets the crowd, tells a few heart warming stories, she’s brides mother.
Basarovi family sit in the raised covered area which was added just for this wedding. Basarovi parents and grandmother come all the way from Macedonia. Some of the brothers travel from Chicago. They have black hair and dark eyes. Handsome and lively young men. Four huge rustic tables arranged on the side. Sun shining. Sky true blue with fluffy white clouds. Everyone is standing as brides mothers voice warbles with emotion. She introduces Marita who will conduct marraige ceremony. I‘d been to Marita and Harolds’ home the night before, the very same home with sweat lodge in back. Marita is a great conversationalist. Now I see her in a different light. This is her second marriage ceremony, she married Gray and Kristi four months before. She speaks beautiful words poetically about love and marriage, what it means. She brought a tear to my eye. "Ultimately Love will prevail over all difficulties you will encounter" she proclaimed. She used a large feather to touch the groom, first on the forehead, sides of face, shoulders, and chest. She seemed to dip the feather in a small jar after each touch of feather. Did I hear her say it was Apache magic? She did the same thing with the bride. I think she may have blessed the brides womb with a touch of the feather. She sang an Apache song, “Naya Naya Naya...” repeating in moaning nasal tone. Kristi mentioned she was calling white painted woman, an Apache spirit. Everyone was vibrant as the couple kissed. (did she toss a bouquet? missed it)
I congratulated bride and groom. Both smiling so young, fresh. I felt privileged to be there. People fell into a cue and feasting began. Pork from one of the farmers pigs was the main dish. It was prepared in two different ways. Both were delicious, as I had to try each. One with green chilis. My fave was the sweet pulled pork. There was beer, wine, and champagne. I wanted wine but couldn’t figure out how to work tap! I drank too much beer and champagne. Lots of conversation around. I remember the last wedding I attended was two friends, Brian and Sarah who got married on a lighthouse many years ago.
Watching the stream of water in the back yard amazes me. Here in dry high desert and there's a strong rushing stream in the back yard. One of the children says it comes from a spring. Kids jump around here like kids do everywhere. Once people were done feasting the folk dancing began. Macedonian folk dancing looks like Greek folk dancing I’ve seen. Basarovi guys danced in a ring holding hands to lively fiddle music (or was that accordion?) Four steps kick. One back kick (repeat with vigor). The dancing went on for an hour or so.
Gray, Kristi, and I drove back to Apacheria. The next day Kristi gave a few drops of mint oil for my heart burn. I laid low and watched Seahawks hang on to win against Dallas by one point.
I think about my perceptions of New Mexico compared to what I now experience. This state looks to be abundant in space and freedom. Rolling hills. Desert ranches. Good people. As a result of so much freedom there’s are a lot of rusty vehicles strewn about. Santa Fe impressed me with its narrow streets and galleries, but I’m not as excited by art scene as I thought. The Southwest theme had a ‘hay day’ twenty years ago, seems to be waning now.
Love the peaceful air. Magnificent quietness. I can actually hear myself think!
People seem to talk at an appropriate volume here. Am I imagining this? Many Seattle people shout when they talk (discuss). Please turn down your shouting city folk!
It’s a straight ride. Exit 89 off I-25 South, a few turns and another 15 miles. Sudden drop down into a lovely valley with touches of green and turning cottonwoods. You wouldn't know this was here, hidden between the plateau. I find the brown adobe wall Gray mentioned, next to a small white church. I’ve arrived to Apacheria. I pull up through weather worn wood gates and see Gray welcoming me with a hug. Wow! Last time I saw Gray was when he and Kristi came to visit me at the start of my journey in La Conner, Washington. He looks the same. Maybe a bigger smile and sparkle. The place oozes old western ranch. Low adobe walls. Large open parking area. Backed the RV into a good level spot. Joined Gray and Kristi in the house. This is not the Kristi I met in Washington. She's in her element.
Radiating warmth. They gave me a tour. The place is spotless. A large open room with thick adobe walls. Open beam ceiling slanting upward. Two good sized rooms in the back with a cozy shared area leading to comfy outdoor patio. Perfect place to relax and read a book.
The house is amazing. A warm welcome. We get caught up over a fab lunch by Kristi. Gray warned me; she’s a great cook. We discuss challenges and triumphs. They’ve been reading my blog and want to know all about the UFO experience.
Kristi tells of her own sighting from back porch one night. She and good friend both saw it. She believes me and is supportive. We talk all night getting caught up. She tells me about the highest technology in the world installed nearby. The Spaceport where people will be able to fly into space.
The Brit Branigan has invested heavily in this venture. There are other surprising things about this land of Enchantment I will learn on my visit.
We tour the land which extends ‘round back of the house and cabins. 3+ acres. They plan on buying this property and work it as destination for plein air painters and other groups seeking peace, quiet, and natural beauty. Kristi has more land outside Monticello to add horseback adventures and to use in shooting her movie projects. She has written a couple scripts; a love story from an Apache perspective. Gray and Kristi make a nice team: Gray a talented painter and Kristi a talented graphic designer and budding film-maker. Complimenting each other well, Kristi shows me the line of baby clothes she is designing using stylized southwest images painted by Gray. I’m able to give Kristi a crash course in Photoshop to help her tweak Apacheria Baby designs for printing. (Makes me feel useful!) Kristi makes a flaky crust yummy thing with soup for dinner. Flavors and appearance devine! I’m thrilled to be here at Apacheria.
I guess this ghost town of Placita has a population of 15 people. Off the grid, with no cell phone service. There is internet, but slow and intermittent. Monticello, another ghost town is three miles away with a population of 45 people, give or take a few.
Morning comes, cold and crisp. Gray and I discuss Accordion Craft business. Survival in midst of ghost town involves developing several possible revenue streams. Accordion Craft is a product Gray has been developing for many years. He holds patent on this idea. I am intrigued. He's offered me to become involved. As an investor, as a partner, as an artist adding designs to the folio. I am staying open to this opportunity. Would like to see some orders come in. We launched a web page and made an instruction video posted on UTube. Needs more polish, but it’s a good start. Check it out at: www.accordioncraft.weebly.com
Since marrying Kristi who's roots are Apache and Spanish, Gray has been accepted by local Apaches. Gray has Scot roots. He'll be attending an Apache sweat lodge in afternoon. I get to see the hut and fire pit where stones are heated. Hot stones are pitchforked into the hut where water is poured over the stones releasing steam. Kristi puts tobacco leaves on the fire and offers a traditional prayer for the sweat. Smoke is released upwards from the leaves. I notice a wood pole with eagle feather flapping around in the breeze. There are drums and mariachis. Chanting and singing are part of ritual. The women prepare a feast to follow the sweat. Kristi says the men make the food when the women have a sweat.
The hut looks small. These naked men must form a bond of some kind in there, as they clear their minds of stress, sing and chant ancient songs.
Kristi and I drive up to Luna Park. Dirt road is bumpy and winds up near the San Mateo Mountains. The road gets narrow and more rutted. I love my truck! Kristi points out Victorio Mountain, named after the great Apache Chief.
She shows me an Apache camp and lookout. Great open views of mountains and lay of the land. Kristi shares her knowledge of local plants. A snake bite remedy. It slows the spread of venom. She offers a drink of her special tea. Mint, lemon, and something else. A refreshing desert drink; a beautiful red. She points out a spiky cactus tree plant which Apaches used to torture enemies. They shoved it up their enemy porthole! This thought continues to haunt me every time I pass a charo cactus. We explore the main campsite. There’s a large shallow cave in the cliff with a black vertical streak about 10 feet wide. This is soot from decades of Apache campfires. She lets me discover a hand pictograph on the cave wall. Kristi is great at setting up these moments of surprise. We walk out on a ledge facing south with a great view of the land and Black Range.
Kristi points out several smooth holes in stone ledge. Apache women made these holes for grinding juniper berries, pinot pine nuts, corn, and other grains.
We meander up a somewhat steep trail. Kristi points out different Apache cook camps. She hands me a pottery chard and smiles. It's plain. No decoration. She explains the Apaches were always on the go and didn’t have time to decorate their pottery. She finds pottery chards by locating cook sites. Kristi smiles a lot and her dark eyes sparkle. This place has magic for her. She explains we are close to center of her peoples birthplace. A very spiritual place for her. I’m feeling it by osmosis.
I see Apache in her features. In her determination. In her strength. She points out a spot on this steep hill where she’s camped alone. I can see why Gray has fallen head over heels with Kristi. I spot a white chard. Thrilled to find a pottery shard with some painting decoration on it. Must be Pueblo. White with a black design. I’ll add it to my 'touch stone' collection.
Temperature drops along with a few rain drops. We head back the way we came.
We meet Gray back at sweat lodge and dish up food. I ask the German fellow who participated how the sweat went. “This was a very personal experience and I’d rather not talk about it” was his solemn response. Gray didn’t offer any insight.
The next day Kristi, Gray, me, and dogs drive into Truth or Consequences (known as TRC by locals) to pick up a check from gallery. Grays' work is for sale there.
We do some shopping at Walmart and head back to Apacheria.
I get Gray to visit Weebly and we start building a website for AccordionCraft. At the end of evening we have the bones down.
Kristi puts together a fine meal once again. A friend of hers comes by for a visit, Carol.
She is curious about my UFO sighting in Nine Mile Canyon. She is very knowledgeable about alien visitations and we discuss such mysteries of life. I express my dismay at not knowing where the body of mine came from. “ are these really your hands?” I ask. The ladies don’t seem to understand my point at first. Stars shine bright. I keep looking up, into the universe as she and Kristi talk on and on about protecting oneself with electrical shields, the spirit realm, and vibrations throughout all. Of course there is life elsewhere! Elsewhere is so vast. We’re seeing the light from stars that burned out 32 million years ago. We are from the ground and the ground from the stars. If the ground is stardust, then as Joni Mitchell pointed out in Woodstock, “We are stardust”.
Carol suggests the moon is a satellite, always facing the same way. She looked to be about to launch into a conspiricy theory. Being worn out, I decide to hit the hay. Dreams are coming fast and furious since I came to Apacheria.
Life is like a factory. Pumping out bodies. Bodies wear out and return to earth.
Clay animation is a great medium to illustrate this!
Kristi and Gray have invited me to be an equal partner here at Apacheria. We get along well with complimentary skills. I will seriously consider this offer. There are many legal implications to consider.
They show me some real estate available in the area. Some that need a lot of remodeling and others that are wonderful and ready to move in. Prices range from 20K to 180K. I will need to complete my year long journey before making long term choices. They want me to join them here and
that inspires me. For the heck of it, for amusement, I write a short story using wild west
theme. Gray and Kristi are egg me on, as they like it. We discuss how to take it further. So I’ve started this project with drawings and have an idea about offering it as product. Stay tuned! Wish I could show you.
Nice ride to Albuquerque. Along the way I reflect on Southwest Style. Southwest architecture is Pueblo. It’s everywhere in New Mexico. Government buildings, businesses, apartments and homes. Pueblo Style is everywhere. After visiting cliff dwellings and villages in Colorado and Utah it’s clear where Southwest Architectural Style came from. Directly ‘borrowed’ from native americans. Modified with a pinch of Spanish influence. Official name given to native people of this area has been Anasazi but I learn there is a new official name: Pueblo People. Pueblo adobe construction's perfectly suited to desert living. Ancient innovators design is still being used in modern construction.Made it to Albuqueque and headed straight for Petroglyph National Monument. We walked a two mile trail through what appears to be barren rolling hills covered with black boulders scattered everywhere. Hundreds of petroglyphs on these rocks. Small rocks after seeing massive rock cliffs up north. This is no longer Fremont People country. By the way, how can you name a group of people after an arrogant dude who claims to have "discovered" them? Insane. Time for a reality check. Understanding differences between the Apache and "Fremont" peoples' glyphs needs study.
My mood changes.Feeling a void. A heavy dose of "what does anything matter?" Found a nice RV Park. Unhitched. Tuned in to watch Seahawks convincing victory over FortyNiners with help of satellite connection. The win lifts my dark mood a bit. Took a shower, did laundry. Cleaned up RV. Blues seemed to clear up. Drove into the old town of Albuquerque and nosed around. Walking into the main plaza I get a feel of the old west. Stepped into a few shops to check out local souvenir offerings. Nothing here surpasses my own work. I feel encouraged. Anywhere there are tourist visitors I could settle and make a living. This is one purpose of my journey, to find out some cool spots to stay.
I am a tourist. I relate to tourists. Aren't, we all just visiting? Traveling through space at 55,000 miles per hour. Amazing that your hairdo stays in place.
Been thinking about future, my future. There are a few directions I can go.
1. Keep making art for souvenirs and expanding this to cover other cities/destinations.
2. Start painting personal work and presenting in Fine Art venues.
3. Make and market licensing art.
4. Smell the flowers and retire early! Extend this sabbatical break and explore universe.Not necessarily separate pursuits. Could be some overlap here. Albuquerque is not in the running as a place I’d like to settle. One day here is long enough. Experienced a nice Mexican dinner at La Hacienda. Wait-staff look like kids. Colorful place with bright historical murals around. The ‘kids’ light a fire in the corner fireplace. Open beam ceilings. Plenty of bougiegangas (colorful nostalgia). Carved wood chairs. Bright rugs hanging. Spanish guitars playing. Combo meal is enjoyable. Waiter apologizes for delay but I don’t even notice. Deep in my own thoughts. In the morning I head down the highway, on to Monticello.
Arrived to Ghost Ranch without finding it on the map first!
Watched colored hills in distance and saw hills I recognized from Georgia O’Keeffes paintings.
An excitedment (invented word) trembled in me as I turned rig into entrance, beneath entryway
sign reading “Ghost Ranch, welcome”. A cabin on the right just a few hundred feet down the road. I imagine O’Keefe drinking Orange Blossom tea on the porch. Turns out this was a Hollywood prop for the movie City Slickers. It sure looks authentic. They got me on that one!
I make it to the welcome center and find a smooth operating commercialized artist wannabe camp. O’Keeffe has been a heroine of mine since art school when first introduced to her work. I didn’t relate to modern art, but her work bridged realism and modern like nothing I’d seen. I decide to sidestep tours of Ghost Ranch and discover the place on my own terms. Just start walking until someone tells me I can’t go any further without a guide, or a pass, or a ticket. There is an RV campground. The receptionist was snobbily snarky when I enquired about a campsite so I turned the other butt cheek deciding to find another accommodation.
I leashed up dogs and we headed past the Unwelcome Center, towards scenes depicted in famed artists works. Walked past a compound of cabins, meeting halls, tour bus designated area and an art center (complete with etching press). We come to a trailhead.
This may be where official tour starts. I use scenery to guide me along the trail. Being very familiar with her work I recognize at least 5 scenes from her paintings. Day is cloudy. Sun starting to set. Too dark for pics. Thats ok, this 'flying feeling' excitement will be remembered.
Are these hills or mountains? Too small for mountains, too monumental to be hills.
Looming out - colors bouncing. Truly a magic place. O'Keeffe found it with a little help from New York friend, Carol. I admire clarity of her choices. Beauty she saw in this place, she recognized as worthy of immersion. I pass one amazing scene after another. A killer cliff, tree, cloud combo. Inspiration bubbles up so I have trouble holding my camera and dog leashes.
Sometimes I wonder if GOK was lesbian. After a book was published by Alfred Stieglitz with photos of her naked, she was accused of painting sexual eroticism in her work. It became scandalous with her giant flower paintings suggesting female genetalia. Regardless of her intent, she imposed her “filter” on this amazing beauty, simplifying all the unnecessary detail to offer essence, without losing recognition of subject. She did get abstract. To her it was not abstract. She sought to “emphasize the real meaning of things”. One person living her life as she sees fit continues to inspire hundreds from all around the world, coming here to Ghost Ranch for a jolt of real meaning. People want to know about her personal life. Many books written about her, how she broke the glass ceiling for women artists. Now I’m walking where she worked for decades and am thrilled.
She had two studios, one here at Ghost Ranch and one in Abiquiu at residence.
I decide to do home/studio tour for $35. Santa Fe Museum maintains property and conducts operations at Ghost Ranch and her home. Museum has a live camera fixed on her garden, where you can watch the garden in Santa Fe as it is maintained. Tours are full. I’m lucky to get a spot next day. I drive about 16 miles to Abiquiu and spend night with approval in parking lot of the very busy iconic Bode's general store. This store was founded around 1900, long before this highway came through. O’Keeffe must have shopped here.
Her home - AMAZING. An adobe-style rambling sprawl. Many rooms. Old wood trees open ceiling, sparsely decorated, plates, tables and window sills loaded with rocks. She collected smooth rocks and displayed them. I don’t need to be famous, just want to successfully navigate my life for another assumed 20 years. Rustic. Inviting. Great views of surrounding farmlands. A National Historical Place.
Her studio is ample size, not high ceilings. good southern light. No pictures allowed inside.She was happy working by herself. She had a support staff. Not exactly isolated as reputed. She had a staff of three to four people maintaining her home. She must have been respectful but firm. From what I've read, she had a way of getting things done, or perhaps, convincing others to get it done. Juan Hamilton, her 'go to' guy did very well since inheriting some O'Keeffe property. He has two homes now, one in Maui. It's nobodies business what relations they may have had. Having said that, one wonders how she dealt with life's yearnings. How she managed all this is worth studying as model for my own pursuits of happiness.
After enlightening tour I roll to Santa Fe. Stayed night in visitor parking lot at the State Capital Building. Rain, rain, rain. Went to Georgia O’Keeffe Museum next day. Anticipating a knock out show. Just so-so. 4-5 of her masterpieces on display. Would’ve loved to see more watercolors and drawings. Still, loved being amongst her visions. Went to the Santa Fe Gallery where there was a Georgia O’Keeffe show called Process. A show about the artists process. Only three or so images displayed went into her process. Oh well! Well done hype. A lesson in marketing. I read nearly every placard hoping for a bit of something I didn’t know. What occurs from all this O’Keeffe legend worship; she’s become a brand. A cash cow. Artists like myself, feminists, and students flocking to touch sacred ground of Ghost Ranch. Nonetheless, I can check Ghost Ranch off my bucket list.
Santa Fe style is all about the Pueblo native people. Adobe-style everywhere.
I doubt if walls are really made from stone and mud. Probably modern constructions materials. So why does so much look Pueblo influenced? Seems Santa Fe’s kinda stuck in an architectural rut.
The rain is slamming down. Not just an hour. The whole day. And it’s cold. Getting below 40F. I pack things up and head down Hwy 25 to Albuquerque, hoping for sunshine.
Finally leaving Moab, towards Mesa Verde. Stayed longer than planned. Love Moab. Canyons of the Ancients National Park needs excursion. Seems every 50 miles a new National Park to explore. I had no idea there were so many NP’s to explore. Found Hoovenweep campground. Only half full. So cool had to book it for a few days. This is on the border of Utah and Colorado (Can’t seem to get into New Mexico!).
I explore canyon near campground and find several crumbling Pueblo residences and a few impressive tower ruins. Painted Hands Pueblo is next stop, a few mile trek. Rugged road entrance. Truck got rocking over that rut bump road.
Car would not make it. Love my truck! 4 wheel drive would be better. Hiked a mile and a half down a creek bed into a canyon. Like a dumb ass forgot to fill water jug. We were dry. Decide to rough it. Give the last bit of water to dogs. Ruins blew my mind!
Native people thrived here so many hundreds of years ago. Built on a huge boulder this home had a basement area below the jutting boulder in the cavern area. There are rock bricks mortared up on the sides. There are very faint hand pictographs visible in the cave area.
Continued over rugged terrain to see Horseshoe Pueblo and Holly Pueblo.
Similar to the Hoovenweep towers. Towers are situated on opposing sides of canyon.
Towers remain after a thousand years plus! Imagine remodeling into art studio!!!
Hiking shoes are making noises as I walk. Sound like animal grunts and screeching. The only sound in heat of desert canyon are my funny shoe sounds. My imagination gets carried away as I hear coyotes in my footsteps. I stop to check if sound was my feet and not something creeping up on me. I start singing to footbeats as steps suggest words. Music/poetry's coming on to me in the desert.
We get back to a peaceful camp. Dogs are happy getting settled in. I sleep like a baby.
Enjoying many weird dreams lately. I tell my dad what an ass he is, shouting it right into his face. He died 3 years ago.
People are driven to have kids by nature. Once little people are made, will they be nurtured and loved? ...or perhaps ignored and on their own? Ancient people may have had it harder surviving, but they needed each other to survive. This gave a sense of belonging. Was there more acceptance for individuals and weirdos? Artists and gays were revered in many tribes.
Canyons of the Ancients is an amazing place. So go yo!
GG is having difficulty excreting waste. She made strange noises I’d no idea a dog could make. She meowed like a cat! And screeched. In a lot of pain. I comforted her like she was giving birth. Hope this isn’t the beginning of some condition.
Could be the pieces of rubbery cartiledge from huge cow bone I gave her. I Google it and find a common condition in dogs: anal gland stops secreting lubricant. I feel your pain GG but I will not be applying lubrication to your ass. I’ll read you poetry to help you pass that problem and rub your tummy, talk baby talk.
Sunset was marvelous. Stopped everything to watch color show. Wish I could save it. Pictures don’t cut it. A watercolor is called for here.
May be problem with electric converter. Battery doesn’t seem to be charging right, or not holding charge. I’ll have to get that checked. Hope this place doesn’t go up in flames.
Love love love Mancus Valley near Cortez. Cortez is a speedway. People passing through like a rain swelled river. Evan and Michele talked about moving here and starting an art studio/gallery/horseranch. How do you get these people to get out of cars? I’m not so convinced this is the right place.
As a place to live, yes, possibly very cool. Like Mancus Valley, green and luscious, and Durango area makes ok town.
Made it to New Mexico, a first for me. Hwy 550. Land feels different. Can’t put finger on it. Should have paid attention in Geology 101. Still rocks and sagebrush but somehow different. Maybe its freer. How can it be more open country than where I just came from? Dunno.
Made it to Chaco Canyon. Said to be central point in Pueblo history. These rock walled mesas seem more like a hallway in giant outdoor rooms. The whole canyon was a living room. A grueling ride over 12 miles of bumpy wash board dirt road going 2.5 mph for an hour to get there! A few stretches with muddy ruts to manage. I balanced between ruts rather than steer inside ruts. After all this I hope for a campsite at this only campground in Chaco Canyon. The sign says FULL, but I’m operating under premise that it’s just too much trouble for somebody to update these signs every day. My premise has paid off. One site’s available and I gratefully take it.
The air here smells so good. Someone’s burning sweet pine wood. Aromatic. I’d wear that smell!
Fortunately Chaco Canyon road is paved. Chacoan sites are spaced a few miles apart.
The campsite has a pueblo cliff dwelling, visible from all over and easy to access. Apparently this has been a human campground for several hundreds of years.
After setting up camp I take dogs for closer look. Wow. Awesome. It’s roped off with signs calling for respect. Don’t touch.
Morning walk to Wijiji. We walked an hour to amazing ruin. Yes I could imagine a tribe living here. Many rooms sectioned off with big fat walls. Flat shaped stones grouted with mud and piled high. Quite an achievement. Humongous dark gray rain clouds filling Southern sky threaten. Temperature drops. Couldn’t linger there any longer. We high tailed it back to camp just in time to miss downpour. I’ve heard of desert flash floods,
one can get hit by sudden river and pulled away to eternity. Nearly happened to me in Las Vegas a few years back! Walking along and suddenly a river washes down the street I’m trying to cross. Yikes. Life is dangerous.
Went to visitor center and got info and maps of Chaco Canyon.
There are 6 pueblo sites I select to visit. Hiking along the trails beside massive rock towers that seem to lean. Wobbly looking rock piles may fall at any time. Like a cake walk, you hope you’re not standing there when the music stops.
I unfold the bicycle and ride it to Casa Chiquita. What a nice way to travel. Riding across desert I really appreciate bike technology. Amazing. I can picture a population peopling this area, spread between villages. The village ruins are much larger than I expected. Some are 4-5 stories high! A new respect for the builders of these stone and mud villages. As I rounded the entrance to Clys Canyon there was a double rainbow between canyon walls greeting. A spectrum of colors so pure and saturated. Can’t remember ever seeing a more vivid, clear rainbow. Good Omen. What did the Chacoans think about rainbows? So many mysteries and questions. It was about to rain again. I pedaled faster. Who knew. All this rain in the desert? Returning to camp dampened and invigorated. After touring many sites and attending an evening stargazing event at Chaco Canyon I can conclude this land was once bustling with a vibrant community who built kivas, farms, and villages with respect to suns seasonal position. Evidence of alignments regarding solstice, petroglyphs, and doorways is convincing. My attention turns to the way out, and driving on the 12 miles back after a night of continuous downpour.
Morning comes. I check with visitor center about condition of road. The boring white Ranger woman suggests driving in the muddy ruts. The brown native looking person suggests driving between ruts. I drive between and make it out, slow and steady.
Some sliding around. A wash of water about 4 inches deep and 30 feet across rushed across the road. Drove right through no prob.
Made it to Hwy 550 and headed south feeling enlightened by the whole experience.
Next stop has to be Ghost Ranch!
From Cortez I drive into Mesa Verde for a day outing. The ruins are stunning. These famous ruins are very photographed. Here one gets the impression of an amazing and mysterious, advanced, innovative civilization. Inspired by Evan Jones' text to me: "don’t forget to smoke some pot"
I decide to take a few puffs. Let me say, I enjoyed exploring Mesa Verde in the maximum.
Getting cold at night. Have been resting up a few days. Seen so many rock arches obsessively looking for the next arch. Pine Tree Arch. Tunnel Arch. Skyline Arch. Broken Arch. Tapestry Arch. Hundreds. Someone named each arch. After a while I suppose it gets more difficult to find a name not in use. Kind of like pharmecuiticals. When we run out of drug names we invent words.
Don’t you hate it when a fly lands on the lip of your coffee cup? Does it make you stop drinking or do you sip from the side the fly didn’t tap dance on?
I saw Martian at theatre in Moab. Hoping to see some Hollywood aliens. nope. Liked the movie. The UFO from Nine Mile Canyon still haunts.
I look around and everyone is with someone. Families and couples everywhere. Single men and women seem non-existent. Only singles I’ve met on this trip are hunters and fishermen. Even the artists were paired up. At least I have JP and GG. Actually, those dogs are the best people I know.
In the morning at Green River truck stop wind blowing steady at 40 mph. Gusting 50. Dogs seem befuddled. They haven’t experienced this before. Desert hot temp, gusting wind, crusty sand earth. Scrambling to get resolution with UFO encounter. I search the internet for a drone similar to the UFO I saw. I look over hundreds and find one not exact but closest. Got a reply from BLM Visitor Services Information Assistant at Moab Field Office. Judie Cox informed me “BLM does not use drones to assist in managing public lands. Drones can be used by private users which is probably what you saw.” Her reply is reassuring if I choose to believe it. So I’m going to believe it was a harmless curious drone and let it go. Maybe the camp host was using it? I could call him and ask! Let go Kim. We head down the highway to Moab. Scenery is blandly comforting like mashed potatoes. Sagebrush. A fine sunny day. NPR on the radio. We roll past entrance to Arches National Park and on to the Colorado River. There's a private RV Park called Moab Valley RV Park right near Colorado river. I pull in and lucky me get last camp site. Price a little high ($50/night), but hey, they have minature golf. The staff was super nice. I sign for 2 nights. An easy ride to Arches and I hear those camp sites are always booked months in advance this time of year.
Its near the freeway. Not the quiet one gets from a national park camp site.
Bought a Utah Parks Pass for $50. Good for entrance to any Utah park for a year.
That should pay off since I plan to visit Canyonlands.
Very exciting as we drive up the winding road into Arches National Park. Seen plenty of pictures . Feels like some amazing ride. Surrounded by monoliths and odd shaped obilisks, grouped in unexpected variations. Why do people travel from all over the world to look at rocks? Rocks are like trees; holding recorded history to unravel and interpret. Maybe offering an insight into how we got here. I’m fascinated by rock art of the Archaic period.
Arches is not the place to see ancient peoples rock art. Its where you see natures amazing creations, rock arches of course. I shy away from too much technical information but can’t resist the informational graphic on how arches are formed. It was interesting but I forgot already! You’ll have to Google it.
Hiked to Delicate Arch. Bigger hike than expected. There was an original settlers cabin, Wolfes Cabin, and rock art ascribed to Ute Indians. Most spectacular thing was hiking to dangerous heights and viewing Delicate Arch.
Must have been more than 50 spectators standing around the bowl many clamoring for pictures. Slopes are steep. I feel some tension. Not too good with heights. Neither good with loud disgusting people. Exuberant a-holes competing to stand in arch for photo op. I was surrounded but wouldn’t let that ruin it for me. Got some great pics as sun was sliding away. Didn’t bring water. Mistake. Made it back to truck and sped back down to camp. I would need another day to visit Devils Garden and Windows.
Scoped out Moab for a place to watch the Seahawks play Detroit on MNFB.
Moab Brewery actually has beer in a can called Johnnys’ with a 7% alcohol content.
What kind of 'game' are the Mormons playing here? Trying to make it difficult to find real beer. An annoyance yet with a little perseverance one can get it at liquor store and some ordained bars.
Close game with a miracle play by Cam Chancellor to get the Hawks win. Exciting.
Had a guy from New Zealand next to me rooting loudly for Detroit. Trying too hard to be funny and cute. I parked the rig on the street near the Brewery and the Cinema, beneath the trees.
Decide to camp there. A free night to defray the expensive RV Park.
I decide to tow RV up into Arches in hopes of snagging a campsite (against Ranger advice) hoping for good luck. Drove all the way out to the end reaching Devils Garden. There was a small sign posted on the camp hosts cabin. It said, May be 2 sites available at 5pm. That would mean waiting 4 hours. Loved the place so much I decided to stick it out with the flicker of hope.
Strategically park in a reserved site and hike around perimeter of camp for a few hours watching for any sign of camp hosts return. Enjoy a few arches including Broken Arch. Spot the little golf cart puttering along about 4. I figure camp host will be back to cabin at 4:20 after making camp rounds. Someone else might be waiting for her! I take action. I follow and catch up to her right before she gets back to cabin. “Got any sites for tonight?” I ask. She replies, “ well the two that may have been open, turns out both arrived. But I do have one site available, #49.” “I’ll take it!” I said.
Before the couple on bicycles had a chance to book the site, I got it. Why is everything so damn competitive? I didn't make it this way. If you want to something, often it requires jumping through hoops. But it was worth the stalking. Had a great time camping and hiking round Devils Garden. Saw several arches: Pine Tree Arch, Double Arch, Tunnel Arch, Broken Arch, and Sand Stone Arch.
The Japanese family camping in tents next to me were very noisy. They kept slamming SUV wagon door every 5 minutes for 2 hours!
Contacted Evan and Michele about meeting up for dinner.
They’re on vacation coming from Preston, Washington through Utah. They rent a convertible Camaro from Vegas. We meet for dinner at Moab Brewery. We all have salads; huge and tasty. Share some laughs. Talk about Seattle getting too high with cost of living.
They found a little town close to Mesa Verde in Colorado called Cortez. They loved it. Considering a move there (dreaming). Evan suggested I check it out, could be of interest in starting a souvenir trade there.
Next day I milled around in Moab. Not inexpensive to live here. Stopped in a pub. Met a loony tune. Maybe it was my tie-dye shirt that attracted him. He looked like a dented Jim Morrison. Kinda handsome. At first he talked about how he designed his bike down to 7 pounds. Thats cool. Then he says It was stolen. He tried to get it back and a gang beat him up. Then he talked about how he designed the GTO. I’m thinkin’, Whhhat? I let him go on. Glen revealed to me that he knew where that plane jumping parachute robber is (DB Cooper). He described in detail his ranch and where to find him. One tale after another. Brawls he’d been in. I asked him if he’d ever been arrested. Yes, on a false accusation of spouse abuse. And another incident of accidently bumping his son with his knee. When he started explaining how he owned Apple Computer and was hiding out, I decided the fun was done. I don’t want this guy to see me get into RV so I walk away towards Main Street. (cue Twilight Zone music)
Slept well. The key to sleeping well is finding a quiet street to park on. Already learned that one. I’m camping under the radar. Trying to bring expenses down.
Evan and Michele went off to Arches. We meet up in evening for dinner at Ed McStiffs (really!). Couple local brothers are there playing music. It’s fun. We go to the reception of Le Petit Plein Air. Its a function with awarded prizes to best plein air paintings done on Main Street that very day. I could have participated but my mind wants a pass. Don’t want to work! So I observe.
Evan and I enjoyed bantering about the art, picking the winners. The most talented painter in my opinion was a young blonde woman. Her name:
They awarded her second prize. Her painting was hands down the best. Expressionistic brushwork, movement, composition, all working nicely. Selected winner was high contrast, posterized graphic scene. Ok, but static and not all that artistic.
Got to bed at 10 and slept well. Going to Canyonlands with Evan and Michele in the Camaro.
Visited the north end of Canyonlands. Appears much like Grand Canyon. Colorado River is brown and snakes around creating extensive maze to look down upon. It was a blast hanging out with Evan and Michele. Michele has a bit of vertigo. Worse than mine. Getting close to the cliff edge and looking 1200 feet down sends my mind spinning. I’m afraid I may try to jump into the sky and fly. Those extreme sports dudes flying around in body suits come to mind. In my dreams I can freely fly about. Hold me back!
Evan pulls out a joint and we take a few puffs. I become more talkative. Michele prefers to tag behind as Evan and I carouse. I don’t blame her, but Evan and I go way back. We can’t help it as we amuse each other with juvenile humor. We go right back to Issaquah High School.
Saw where Green River merges with Colorado. Learned more about Powell. How he started up at Expedition Island on Green River and floated down the canyon exploring and documenting his journey. He had one arm. Lost one in the civil war. What an inspiration. Imagine many hardships he must have endured with funky equipment.
We head back to Moab. Walk dogs along Mill Creek for about an hour, leading around to spot I camped the other night. Pet some horses in a field.
Later met Evan and Michele at ____________ for dinner. A young vivacious Texas woman on accoustic guitar strumming and singing Gram Parsons, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and country western. We chowed down some good grits and bid farewells. They’re on their way to Salt Lake City and then flying back to Seattle. We had a blast. Hugs. I stay another night on street.
I meet a woman, Dottie who runs a successful T-shirt shop on Main Street. She says business is bustling. She takes the 4 winter months off. She makes most the art and heat presses the shirts.
Its fun to talk shop with her. She must be in her mid 60s and still going strong. She's planning to open a crafts/farmers market on her prime land along the Moab highway.
Saturday morning coffee and off to the Colorado River stretch between Moab and Colorado border.
5:30 pm I pull into camp. Looks deserted. I get out and poke around. Before I step up to old farmhouse residence/office, a truck pulls up. Two guys step out. Friendly enough. Seem to be coming from 20-30 years ago in dress and manner. Talked with a little southern accent. I learn that cost for a night is $15 with no hookups. They mention road past cabins leads to another campground I’d have to myself. There are ten or so spots to choose from. I park on a nice level spot, set up camp. Wildlife abounds here. Jack Rabbit hops by. I take dogs without leashes on a nice long walk. Over the creek and up to a field, seeing 2 more jack rabbits. I try to get dogs interested. They catch scent but don’t act on it. We spot 4 deer browsing in the field. GG's interested. She's come to get excited by hooved animals since watching the antelope. The dogs are thrilled. Feels good to shake the suburbs. We make it back for dinner and ready for bed. The night sets in and pitch black.So very quiet in Cottonwood Hollow. About 9:30 pm I was ready to sleep. Opened RV door for one last look at night scene. Sky was lighter than black silhouetted rock cliff. Stars were vivid. Holy shit! What's that! There a hovering object above the hill! It seemed to be looking at me. Hair on arms and neck electrified. It’s watching me! It was dark, looked oval with flat sides. What should I do? It had 4-5 lights arranged in a horizontal line. One light was red. others were different brightnesses of white. Not evenly spaced. It was 4-12 feet long. It hovered about 15 feet above the 80 foot ridge for about 30 seconds. There were no beams of light. Frozen in place, wondering how to get a picture. Before I had a chance to grab for camera inside, with precision of a hummingbird, it turned and zipped directly away, behind the cliff. I was freaked out and elated. Could this be alien contact! Now Frightened. I would be an easy specimen to collect if this were an alien scout. WHAT WAS IT? An Alien? A drone working for government? Why here in the middle of nowhere? Is something devious going on? Could it be working for the BLM to check for fires? Yikes. I did not sleep well. Turned lights out right away. Fished out autographed Ken Griffey Junior baseball bat. Layed down stiff like a corpse. No phone service. I’m 1000 feet of pitch blackness away from nearest camper. The UFO must have been between 500 and 1,000 feet away. Dogs are unusually quiet. Dogs must sense my angst. I could be prey. A predator could sweep down, pop open this RV like a tin can and devour me or worse, be taken prisoner, slowly pulled apart. Oh man. My imagination was not helping make it through night. Pins and needles.
Happy when morning came. Needed to tell someone. Need to find out what the hell that was. Was this a joke someone was playing? The way it flew was no joke. Hope it was man-made. Whats going on in Nine Mile Canyon? Pack up quickly and decide to explore a bit more of the petroglyphs before driving to Green River to get my shaking self back together. Met a guy and his son pulling out of camp. He was the right guy. I told him what I’d seen. He happened to have been a UFO sighting investigator at one point in life! He asked me several questions like; was there any sound? (no) What shape? Did it glow? Was it light or mechanical? Did you find any bruises or marks on your body?
His name was Doyle Angus. He mentioned I could report it on a website www.mofon.com He had a knowing look in his eyes. I gave him my phone number. I didn't even think to check my body.
Everything seems fine. Except my right nostril. It seems sensitive. Probably nothing.
Had to tell someone. Rock drawings are taking on a different significance. I can’t put my finger on it, but I still feel like I’m being watched. I cross paths a few miles north of camp with Doyle as he is looking for petroglyphs also. Somehow his presence was reassuring.
I get to canyon mid-point and turn round. Drive to truck stop at Green River.
Another town biting oil boom dust. I wonder if UFO was oil company drone? May never know what that was.
In Green River there’s a Wi-Fi connection and phone service at the truck stop. Start searching for UFO information. I start filing a report with mofon.com. Towards the end of filling out submission form it demands all rights to my reported incident, including picture and drawings I was going to send. This smacks of cashing in! Decide not to file the account. I'll put it on my blog. I email BLM and ask if they utilize drones in Nine Mile Canyon. Hope someone responds.
Don’t know what to do with this experience now. Everything seems even stranger than it was. I may need to speak to some experts. Could aliens already be working amongst us? A new meaning to the term illegal aliens. It was probably a drone. In the future they may be commonplace. Not so comforting in the present.
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