January 1, 2000

What a glorious beginning-of-the-new-century morning! Chet and I are camping near the Agua Dulce Mountainsin the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. A coyote raced down the sandy dirt road we drove over yesterday. Our car, gear, and we are covered with dust from our campsite. Looking up I see very tall saguaros in every direction and mountains jut up around us.

What a perfect way to set ourselves in the century--with no fireworks, or people shouting, or cars honking. The place we are visiting is the earth in all its grandeur. Last night clouds were in the sky making for a fiery sunset. The chile I made for the trip seemed like a cowgirl feast especially with the grated cheese on top and Sunchips on the side. We brought margarita glasses and I licked the sides so our salt would stick. The tequila tasted a little like the oak barrels it was stored in. The wind was cold and there had been a weatherman's threat of rain but it never came.

By 9:30 p.m. we couldn't sit outside any longer; we called it a day and cuddled up in our tent dozing on and off. Five minutes before midnight, Chet woke us to welcome in the New Year and the beginning of the next millennium.

I went outside and the clouds were completely gone. The stars had a depth never witnessed in the City . I saw two shooting stars and marveled at the universe. I asked the earth goddesses to be good to my sister DiAnne and free her of cancer and bring a kidney to my friend Julia.

Chet is in the tent now rolling up our sleeping bags. We were both a little cold last night and he's figured out how to zip our sleeping bags together so we can stay warm and toasty tonight.

Two families of quail wandered through the desert yesterday and the gila woodpecker cried out to the world this morning.

The sky is free of clouds this morning and an Arizona bright blue with the sun warming the soul. Cooking bacon and scrambled eggs with cheese seemed almost sinful. I guess we are living up to our reputation as the camping gods. We'll soon be down the road to find our next days adventure--what heaven!

January 2, 1999 (oops!)

Yesterday started differently than I thought it would. Because our campsite is idyllic, we decided to stay another night and hike and relax in this spot.

The trek up the Agua Dulce Mountains was challenging for my knee but well worth the little bit of muscle ache I encountered on the way down. From the top of the hill we climbed, we could see the desert wilderness in all directions. The saguaro was up on the top of the hill as well. Our lunch of crackers, ham and cheese and mixed nuts satisfied our stomachs, while the view fed our spirits. The sun was shining the entire day and felt good on my body after the cold night before.

There are birds but not in huge flocks. Today I saw a flicker, verdin, finches, and a huge, majestic bird over our campsite. Chet thought it might be an owl because of the way it flapped its wings.

Before we readied our camp for the evening meal, Chet saw a giant, green scorpion walking between his legs on the ground. He chased the scorpion around with a long stick to try to take a good picture of it. The scorpion frantically tried to get away from the monster human and crawled into a sandy hole to escape for the night.

Last night we enjoyed a clear sky and a massive starry night. We saw another shooting star and wondered about ancient mariners who knew the sky well enough to navigate by the stars. To the north there is a soft light that we think is Phoenix and realize that most people never see the stars much less know them well enough to use them for navigating. Chet tried to take a picture of the stars and we both listened to the silence.

The sleeping bags were zipped together (thanks to Chet!) making for better sex and warmer bodies. In the middle of the night, I woke to raindrops falling on our tent! When the rain stopped, I went outside to relieve myself and the world smelled of creosote from the millennium-old bushes.

Breaking camp this morning had to be delayed a bit because our tent is wet, but Chet is putting our gear into the car as I write. We'll definitely be moving on today. Hopefully, the rain is done and we'll have sunny skies from now on. It looks that way. Off to another day's adventure.

January 3, 2000

The sun shone brightly as we drove off down the historic road. Taking the wheel for the first time, I drove for a while down the rocky, sandy road. What an experience! First, we stopped at Papago Well, a well for cattle only, probably used by ranchers many years ago. Passing the O'Neill grave we rode over rocky roads. Creosote bushes streaked the side of our car even though I tried to avoid them. It's slow going over this narrow road and in places there is just barely enough room for the car to slip by. Over the Las Playas, the road is clay and luckily it didn't rain enough last night to make the roads slippery. But the ruts are deep in some places and I need to avoid "high ground". My intuition about how to drive on this terrain seemed keen. Next we hit the Pinacate lava flow--this means really rocky roads. Rocks jut up all over and I can only drive the car about five miles an hour. Finally, about fifteen miles from when we started, we reach the Nameer grave site and decided it was time to switch drivers and eat our lunch of crackers and cheese, along with nuts and cookies.

Chet drove on from there through the Pinta Sands--a sandy wash and on to the Tule Wells. At Tule Wells an older couple and their dog were eating lunch so we zipped on by and drove through the most enchanting land. The more we drive, the more I feel like we are truly in a land of eternity.

The landscape was unique and hardly spoiled by human endeavor. There's more untouched land than I could have imagined. Chet and I talked about how critical it is that this land be set aside as a Sonoran Desert National Park and Preserve. We need to to join the local effort to make this possible.

Some of the roughest road is in the area Chet drove with big ruts and some tight spots. We found a perfect campsite with two saguaros gracing our compact set up. Just ahead of our site is the Cabeza Prieta mountains with the black peak soaring above the rest. After a rice and bacon dinner, we sat and watched the stars for hours.

This was the clearest night so far and we could see color differences between some of the brightest stars and planets--shades of red, blue, and yellow. There were three shooting stars and generally it was difficult to tear ourselves away from the sight except we were freezing cold and had to go to bed to try to warm up, unfortunately, to no immediate avail. The night was the coldest yet and we clung to each other, put on our long underwear, and scooted down in our bags. Eventually, we both warmed up. Of course, just about the time I was getting comfortable I had to go to the "bathroom". The stars were still bright and I hardly needed a light to find my way.

In the morning, we were sore from the hard ground and even though it was still very cold we got up. The moon rose first, just a third of one, and slowly the sun followed. After some coffee and short walks around the plain, we begin to warm up, and Chet measures our place on the planet with his GPS and is packing up our gear. For some reason it's taking us longer to get on the road today--it must be the cold. I can't wait to see what's ahead.

p.s. I forgot to mention the car that was stuck in the road two miles past Papago Wells. It was an old "beater" probably used by some Mexicans trying to cross the border. The trunk was up and empty water bottles and two well-used hats were sitting inside.

January 4, 2000

After a long day yesterday, we decided to drive back to Tucson. The day was filled with adventure as we traced the steps of travelers from a century ago who were looking for land or gold. What an amazing trek these men took to find the American dream. The road to water is long and treacherous and the travelers had to watch out for marauding Indians in the winter or killing heat in the summer. The dry desert plain stretches for miles and the road is first rocky and then sandy.

By mid afternoon we made it all the way to the Tinajas Altas mountains. Hiking up the side of the mountain, we found the "tank" that explorers were searching for after their hundred mile hike through the desert. The water looked like it wasn't potable and we wondered how the travelers felt when they reached the spot. At least on this day, there would have been enough water to feed their animals.

We're home now cleaning up our camping gear and doing our usual household chores. Before settling into our routine, we ate at our local breakfast spot and talked about the trips we've been on that have taken a lot out of us but enriched our bodies and our minds. This millennium trip was one of these.