When I usually go to the desert my ass gets kicked in some way and my body is somewhat debilitated. Not this time. I think it's because I didn't drink any alcohol. Lesson to finally learn - don't drink alcohol in the desert - regardless of how little.
At Burningman I met a really interesting person - he was in the same Village and camped not 15 feet away. If you look at the Tazii photos, he's the one who is sticking his tongue out at me. I was so struck with him, because I had very low expectations that someone like him existed. Well, I was pretty sure he existed, but I had no way to go about confirming it. (Bjork line here: I miss you, and I haven't met you yet.) So needless to say I was completely and utterly blown away to be face to face with a fluffy, horned, jauntie, clever, sensitive person. Perfectly costumed as Mr Jauntie, my current patron Saint. It was no coincidence.
G met me in LA on Friday and Friday night we headed to Barstow to meet Carson. I wanted to show G the Vision Cave and introduce him to Carson. We arrived late - stuck in bumper to bumper traffic the last 10 miles into Barstow at 1am! We had the top down and found some R&B Hip Hop station to whomp on the sub woofer as it took us 20 minutes to go 1 mile.
Next morning, like a herd of desert tortoises, we took 40 east to Water Road. There's nothing here. A grated road that goes along the powerline. Pass the little Paiutes, then the Paiutes (no water there) then the first turn west after the entopic cattle wrangling enclosure takes you to the base of the Old Woman's. Skirting along the base until we reach the rocks that have the Vision Cave - not really a cave, but an overhang with petroglyphs on the walls. The floor of the cave has gotten very dirty with bird droppings and I later cleaned it with water and very expensive french champagne.
There's not much out there in the desert except rocks, wildlife and a whole lot of silence. No buzzing laptops, radios, cell phones or traffic noise. Just wide open space. The silence is thick. Huge piles of rock play with your long distance vision - is that one pile or are there several canyons behind it that I just can't see. The rocks blend and undulate with the light and color striations and desert patina.
We arrived late afternoon and it was blazing hot. Not much stirring about - some jackrabbits, some quail, a few lizards. We parked near the painted rock and went to see what changed. The bees were still there, there was a little water at the edge of the wash (one of the only places that almost always has water - even in the past 6 years of drought). It had rained recently and we saw the rivulets in the road, yet it was very sandy and gave our 4 wheel drive a run for it's money. I grabbed some snacks and found some shade in the shadow of the big rocks and sat down to look out and enjoy the silence. I laid back and looked up at the rocks going into the sky. At the hollow places in the rocks. At the view of the vision cave. The wash. The dry mountains of rock and scrub, junipers, barrel cacti, choya and native grasses.
I wandered over to the cave, where I checked out the floor situation. The floor has been worn smooth by many years of human butts sitting on it and it is usually very clean. No animals live in the cave, some birds make their home above it, but usually they don't shit in the cave. Last time I was there, the floor was covered with bird shit and I brought some cleaning supplies (water and scrub brush) to clean it up.
I became sleepy in the cave - so I laid down on my shirt and dozed for a while. The floor of the cave is uneven and there are nice walls to lean against. It's open on two sides - one side drops at least 25 feet to the wash below where the bees live. This opening give a grand view of one edge of rock. It's cracked and has several sunburst holes where the sparrows live. I heard the droning of the bees and watched the birds flying around in the increasingly cooler light. It's a nice place to ponder those things in your mind. What you believe, who you are, what you are doing, happiness, life, etc.
The sun would go over the ridge early so I rousted myself to make camp: set up the tent, roll out the sleeping bags, check on the fire situation and start thinking about dinner. Carson and I brought complimentary desert food and Geno had stopped at the Health Food store in Barstow (yes, can you believe it, a health food store in Barstow of all places). We collected wood and got dinner fixings out, black beans seasoned with desert sage and chiltpotes, corn, fresh tomatoes, red pepper and lettuce. The cans bubbled in our small cooking fire and we watched the sun set behind the ridge.
Dinner was served and we climbed up on some rocks to eat and watch the view. Slowly the sky became darker and the stars came out. We finished up and started to clean up. Darker and darker it got in the shadow of the rock and then rose the moon. It was not quite full and shining bright - we didn't need flash lights and could see our moonshadows.
We took a walk into a canyon leading to the ridge. It was cool moonlight and we didn't use any illumination. The rocks took on a new feeling. They were realer than real. They were alive and we saw faces and characters in those rocks. They said to us - you can not imagine how long we have been here and how long still we will remain. Their desert patina exhaled the heat of the day as we walked past. We saw doorways in a juniper and passageways in rocks. We saw the leering old man sitting with his cat and cocktail waiting for the swimsuit session of Miss USA to begin - he was watching out towards the east. The show would unfold over the next million or so years.
We wandered back to camp and took turns watching the mice jump around and scurry over our dirty dishes and empty cans. These desert mice may never have had canned corn or black beans and no amount of light or fire or humans would scare them to immobility. We didn't want to scare them away, but instead flanked them on three sides (Geno in the throne seat, Carson to the east and me to the west.)
Exhaustion caught up with me and I fell into my tent. I didn't bring my blow up mattress, so was left to sleeping on my yoga mat which was basically not sleeping. It's a night of tossing and turning, waking up and looking at the stars.
Dawn brought the sounds of quail and coyotes and cool light soon to turn into the heat of midday. I rousted myself out of the tent. Breakfast was toast over a fire, hot chocolate, cheese and mandarin oranges. The day was cool and it was time to clean the cave. I got my scrub brush and some water and spent some quality time scrubbing away.
Then it was time to head back to civilization. It was a fairly short trip - not without it's revelations. And it was really nice to have such a pleasant time. Next trips calls for a visit to the Miner's Cabin in my big burly truck and serious alone time for H. It might be a while though.