Over the bridge and up the cliff, basically. The narrow, rocky road with no guardrail climbed halfway to the Carson road before we saw them grazing quietly in a sheltered ravine no more than thirty feet away. A buck and four ewes. We stopped, of course, and stayed a long, long time. I got out and slowly walked around the truck without them getting spooked. They’re fairly placid creatures, anyway. Speaking of the Dakota, this road is yet another I would normally avoid in lesser vehicles, but just look what we found there. Finally the right tool for the job.
This was our Easter getaway, twenty minutes down the road. It’s astonishing how therapeutic hanging out with bighorn sheep, Canada geese, mallards, and buffleheads can be. There’s a greater mystery here, too. Just look into those eyes. The intelligence and spirit. I’ve stared at this off and on for what must add up to an hour, easy. My reluctance at breaking the connection is profound.
Looking south out of the Rio Pueblo gorge to the canyon of the Rio Grande. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
A few years back I had a vision in a dream. We were standing outside in the night. A glowing ring shot down from a storm cloud at UFO-speed, hovered, checked us out on all sides, and zoomed silently away. I took this as a benediction. Later there was a storm and dark gray water overflowing from a flagstone-lined ditch, but we were safe inside. The house was Mexican or Mediterranean with stone floors. Rain that did blow in through open windows ran harmlessly away.
The other day I took this picture high above the Rio Pueblo. (That’s the Rio Grande is in the distance.) When I opened the file later on my laptop, the thing jumped out immediately. It kind of shimmers and you don’t quite see it but it registers.
We were half an hour down the road at 10 to 15 mph except for crawling over black volcanic boulders. The Dakota’s V-8 chugged happily enough that in the smoother stretches, I had the brief sensation I was piloting a boat at low speed in the vast high desert sea. And then we saw the cliffs.
The route out there was utterly unmarked. I’d researched it online, however, and found a hiking website with an entry by a fellow who’d measured the distance to each turn: .3 mile, 4.5 miles, and so on. Dead accurate, as far as I could tell. No way in hell would I have ever made it on my own.
I pulled off the road—not to get out of the way of non-existent traffic, but to turn the truck 90° to face the river. We ate lunch in the cab and marveled at the quiet and the intensity of the sun. The wind was brisk, the temperature 58°F (14.5°C). I had to walk about 100 feet to find the view you see above.
The wildness, though. The terrible beauty that doesn’t need you. The “emptiness” is crazy wrong. Of course you pay attention. Why else are you here except to be burned up with spiritual fire?
The mighty Dodge Dakota took us quite a few miles into the outback yesterday. I’m happy to report that the expedition to the vicinity of Ute Mountain (Rio Grande del Norte National Monument) went perfectly. The truck had to crawl over boulders and in and out of holes and did so without scraping bottom once. High-clearance vehicle with expensive tires definitely recommended for this place. We didn’t see a soul for the couple of hours we were out there. Amazing, stunning scenery and wildness. I’ll post more pictures soon, and I’ve been tweeting them also.
Your gentle reminder that I photoshopped the fake license plate above
About ten days ago (?) we had a little snow. Just a few inches, and it was quickly gone. The drought-parched soil soaked up the melt water so fast, it was like the slush was only visiting. While it was here, though, the Dakota got “stuck” backing up the hill. The rear tires simply couldn’t get enough traction, and look at them! Undeterred, I turned the tiny dashboard switch from “2WD” to “4HI” (4WD, high range), teased the gas a little, and damn if it didn’t climb right out of there. That 100 foot stretch was the total extent of all the four-wheel-drive driving I have ever done and I am sold.
This is no ordinary 17-year-old compact truck. Purchased originally via special order, it came from the factory without any extra chrome or decals. (I didn’t know one could do that.) Nothing external screams “4X4!” or fanboy slogans, yet it’s actually a Sport Plus optioned to the gills. It has the 16-inch alloy wheels, for example. When I peered underneath to check the spare, I was astonished to see the fifth wheel was a pristine alloy one as well and sported a brand new, unused tire of the same make and vintage as the others. I’ve never in my life bought five new tires, but the last owner did. Usually the spare on a used truck is a bald piece of crap mounted on a rusty old steel wheel that never matches anything.
Speaking of rust, I’ve found some more. For a truck that lived in northern Illinois, you’d surely think so. The chrome plating on the tailpipes has a few brown spots, for example, but nothing I can’t live with. So the adventure is going rather well. Now I have the means to haul stuff from the moldering ruin in the background. This potential is going to shift some factors in our favor. Even if I’m wrong, it still sounds wonderful and I don’t care.