Last Tuesday in the very early morning I was woken from a peaceful sleep by the sound of galloping hooves. I was out of my tent and into my shoes before I was conscious – Jesse was running up and down the fence and around the yard, all flags flying, snorting and blowing and intently focussed on Something down the wash to the south. I went towards him and Finehorn came trotting over to me, wrapped her neck around me and pressed close. The sun was not yet up (it was before 5am) and although there was enough light to see, I couldn’t determine what was upsetting the ponies. After about 5 minutes of this Jesse came over and I put my hand on his neck to find his muscles tense and literally trembling. We all looked together, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, until finally things calmed down and the ponies returned to their grazing. The best guess is a bear or a mountain lion coming by to check out camp – and since whatever it was didn’t return, that morning or the next - Mr.James had been big and fierce enough to make his point – my Hero!
We were camped in a lovely spot. The ponies and I had everything we needed and quite a few of our “wants” covered as well. I had wonderful neighbors a few miles up the road who knew where I was camped and were keeping a friendly eye on me. A young elk had come by the water trough the day before. Hummingbirds hovered, checking out my bright yellow dry bags and colorful laundry. I was catching up on my journal Tuesday afternoon, sitting in my tent under the shady pavillion, enjoying the peace and beauty of my surroundings, when a dust devil sprang up right behind me, twisted and whirled across the yard, picked up several Large barn sections that were neatly stacked not far from my camp and tossed them over the fence and across the field – then sudden stillness and silence – spooky! (and it all happened so Fast – maybe a minute total!)
Since being back on the trail I have been reminded over and over again how much I am at the mercy of things over which I have no control. It’s easy to feel threatened by that – vulnerable and insecure. But let’s go back to the sentence just before – “at the Mercy”. Being vulnerable isn’t always such a bad thing! On Thursday the 14th, as I was setting up camp in a fortuitously fenced-in area (to keep Finehorn safe from the Mustangs!) and realizing that all of the available water was contaminated by cow pies I looked up to the SW and saw a big plume of smoke rising and spreading – oh No – Not Again!!! A few minutes later I heard dogs barking joyfully and the voices of women. I walked quickly in their direction, calling out so that they would know I was a female and not a threat, and one of them stopped to talk. L was so gracious and reassuring, offering to send somebody in to warn me if the Poco Fire looked to be an imminent threat and giving me a bottle of water to get me through the night. She returned in the morning with news of the fire, a gallon of water, fresh fruits and veggies and a warm heart. We strolled around the meadow, talking and sharing, enjoying the morning and getting to know one another. What an amazing blessing, brought about by my vulnerability to (and fear of) the forest fire – and the seriously disgusting water – without which I probably wouldn’t have “bothered” the nice women out walking their dogs.
In the past two weeks I’ve been reminded that I cannot rely on my maps. The drought is serious and the monsoons are late and lakes that look large and unmistakeable on paper simply do not exist in reality. (On the other hand, I’ve found enough water to keep us going in tiny creeks that the maps show as dry – go figure.) I’ve been stopped by large areas of blow down (impassable mazes of fallen down trees from the Rodeo-Chediski Fire of 10 years ago – at 468,638 acres it stands as the largest in AZ history) and in finding an alternate route I met DB, who not only welcomed me in like family, she told me about the wonderful haven that started this post And she called ahead to her daughter M and arranged a stay for us a bit further up the trail. What a wonderful family – and I never would have met them on my “original” route.
Due to the extreme fire hazard conditions, whole sections of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest are currently closed and off-limits. Tomorrow morning (Monday) I will call the Forest Service in the hope that they can tell me where I Am allowed to travel – and where along that route I’m likely to find water. My next “destination” is Luna, NM – 100 miles from where I am today. I was hoping to be there by my birthday on 2.July to pick up a package from my folks and a new solar charging device that some friends in Florida are sending. Right now I think the likelihood of arriving in Luna “on time” is remote – and I’m not fussed about it. Even with all the detours and drought, I’m back on the Journey and once again finding it a great Joy.
I want to write more soon about Vulnerability and Security – but right now it looks like a storm might be blowing in. I’m inside a beautiful house which is not only full of art, it IS art, staying with a couple who rescue not only llamas and cats but also this strange thirsty woman (with two thirsty horses) in need of a bath on her coast-to-coast trail ride. I’m about to be interviewed for The Maverick Magazine and before that happens I want to get outside to feel the wind and see what the ponies sense about the incoming weather. Manana!