“… Restore unto me the Joy of Thy salvation …”
~ Psalm 51:12
Easter Weekend Expedition
Part 1 – Good Friday
March 30, 2018
Holidays are always a good time to visit family, so the dogs and I spent this Easter weekend visiting our Mother … Earth.
We left early Friday morning, to swing by Lyman Lake, Arizona, on our way to – I wasn’t sure. I was just very sure we needed to spend some time on our own, together, away.
Arizona is a wonder. When you look out across the scrub, guarding your eyes from the dust swirling into them, you’d hardly imagine there were swaths and swales, canyon-ettes (I need a few geology lessons, I’m sure, so I can more sensibly identify the small rifts in the landscape that result in what appear to be small canyons. Thus, canyon-ettes), arroyos, and, yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, lakes.
I had packed the camping gear – just in case, and all the dogs.
My dogs are amazing. After traveling from New England to the Southwest, then back again, on to Montana and then back to the Southwest, all stuffed into a Hyundai Elantra GT with too much gear, one would think they’d flee to the back closet whenever I suggested a road trip. Not my Pack. They get indignant if I leave them behind when I go for groceries. So, Friday, as I was traipsing in and out of the house with yet another over shirt, a pair of snow boots – it was 61 degrees where we were, but you never know, and a few snacks, the hounds got themselves into a dither.
We loaded up. Stopped for a very long and wonderful telephone conversation with a friend from Montana – in a phone zone where our connection would not be shorted at random intervals – then headed to the lake.
Rangers are a welcoming bunch. We were invited to tour the park, and maybe spend the weekend.
“Just tuck the dogs in around you. They’ll keep you warm tonight when the temperature drops into the 40s.”
Not quite ready to set up camp, I thanked them for the brochure, and headed to Springerville.
When one travels from here to there and back again, sometimes the strangest things take on an importance only understood by the traveler. So it is that I intentionally took us to the Hometown Shopco.
Before moving to Montana in Autumn 2016, I had never heard of a Shopco. For those of you who are unacquainted, a Shopco is a very small – we’re talking very, very small – department store that was the source of anything and everything we needed when we lived in Medicine Lake. If they didn’t have it, we didn’t need it, and we’d have to wait until the roads were clear enough to get to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, or over into North Dakota, to pick it up.
It is possible to live with a lot less than you think you can.
Mind you, the Shopcos we went to were either 24 miles north or 80 miles south – take your pick. This one is about 50 miles from where we live now. But, it was our shopping mecca when we camped in Apache National last summer, and, it had Easter candy on sale!
I was blessed last Easter to spend the day with Dixie and her family in Homestead. It was the best day I had in Montana. Lots of laughter. Lots of candy. And when Waylon the Dog stole the ham, and wore it like a beard, the hilarity only increased.
Easter. You know – Joy. Laughter. Love.
Those Skillingbergs have it down.
I wasn’t there this year. I had considered going, but there were several blizzards between Arizona and Montana, thus, the local expedition. I wanted something familiar. Something tangible. So, I shopped for Easter candy and a new journal at the Shopco. A tenuous connection, at best, but sometimes that’s all you need.
We headed over the hill, considered stopping in Alpine, and opted instead to drive to New Mexico. Gila National is just across the border. I had seen brochures, slick, glossy, shiny brochures for Catwalk Recreational Area. Feeling a little lonely, I thought maybe Glenwood would be a lively little town, rich in touristry, and full of holiday spirit.
Glenwood is a lovely town, just not slick, glossy, or shiny.
The road to the Catwalk is off the road that is off the road and has warning signs every half mile or so: Watch out for Water.
Mind you, the road itself is barely above a dry, and recently active river bed. I know this river bed is sometimes used for a river, and not one of those Arizona “washes”, because this one does not have towering cottonwood trees growing in it. Pay attention to those signs – as you go around the corner, and glance to the right, the washouts are impressive.
As we drove deeper and deeper into the mountains, I began feeling more and more claustrophobic. I kept an eye on the sky, lest there be an out-of-season monsoon about to throw down the mountain on us. The sky was clear.
Nonetheless, I kept watch for water – and, sure enough, at the base of the parking lot, right where you could enter the Catwalk, there was a river running across the road.
Hi, how ya doin’? I’ll come back – in a truck. With someone to hold my hand.
On our way out of Glenwood, we checked out a couple camping areas – summer is coming, after all.
Cosmic Campground. I had seen the sign on our way in. Not knowing for sure if it was a private hippie compound, I traveled on. While I am not opposed to hippies, I did have a tiresome week of conversations with people promoting “medicinal use” of marijuana, when in fact, they’re stoners who neglect their kids. ‘Just wasn’t up for one more conflict.
I learned at the gas station/store in Alma that Cosmic Campground is not a commune, but instead offers a “360-degree view of the sky” and is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.
International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Who knew?
Anyway, there are leveled platforms there for folks to balance their telescopes.
And free-range cattle who have their own agendas for using the roadways. Take their time. It’ll be safer for everyone.
We’ll be back. With red cloth covering our flashlights, so we, too, can see the night sky.
The sun was heading behind the hills, and there are no street lights in Gila National. There are not always guard rails, either, along that serpentine road between Luna and Glenwood. Just so you know. I’m an East Coast girl, and have only been west of the Rockies for four years, give or take a few months. This driving along the edge of the world where you can see tree tops just at the end of the gravel still gives me the willies.
We stopped in Alpine for a snack, and then meandered along the road home. I hadn’t seen the elk in the meadow (I heard about them at the restaurant). But I did slow down for the twelve or so grazing along the roadside.
Shedding their winter coats. Watching over the young ones. Snacking on early spring growth.
A full moon was rising over Nutrioso as we headed back toward Springerville, and from there to Concho, where we are currently staying.
Good Good Friday.