Conejos Journal – July 2007

Nine years ago, Merri and I took Lucky Dog and our new-used truck and camper nearly 5,000 miles (round-trip) up the Rockies as far as Hinton, Alberta. We were gone nearly 5 weeks. Since then, each year, we take a “long” trip — shorter every year. This year: a couple hundred miles north for 6 nights. Not that it wasn’t beautiful and fun.

Mer and I camped and hiked with friends in the area of the South San Juan Wilderness and the Conejos River in south-central Colorado. The following is my journal with a link to photos at the end. peace, mjh

Day 1 – Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Conejos Valley, Colorado
Lake Fork Campground #18

It’s just after 10pm. I’m up about as late as I usually am at home, though I won’t be up as late as I was last night, with last minute prep of burgers and guacamole. Everyone has retired, perchance to dream. I’m sitting in our new used camper, my headlamp illuminating the keyboard as I type, mindful of my laptop’s battery limit of just over an hour. Make it snappy. (Often good advice for a writer.)

Also in this site are our friends Melissa and Lew, plus Cypress, in one tent and Dave, plus Chica, in another. We arrived a couple hours later than the others, still in time for dinner. Neither of us can explain why it took over 4 hours to load the camper, especially since we had done some loading in the two days prior. Oh, well, it’s only time – there will be more, won’t there?

There is a back story to the camper, but first the summary of the day, at least after the long load. Or should I say, before the loading began, because I was up with less than 6 hours sleep at 5:30am. Sitting in the sideyard reading the paper just before sunrise, I needed a long sleeve shirt, even though the day would approach 100 degrees, as it has the last day or two. By 8am, I was working on 4 letters. One was to my Uncle Earl, the last of my father’s siblings, whose birthday is next Tuesday. He’ll be 83, I think. My Dad would be 90 this year. I decided to send Earl a book and the Journal article to share the family pride. I included a note that I think of him more often than he’ll ever know, which is true of far too many people I love. Another letter, plus book and article, went to Madeline and Greg, who I love even more. I couldn’t bring myself to say that I am not really an orphan because I still have them. Then there was the same package for my niece, JoanE. This morning I exchanged email with her and she noted that today is my sister Liz’s 63rd birthday, just as Merri had commented yesterday. The email included Liz’s phone number and so I picked up the phone, dialed dozens of digits, only to be confronted by her security avatar – you must be announced before this person will hear from you. After all that, I got her voicemail. I squawked the birthday tune, commented on the irony of it all, and wished her a happy 60th birthday, since I’d missed that milestone. If anyone loves me as I am – besides Merri – it is Liz. Well, that’s not fair to the others I know who love me as I am, as I do them. Finally, a note to Mer’s mom, Irene. The writing, the packaging and the trip to the post office all took at least an hour, but these things needed doing. You never know which trip is your last.

Once we were done loading, we drove off and did not return – a first in the series of summer trips, from which we often immediately return two or three times to gather missing items. Then to Smiths and a quick lunch in the parking lot. We were truly underway just past 2pm, about two hours later than expected. So it goes.

It was the usual trip north, around Santa Fe and through Española, then Chama. This is such a lovely valley. (Note: strike all references to the beauty of this area before posting on the Web.) We joined our friends, ate some food, and I got out my new pipe, purchased just yesterday. Yet another story – there are so many.

And that story is that I usually smoke cigars on these trips. Awful cigars. For some time, I’ve considered that a pipe might be more pleasant for those around me (not so pleasant as no smoke at all) and I might enjoy it more, too. This harkens back to college days and to my Dad’s pipe-smoking years earlier. Yesterday, I finally braved entering a tobacco shop. It was like the lobby of a hotel 50 years ago: plush furnishings occupied by comfortable gentlemen sharing a smoke and tales. All cigars, I think. It hardly looked like a shop or more like a jewelry store, with just a few offerings in cases along the walls. A man got off his stool and asked with a beautiful voice if he could help me. He showed me the bargain pipes and a few steps up. We chatted about the pipe style called a church warden, which he says is very popular. I had one in college and I’ve never seen anyone else with one. I wasn’t about to spend $85 to be back in fashion, so I settled on a $25 classic that fit my hand well. The purchase included a pouch of dark tobacco from the walk –in humidor, which is the real store, larger than a meat locker, stocked with countless varieties of tobaccos. When I pulled out my pipe tonight, no one expressed horror, but they’ve all seen and smelled my cigars. This was definitely an improvement.

The camper story is longer and more detailed. It will involve additional comments from Mer. The story begins, well, years ago. Perhaps even 9 years ago with the first camper. We like the style that is a pop-up that fits in the bed of our truck. That year, we got a dog, a camper and a new truck, because the old truck couldn’t carry the camper. Then we spent 4+ weeks driving up the Rockies and into Canada, all the way to Hinton, Alberta, in Yellowjacket Province. We have loved that camper and used it well and certainly gotten our money’s worth from it. But some years back, the leaky roof got bad enough that we have been covering the camper with a tarp, which really diminishes the convenience of stop and pop and settle-in. So, for at least two years, Merri has perused countless classifieds. A few weeks ago, we responded to a classified ad for a nice sounding popup for $4500 – over $2000 more than our old camper. We met Bonnie and Bob and took an instant liking to them, which seemed mutual. Sadly, it was too much camper for our truck and we had to say, nice meeting you, goodbye. Then, just last week, on an eventful day that started with releasing a bull snake in the foothills. (Rescued from our neighbors, the snake was a handsome 3 foot gentle being of unknown origins.) Merri sees the connection between snake and camper – the reward for a good deed – and I cannot argue that all things are not connected and we can create the life we deserve. It was a few hours later that day that Bonnie tracked us down and emailed us that her previous camper was up for sale from her friends, Ben and June. It sounded so perfect, and our faith in Bonnie was so inexplicably complete that we got a cashier’s check for the split-the-difference price and took it over to Amherst, not even knowing the lines that intersected so tightly in that block. Bonnie and Bob were there with Ben and June and Ma-ma. More than a sale, it was a block party. The festivities were capped with a thunderstorm and beer. This is quite a nice camper for $900 dollars less than our old one. Details will follow another night.

As I sit here, I can hear the Conejos River roaring nearby, white noise that no fountain can match. It will be cold and perfect for sleeping, a far cry from Albuquerque. Tomorrow, we will introduce our friends, who already like the area, to the breathtaking, in every sense, area above treeline. We head towards Tobacco Lake and, perhaps, Conejos Peak, and then dispersed camping off road. If we are lucky

Day 2 – Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Conejos Valley, Colorado
Lake Fork Campground #18

Friends, let me sing in praise of paper. I have seen the bright light of this simple technology. As I write this by hand, my $2000 laptop serves as a lapdesk under lined notebook paper. Today’s few miles driving were not enough to recharge the laptop battery. I barely had time to read aloud to Merri last night’s entry, which ended mid-sentence when the battery died. Tonight, I could not finish that sentence.

My respect for paper was rekindled this morning when we gathered around the large book of printed maps in the Colorado Gazetteer. Try that with a 2″ GPS screen. My slumbering laptop has more maps at higher detail, but BFD if I can’t turn it on.

Already, my new GPS has let me down. How far did we walk? Let me figure it out. It can’t tell you? I forgot to reset it. Sigh. Friends, paper rules! (If you can read my handwriting.) [Now that I have laboriously transcribed this to digital format so you can read it on the Web, the irony washes both ways.]

Lucky and I were the first to rise at 5:40am. It was between 46 and 50 degrees, depending on which thermometer you trust. We walked a short distance — .35 miles by the GPS.
The group decided to spend a second night here — a really good choice. In fact, we now have this end of the loop to ourselves. There is no reason to believe our neighbors left because of the dog’s indiscretion near their camp.

For the drive up the hill, Dave rode with Melissa, Lew and Cypress, while Chica rode with us. We stopped to admire our favorite jacksite, just off the road down a steep dirt track to streamside.
At the trailhead, we had a brief scare at the sign “Trail Closed” until we saw the fine print: to motorized vehicles.

The trail rises quickly and passes through some woods with snow in drifts. Out of the woods, for most of a mile the trail is largely level. Just past the Wilderness sign, near a stream that drains an area Merri and I have scrambled up before (near one of the state’s few clumps of bristlecone pines), we met Dr Jim Pitkin, 77 years old this July 29th, who has hiked this area for 72 years. Clearly, high altitude living suits him and his little dog, Buck (for Buckaroo). The good doctor went on ahead, and we could not catch up to him until lakeside, where we spent some time with him and walked with him much of the return trip.

From the point where the trail turns directly toward Tobacco Lake, it climbs relentlessly and steadily over the next 1/2+ mile. The lake and the beautiful stream that drains it are a great reward, even without the additional mile + up to Conejos Peak (13K).

At the lake, Mer, friend to seniors, visited with Dr Pitkin. When I went over to retrieve the water we’d offered him, he said she is “just so friendly and sweet.” I said, “I’m a lucky man” and he agreed. His wife died two year ago and Buck is his only friend who is always with him.
I was drawn to the Dr’s good laugh, a great cackle. On the walk back, I told him stories to share a deep laugh with him. I hope I’m laughing my ass off at 12K in 25 years. I rather doubt it.

Clouds piled up on all sides but we’ve seen worse up there. Mer’s first solo to the peak was in a snowstorm. Our hike together was through clouds. Today’s clouds were less threatening.
Back at camp after the drive down, Mer napped, Lew fished, Melissa read, Dave drank a beer and I had coffee and the pipe. About 6pm, we set up a big mosquito net ‘room’ and crowded in for great burgers followed by hearts with oreos. We all laughed heartily over the notion that our room constituted an exhibit of Homo Sapiens. (“Watch as the humans share food. We assume the symbols on the rectangles of paper they pass between them hold some special meaning. One card in particularly almost always causes the recipient to grimace as the others hoot.”) There’s something in the air in this valley.

Day 3 – Thursday, June 28, 2007
Treasure Creek

The moon, only a day from full, rose in a notch in the ridge to our east about the time we were all headed for bed. I ran for my tripod — Walt Adams’ tripod — and set it up on the hood of the truck to try to capture the trees silhouetted against the moon. Then I finished drowning the fire. I came into the camper and read yesterday’s handwritten entry to Mer. I’ve spent the last 45 minutes looking at maps and GPS to consider a radical idea: Let’s not drive at all tomorrow and head up one creek or another toward the Continental Divide.

But that’s tomorrow. Let’s not forget today, an eventful day. We were the last to get up at 7:30am. I lifted Lucky down from the camper, which he hates me doing. We ate and broke camp. At 10am, we held a simple but nice remembrance for Ruslyn’s mom. I read a poem — my first public reading — and Mer spoke of Lorayne and the rest of us spoke of Rusti. My Mom was on my mind when a butterfly flew overhead, just as she always said she would. The ceremony was a nice way to remember someone most of us never met. Then we watched an ouzel in the stream and finished breaking camp.

Sung

As I lay dying
spoon me one more time
before the darkness falls
and all I am
is no more
forever done and gone
a song no longer sung
hold me one last time
before the darkness falls
and I am no longer going
simply gone

We drove to Platoro and to the Gold Pan to see Mike A and meet his wife, Debbie. We chatted for most of an hour and bought sundries. Mike gave us two suggestions: Conejos Falls, too far to hike, and Treasure Creek, where he took me fishing years ago. We drove up through Stunner Pass. On the descent, we were almost run off the road by ATVers driving too fast in the curve. Past Stunner campground, past the private lakes and down the road along Treasure Creek, another beautiful valley. Just short of the end of the road and Cascade Creek, we chose the spot Mer and I camped in before. (The only time we’ve ever run out of propane on the road.) The others set up their tents while we set up the screenroom, which had already proved its value in blood saved from the hoards of mosquitoes.

After a late lunch, we walked down and along Treasure Creek. Discovered a magnificent little falls and wide pool just so lovely. Lew fished, standing in ice water in sandals, while we all enjoyed the scene.

Back at camp, it rained lightly and briefly. We ate soups and fried potatoes and onions. Mer and Dave built a fire and Mer roasted marshmallows. And then the evening ended as this entry started. Now I am shivering and ready for bed. The bright moonlight will fill the camper.

Day 4 -Friday, June 29, 2007
Treasure Creek Jacksite

At 10:30pm, I’ve just come in after waiting an hour for the full moon to rise. After such a long wait, I gave up. I almost gave up earlier until I turned around to see the sharp line between bright moonlight and darkness on the opposite hillside, below the Big Dipper. This gave me new hope for awhile, but clouds obscured the actual rising. I was very lucky with the timing of last night’s moon and the clearer evening.

It has been a long day and this will be a short entry. That’s ironic since Mer followed tonight’s reading with, “That’s it?”

The Cliff Notes version is that Lew & Dave, plus Chica, went back down the canyon while Melissa, Mer and I, plus Lucky and Cypress, went up toward the headwaters of Treasure Creek below the Continental Divide. We ended up in a lovely, wide bowl rimed with snow, boggy everywhere. While they waited at mile 1.7, Lucky and I went another .5 mile to try to see around a bend toward the end. As far as we went, there was just more of the same valley, albeit narrowing and climbing more. Above us were plenty of elk along the CDT.

We turned back under very threatening skies, but made it to camp before the rain, which fell sporadically over the next few hours. Mer roasted a foil pack of veggies under the coals of a fire and Mer and Lew grilled steaks. We had chocolate for dessert. I’m wiped out — yes, that’s all.

Next morning

Just after I finished writing last night, I looked out to finally see the moon. I scrambled out for a few photos and then to bed.

This morning, I wanted to lift Lucky down from the camper, but he would have none of it. So, I let him jump. He modified his stance a bit, keeping both front legs close together and bringing down both hind legs in a bunny hop. Maybe that will work.

I wrote this poem a year ago.

Finally

The day finally comes
when you have to lift your dog
down from the truck.
It doesn’t matter that for years
he has cleared that distance
in a bound.
Or that he hates for you
to pick him up.
He stands at the tailgate
eyeing the distance;
does he think his leg
may give in again?
He waits a long time
as if just surveying the scene –
not asking for help,
just enduring it.
With a dignity
That makes you cry.

Day 5 – Saturday, June 30, 2007
Elwood Pass

I thought I would be able to use my laptop tonight for this entry, but even at 99% charge, it only lasted through downloading photos (and not through backup).

So, back to the technology with hundreds of years of success — even thousands. Try to match that, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Midmorning, before we broke camp, I walked up the steep route along the creek I mistakenly called Cascade Creek — Cataract Creek — far enough to see a great falls and determine there is a trail here which must be the shorter route to the CDT.

As planned, Dave and Chica left by 9:30am, headed home for an Isotopes game. (Dave, not Chica.) Melissa and Lew decided to move to lower elevation so, unexpectedly, they also broke camp, albeit a lot less quickly than Dave. We had time for hearts after bacon and eggs for lunch. Toward the end of their 2 hour breakdown, we got ready to leave in a few minutes. (The joy of a camper.)

About 2pm, we all left our lovely camping spot. I think we all would gladly return here. Dave has suggested an annual event.

Where the Treasure Creek road meets the larger road, we turned left, roughly north, toward Elwood Pass. We drove past two trailheads we’ve hiked before and noted a young couple occupied “our” spot just barely off the road, nestled in the trees with a stunning overlook of a huge meadow ringed by beautiful peaks, many with large fields of snow.

We drove on, thinking about Plan B. I drove up the climb to the high valley that holds Summitville. I recalled the open meadow before the Superfund site being fabulous. It is nice, though probably no more so than any other alpine meadow, except that one can drive to it instead of hike. Black clouds hung low over the scene.

Back to the main road, we went a tad farther to a sideroad that proved too rough and slow-going (by a standard that would be shattered the next day).

On the main road again, we turned back the way we came. (Going the other way would eventually lead down and out to the road between Del Norte and Wolf Creek.) On the second pass, we discovered “our” spot was vacant and gladly took it. When flocks of mosquitoes fell upon us, we understood why the other folks had left. Even clinically-proven spray proved ineffective in the field. We suffered between breezes stiff enough to keep the skeeters away. It was at this moment that we really appreciated Melissa and Lew’s screenroom. We even toyed with going home abruptly.

Eventually, we decided moving targets were tougher and walked down the hill to a small receding pond. Lucky rolled in snow. (And dragged his ass, which Merri photographed him doing.) We trudged heavily and breathily back up the hill and endured more bloodsucking before retreating to the camper for a dinner of snacks.

We walked briefly in the waning light. I read Mer my entry from last night. Coyotes howled at the end.

Day 6 – Sunday, July 1, 2007
Kerr Lake

It has been a long day full of new routes.

Up a little after 7am, the dog used his new improvised ramp to get down for a brief walk. We broke camp by 9:30am — the earliest yet — and drove a short way to the Elwood Pass turnoff. At the time, this seemed too rough a road to follow very far. (Now, it would seem a cakewalk.) I had to back up with some gnashing of teeth. We parked near another NM truck where Trail 813 crosses the road. Trail 813 coincides with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in this area.
A few years ago, we tried this trail but lost it in the snow in the woods. Then we took the steeper trail not far away (TR707). This time, there were some tricky snow patches, especially higher up, but overall it was more gradual and pleasant than that other trail.

A mile along the trail, we left the treeline and soon crossed the biggest snowfields. In one, I sank one leg to my crotch without reaching soil in a kind of tree pose. (The same thing happened on the return with the other leg.)

Soon, we were above 12K with a panorama of the same terrain we looked up at last night. Eventually, we intersected that steeper trail, just before rounding the bend to where the trail narrows with a steep drop-off.

The first time we saw this section of the trail was from a point about a mile away (but on the same trail). On that occasion, years ago, we had come up to the CDT yet another way. As we sat recuperating, we saw some movement along this very peak. Sheep were spilling up the steep hillside, driven by a cowboy. (I am NOT going to call him a sheepboy, though that does bring Dickey to mind.) Even from a distance, it was hard to imagine the nerve to ride along this steep face. Here and now, we were ready to walk that same trail a second time. I walked with Lucky heeling. The wildflowers were magnificent and formed meadows at 60 degrees incline. (By now, those flowers are all sheep shit.) The trail is scary and treacherous in just a few spots. I still can’t imagine travelling it on a horse.

On surer ground, we stopped for snacks a little more than 2.5 miles in. We were in a saddle (geographical, not leather) and could see the La Plata mountains far off to the West. A trail descends in that direction down to Crater Lake. We took that trail last time, never reaching the lake, just more snow. (Note to self: After hiking up, don’t hike down unless you’re headed home.)

This time, we turned to follow the CDT only a short distance beside Long Trek Mountain. A little beyond 3 miles, we turned back just in time to see four horses, 3 riders and 2 dogs come across that same narrow trail. We sat on higher ground, watching them follow the trail. I took a photo I really like and an OK movie — this was the quintessential old West experience. (OK, quintessence would be riding, not watching.)

Back on the trail, we encountered 4 hikers, past the worst spots. Still, we’d had most of the area to ourselves for hours.

We stopped for a self-portrait at the trail junction. The route home was easier, but we had probably pushed Lucky too far. He stopped several times to lie in the snow, panting, or to dig a den declaring time for a longer rest.

About 3 pm, we saw our truck. And several ATVers. If only there were electric, silent ATVs — that would be an awesome way to travel the dirt roads. As they are, they blare “fuck everyone else.”

We were completely surprised by two guys who came up from behind us on the same trail — how could we not have seen or heard them once? They rested in the same shade we sat in. They intended to hike the CDT across Colorado, but at that time pizza in Pagosa seemed the goal.

From the trailhead, we drove back towards Platoro against the heaviest traffic of the week. Past Stunner Pass, we turned towards Lily Pond. That road climbs more than I recalled. At Lily, we could have gone straight to Cornwall but opted to try the road to Kerr Lake. The first time we tried that road, we gave up when it climbed very steeply and roughly. On that occasion, we camped beside the road in a bog. This time, bolder or dumber, I put the truck in Low-4 and crawled and bounced up that steep, steep road with a sharp turn and then miles more of the same.

Now *this* is a *damn* rough road. Even at 0MPH, I feared we’d lose the camper. I’ve never driven so far in Low-4. About a mile in, the road leaves the woods to follow a long meadow that looks suspiciously like a former lake. Finally, 2 miles in, we reached the still extant Kerr Lake, which is quite large. As rough as this road is, there are more people here than anywhere else we’ve been the whole trip. And more mosquitoes, too.

We hunkered in the camper for a few hours. Part of that time, a windstorm raged without rain. After dinner, we walked a bit in the setting sun, then retired.

After I read to Mer, I heard a loon. That would have been my final impression of the evening except that at 9:30pm our neighbors have set off on a moonlit ATV ride. Some people have no appreciation of peace and quiet.

Day 7 – Monday, 2 July 2007
Home

We returned to find Albuquerque under a leaden sky without any hope of rain. A warm, dry breeze provides only the slightest more comfort than the ineffectual swamp cooler. Bad enough, but worse is that Kitty is near death. We might have celebrated her surviving until we returned, but now we must wonder – is she suffering? When is euthanasia mercy? Let that sit below consciousness while I catch up with the day.

Turns out the neighbors who rode off after dark on ATVs were not just joy-riding. They must have been leaving the area after a day of fishing. They didn’t return (thankfully) nor did we find their corpses strewn along the rough road. (Predators might pull their bodies into the bush, but the ATVs should have been visible.) So, I retract “assholes” and substitute, “noisy folks.”
Our day started soon after 7am, minutes before the mosquitoes awoke. We were out of there by 8:30 or earlier. Mer drove back, spending less time in Low-4 than I had but coaxing as smooth a ride as possible. Still two miles of damn rough road; it is like riding in a washing machine. I can only recommend the trip to thick-skinned fisherfolk, as lovely as the area is.

Back at Lily Pond, the worst road behind us, we turned toward Cornwall Mountain and discovered how faulty our memories really are. I would have said Cornwall was soon after Lily on a level road. It was nearly 3 miles uphill from Lily. But we found the expected spot and started our hike before 9:30am.

It is hard to believe than ever that the first time we hiked Cornwall, Mer wore flip-flops and we carried less than one full bottle of water for the 3 of us. Today was nearly a death-march; I feared for Lucky’s life.

Cornwall is unique in this mountainous area. It is a large dome without any trees and lots of exposed rock riven with grassy channels full of wildflowers. (Diverse, yet less so than the CDT hike yesterday.) These channels provide relatively easy passage, but they are discontinuous and separated randomly by patches of rock. That rock might be ice-chest-size or fist-size. It might be very stable and densely packed or embedded deeply in soil or it might be stacked perfectly for breaking an ankle or swallowing one end of a dog, as it did more than once today. So, without a real trail, one picks one’s way up Cornwall and back, and some places are better than others, but you don’t know which until it is too late. This was at least our third time up Cornwall and surely the worst hike.

Still it is worth even a bad hike – except, perhaps, from Lucky’s perspective. At the top of the dome of Cornwall Mountain, one has a 360 degree view of snowy peaks, some a hundred miles away. Back in the direction of the truck, we could see the Platoro Reservoir, fuller than we’ve seen before. Near the crown of the dome, someone has erected a rough shelter barely 3 feet cubed inside – big enough for Lucky to find the only shade for most of the hike, but not big enough for the two of us to join him. (And you couldn’t drag Merri in there – it is a nasty, dark space – just right for a dog, though.) We call this shelter the chapel because a cross has been placed above the tin roof.

On prior hikes, we’ve wandered the upper area of Cornwall. On the opposite side from our hike, instead of a gradual curve, there is a precipitous drop into the aptly named Cliff Lake. North of that, one would look down over Kerr Lake and last night’s campsite, far closer than it is by road. In the fourth direction, one might reach the same road we came in on, in an area where some timber company stacked thousands of good logs high and left them to rot. Hiss.

All this we knew from prior hikes. Today, we were more aware of Lucky’s limits, so after he was cool and fed, we headed back. We hadn’t gone far before Merri discovered the circle of eight chairs made of stone stacked so skillfully that each had lumbar support and armrests. Is this art or worship? Only Druids know for sure.

Although we had GPS and could have reversed our route closely, we made the mistake of believing we might find a better route without risking a worse one. Poor Lucky suffered for that bad judgment. No matter the route, it is harder for him to navigate all this stone downhill and somewhat weakened and tired. We stopped a few times, though there was no comfortable spot on the treeless slope. Eventually, we navigated back close to our route up and rested in a larger grassy area. Once we started again, we realized there was another thick band of rock to traverse. This maze might have kept Sleeping Beauty secure. Finally, we were really out from between a rock and a hard place. We all laid beneath a pine tree to recuperate before the last quarter mile. The whole hike was less than 3 miles but as grueling as seven.

Back to the truck and back the way we came, past Lily Pond, then to FR250 below Stunner Pass and above the Reservoir road. Down to the level of the Conejos River, past Platoro and, eventually, on out to the pavement at CO17. Over the border and into Chama for coffee. A few miles south of Chama, we stopped next to an osprey nest by the road. The parent osprey protested our proximity bitterly. The other parent soon appeared, as well. Two osprey might be just enough to carry off a tired dog. We moved on. Past Ghost Ranch and Abiqui, Perdenal in the background. On to Española for gas and awful coffee. On to Santa Fe and a hint of rain. Then the homestretch. And then home itself, under the leaden sky mourning the inevitable passing of Miss Kitty. Now it is the latest I’ve been up in a week. The room I’m in consumes more electricity than we used in a week. We’ve showered and watered some withered plants, using more water than in a week before we even begin to do laundry and dishes. No wonder the Kachinas have stopped following us home on this route. We are perpetually profligate and, perhaps, unworthy of our good fortune. Regardless, one by one, we follow Miss Kitty. peace, mjh

See some of the photos from the trip

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