When Eric flew back to NY / CT, I made a list of all the stuff I wanted to do while he was gone. Yeah I know, kinda pathetic.I got most of it done, and heres a rundown of the last 10 days.
Monday – Dropped Eric off in Albuquerque. Our parting was less mushy than usual. I think we were both really relieved to get away from each other. I went to Bandelier National Monument afterwards near Santa Fe. Down in the valley where most of the trails and visitors center are, it was storming on and off and the humidity was through the roof. I got my backcountry camping permit – was told I should go to area E, but I could go anywhere that wasnt a “gray zone".” I also learned that I couldnt make a campfire which meant I couldnt eat anything I had brought. So while waiting for the rain to clear I ran up to town – White Rock – to find something to eat. There was literally nothing. So I went to the gas station and bought a corndog and some chips. Yay.
Back at the Park, I spent a few minutes checking out the native plants garden which was fabulous. They had a ton of native plants, well labeled showing all their uses. I did the main loop trail which takes you through a good 20 or of pueblo cliff dwellings and archeological sites. There were houses carved into the soft rock with ladders leading up to them, as well as stone apartments on the ground, along with various ceremonial sites. I found it interesting that there was a large area which was unexcavated – they knew there were archeological remains underneath, but were waiting to excavate it until a time when there were tools available that wouldnt damage it. There were a group of what looked like scientists and interns at the largest “apartment complex” and I asked what they were doing – they were repairing some of the walls, chipping out the cement that had been used the last time around to repair them and rebuilding it with the traditional adobe that they had been originally built with. It was really cool.
Except, the humidity was insane and I kept getting backed up on the narrow trail by people ahead of me, which I chose to not let annoy me too much. I went over to the alcove house but didnt go up the stairs to it, because literally even standing still I was dripping sweat from the humidity and I desperately ached to be in drier air. Literally it was like the rainforest in Peru. I tried to think of it as a detox, which helped, as I sweat and sweat and sweat all the toxins from my body. On the way back I was alone on the trail and a bird flew past my face by only a few inches. It snapped me to attention out of my slightly delirious heat and humidity daze, and I glanced around and saw a rabbit darting off the path ahead of me. Another few steps and a black snake skirted through the leaf litter on the side off the path, out of my way. I suddenly felt blessed. I had been debating whether or not I really wanted to camp there that night, but these signs made it clear to me that I should, despite the thunderstorm. I would be facing my fears, doing my first wilderness solo camp, and would be an interesting experience and memory either way, whereas if I went home thered be nothing.
I attempted area E but it was just so nasty humid down there I decided to drive up out of the canyon and find somewhere to camp on the park space above. I saw a small gravel turnoff on the side of the road and found a perfect campsite a little ways in. There was deer and elk scat everywhere tho. I put up my tent in between two juniper trees, surrounded by mullein stalks, and watched the sun set over the mountains. Soon I saw a deer. Then another. And another. And then a group of elk came up. The mule deer were within 10 feet of me and were not bothered by me at all. They would glance up at me from time to time, then quietly go back to grazing. It was stunning.
As darkness fell I heard coyotes yapping and howling, which made me nervous. I grabbed all scraps of food I had with me and brought them back to my car. I sat in my car and smoked a cigarette, calming my nerves. A bat flew straight through my car – in the passenger window and in front of my face and out through the driver side window.
Despite this, I managed to settle in pretty well in my tent. My paranoia came as expected but faded quicker than previously. I was dozing off when I heard some shuffling and crunching outside my tent. My tent lacking in windows only increases my paranoia and I shot straight up wide awake and grabbed my boot to smack whatever came at me. Then I saw a light, wobbling around, grazing over my tent. I wanted to sink back down and hide, but I knew that would be counter productive. So I forced myself to open the door of the tent and call out. There was silence for a few minutes and then the light swung back around, a mans voice “Where are you?”. “Here,” I said, turning on my flashlight, “See my tent?” No response but the light grew closer. It was a Park Ranger. He asked what I was doing there, and said I couldnt be there. After discussing it with him for about 20 minutes, he walked off, and I was left with the ultimatum that I could pack up all my gear and hike in another 2 miles and set up camp there if I wanted, but i couldnt stay here. Since it was already almost 1am, and I was already about a mile in (how the hell did he even find me?) there was no way I was gonna lug all my gear another 2 miles. It was a bitch to even get it a mile in, since all my stuff is walmart brand and big and clunky and i cant tie it all on or stuff it into my backpack and have to carry everything individually, taking several trips. So I grabbed everything without even packing it all up just filled my arms as best I could and took a few trips carrying everything back to my car. I decided to drive home even tho I was dreadfully tired, and decided to go the other way around the park to the town on the other side – Los Alamos. Los Alamos is the home of the Manhattan project, the project to develop nuclear weapons. Even tho that was many decades ago, the town felt like a military base. I had to go through two guarded checkpoints on either side of town and most of what I saw consisted of well lit white buildings with police cars. Maybe it would have seemed different if I had been there during the day – in fdact there were a number of museums and things I had wanted to check out the next day. Finally I found a sonic and stopped to grab a coke to keep me up. I also got some tots thinking the fuel would help too since I hadnt eaten much all day. I drove the 2.5 hours home, just barely keeping awake.
Tuesday – Slept in. My whole body hurt horribly. I must have pulled the muscles in my legs. Saw a movie in Alamosa. Public Enemies, was really good as I love John Dillinger, and I love Johnny Depp, who played him. It was an enjoyable movie but stretched on a bit long. I was really pissed that I bought popcorn for $3 for a tiny little bag and couldnt afford a drink.