{ Journals from the Trip - Day Two }

    I decided to use this blog as a little editing project, and you can listen to the audio version (read by yours truly) right here:

Hello Again ; )

  I think I just decided that I'm not going to do a post for each day of this camp trip ... there were 4 days and 3 nights for the linear record. But after this post, I'll just blend a highlight summary of the final days.

  A trip like this is a kind of a blur .. as it should be. Days were spent walking the desert roads with our hoofed babes, leaving boot-prints, cracked pistachio shells and goat berries in our wake. We soaked in the hot springs to the point of hallucination and then dizzily scaled the rocks like monkeys down to the leisurely moving green river for a plunge and shocking return to reality.

   If anyone hasn't seen Day One <---- you can read it there ; ) 


But as for day two - Tuesday Morning - it started memorable.

   We'd gotten to bed at what felt like a late hour after setting up camp, star gazing and negotiating a favorable sleeping arrangement with the babes. (we all slept on the ground, and they seemed perplexed at the fact that we hadn't brought them any sleeping bags.. )

   We had hopes of leaving camp before the sun, so we could hit the springs and enjoy them all to ourselves/ avoid any loud people or those traveling with dogs.

   I nudged juwels in her dusty bag just after the first birds started to chirp, and she groaned a little, but didn't want to move. I couldn't blame her ... but I also couldn't fall back to sleep, so I prompted her on all the benefits of soaking before breakfast and napping in the afternoon, and she went for it.

   About 20 minutes later, thanks to juwels, the trek bags were packed. We got the goats to tank up on spring water from their silver bowl (they never seem to drink when we hike) and we set out a bucket of feed and timothy grass, and they ate with hungry bellies.

   Earlier, I'd walked to the edge of the of our settlement when juwels was packing everything up, and I only saw two other camps ... but I also thought I saw something running by in the distance and into the brush. A dog? A pack of dogs? They had a very smooth movement that made me think they were wild, but I only saw the movement for a 1/2 second, and wondered if it wasn't just something floating by on the surface of my eye ball.

   We'd bought the babes leather collars the other day, and juwels had used a leather punch kit to hammer their full names in "ezmerelda..." and "lucia maria" (and she squealed, in that way I love so much, with the uncovering of each letter ; )

   We'd also brought along two leashes, so we could walk them through camp and keep them close. The worst thing that the goats can (and will) do when a dog comes around, is run. This running prompts even the friendliest dogs to chase, and off they go ... far away from the help of their two-legged parents. And when a dog gives chase like that, it's an easy thing to expect that the predator in them starts running the show. I've daydreamed, grimly, about what I might do if a dog attacked one of my babes, and it brings out the caveman in me - not a pretty sight for anyone, so .... we just try and keep them close. 

   With that said, at 7 or so in the morning, we headed out on foot. I was in the lead, and had gotten no farther than the edge of our camp, when a pack of three dogs came running up on us, bouncing and barking and coming fast. Juwels only had the leash on chia, not ezzie, and ezzie tried to run off behind the truck before juwels caught a hold of her collar.

   I ran up ahead toward the dogs, increasing the gap between them and the girls, and juwels stayed back with the now-leashed babes. I carry an umbrella with me on all our walks and hikes. This can be used effectively when pointed at the dog and quickly puffed open and pulled closed like the hood of an angry snake, and normally, this spooks the dog, and off it goes. Such was not the case with these three ...

   They were Boxers, purebreds from the looks of it, and in some strange way that made me feel a tiny bit better. The gangly mutts are the worst, housing the temperaments of many different hunting breeds. A few trips ago when I was there, I was jogging through the main camp in the brightest of moods, when a very large dog came out from under the shade of a tall, beaten pickup truck, a giant wolf of a thing with the hair standing up between its shoulders, barking and snarling for no good reason. And a woman, taking her time, stopped plucking her brows in the rear view of the truck and came yelling after the dog, "Don't look him in the eyes," she told me, "he's half wolf. Just slowly walk away.."  

   The Boxers were different. I puffed the umbrella open and closed, yelling, "Back. Back. Back." with each puff. The two bigger and older-looking dogs in the back recoiled, but the younger one (who's name I later learned was Buddha) stayed right on me, barking. I advanced a few steps on him, Puff-Puff-Puff, and he backed a little. I could hear the goats crying behind me. The two bigger dogs came a little closer, seeing that the other wasn't finding any real harm in me, and I puffed it a few more times.

   I was just beginning to wonder, "okay, they're not leaving ... what's the next move?" when I noticed a man speed walking up from a camp in the distance. He was yelling at the dogs and looked at me with a confused expression. He swatted at the two old dogs, and they ran back to camp, and then yelled,  "Buddha! Back !!"

   What a sight to deal with so early. Me, with wild dreads, wearing a borrowed 38 caliber pistol on my hip, hiding out beneath a black rafter's hat, grimacing and yelling, "Back. Back. Back."

"We have goats," I said. "Maybe they just don't know what to think of them.." 

 The confusion on his face deepened into a frown.

   With the umbrella stowed, the dog was right up beside me. I put out my hand, fingers cured in, and he sniffed it. The man and his remaining dog walked off, and as an aside, he said, "Well ... I'm going to be going to the hot springs, so ..."

  "Put them on a leash," I said, but I think he was too far to hear me.

   We walked off again, this whole thing taking maybe 3 minutes, and my pointer finger and the tip of my thumb ached from working the umbrella so frantically. As we walked by his camp, I didn't look over until we were directly beside him, and he just stared at the 4 of us like we were pink elephants holding each others tails.

   He had a fire going. I'd remember this fact later when we were at the springs, "Calm down and stop looking up the path," I'd tell juwels. "He had a fire going - a good one. I don't think he's just going to smother it and leave so soon." 

   "Yeah.. " she said.

   "He did have a fire, didn't he?" I asked .. the whole thing seemed like an extension of the night's dreaming. I had hoped to slowly sleepwalk the two miles to the spring, maybe drift off in the pools for a bit and find my wits organically, but then there was this.

   "Yeah, I think so.. " she said, "a big one."

   The hike was nice - but oddly unsatisfying. We walked all the grassy areas we'd crossed before, when we'd talk about how much the girls were going to love it there and all the new plants they'd chew along the way, but the energy of it was all tainted because of the dogs ... and also with the knowledge that the dogs would be heading our way at some unknown point.

    It was spring everywhere. The green of the trees and grass and tiny flowering weeds coming up had a glow, like soft lights had been installed in each and every one of them. We passed the rusty old corral where I'd seen a cowboy on horseback one day, and the wind cut through the ceramic plates of the telephone poles and made an ominous sound like howling in the distance.

   We crossed the river at a narrow to reach the hot springs on the other side. I carried chia over first, and juwels waited with ezzie on the other shore. Setting chia's little pig feet on the damp edge of the river, I told her that I'd be right back and went back to get ezzie. She cried as I left, looking around like she'd been abandoned, but mellowed out a bit when she noticed that juwels was heading her way. Ezzie was considerably heavier than chia, but I hoofed her across, and she made no move to spring free until we'd reached the other side.

    We talked animatedly as we approached the stairs to the springs, knowing that we'd left everyone at the camp and on the other side of the river. This geological divide seemed to work wonders for our state of mind and relaxation.

    As we neared, I noticed a backpack on the bench, and we both stopped talking, looking for signs of man .. or more specifically, man's best friend. I caught a flash of skin, a naked shoulder, I thought, ducking into the doorway leading to the small springs, and we continued up to the pool deck but didn't revisit our line of conversation for the distraction.

    I thought that somebody was trying to get dressed behind the wall, and slowed just a tad to give them time if need be. As we passed the doorway, I glanced for a second and saw an old man, full grey, sunken eyes with thin lids and a grey beard. I didn't look directly at him, but passed by to put our bags where we normally do.

   As we passed, I heard him say, "Why'd you quiet down all the sudden?"

   I wasn't ready for the question, not to mention that it was coming at the side of my head, but juwels said something that didn't completely make sense.

   And he said, "Oh .. I thought you were trying to protect yourselves."

   Protect ourselves?? From him? My breast swelled with an uncommon sense of youth and pride as I contemplated the prospect. But then again, humans don't normally ram heads to prove strength or to do each other harm, so I guess all fields were level in that respect. And then, way out of time pace, I finally said, "We were just scoping to see if you had a dog. We have goats and just had a little run in with three of them back at camp."

   He didn't say anything.

   He wore a long button-up denim shirt like a bathrobe, wet on the shoulders, and it mostly covered up the rest of his naked body. For his age, late 60's, he was wiry and trim, and he looked like an old gold prospector.

   I noticed that his stuff on the bench was all neatly packed into a tupperware bin that was the perfect size to slide snugly into the open mouth of his backpack, and I thought about an old friend of mine, 68 years old, who had developed many charming systems like that. And I noticed a plain silver flask resting on the top of the bin of clothes, and I wondered what his poison was ... whiskey?

   I was immediately fascinated by the guy and wanted to know all of his ghost-town stories, but I could feel (and would later hear) that he was an old hermit crab and couldn't care less about making conversation with a young know-nothing like me. So instead, I watched him out of the corner of my eye and noted all of his mannerisms. He seemed indifferent to almost everything - even the goats, who'd found a nice nook above the pool on the rock wall where they could eat crab grass and keep a lookout.

   After soaking for a while, a group of younger kids walked down the stairs in a line, the foremost carrying a bright blue box of canned beer. I rolled my eyes below my dark sunglasses, and nodded to juwels that it might be time to go ... the old hermit crab in me.

   The kids turned out to mold to their surroundings rather than dominating them, and the quiet atmosphere that we'd been living in continued but now with some small talk about the history of the place.

   At one point, the old man came out of the small pool room, which he'd been enjoying all to himself, moaning and romancing that flask of his, and one of the young guys who'd showed up asked him how he was doing. And he laughed a laugh that didn't seem to permeate the muffle of his grey beard and said, "Too good to tell you about.." And I don't know why, maybe I wanted to challenge him to prove it, give me something that I could place in my mind's eye, but I said, "Don't go blowing our minds.."

The kids chuckled, and I instantly felt embarrassed and wished I hadn't said it.

   I wondered where this guy was staying since I'd already seen the people at the other two camps, and then I remembered seeing a small 70's VW Bus parked amidst the cactus way up on the entry road, illegally camped far away from the sites on the river. I pictured him wandering back up that hill, half drunk, mumbling and daydreaming about an ex-wife or a friendly dog he once loved and lost.

   He soon left, and so did we, all the while eying farther up the path for our friends from camp. We found them at the river crossing with the three beasts wagging and splashing about.

"Just walk past the crossing, and we'll let him go on," I said to juwels, but we didn't have the jump on him, and one of his dogs came running up on us just as we came near.

   He was down by the river, leashing one of the big dogs up, and it looked like he'd actually walked all three of them on leashes, but just for that moment had let them off so they could cross the river.

   He came up the hill to us, with one dog on a leash and trying to get the other, and as the unleashed dog was nearing the now-frantic goats, I stepped into the dog's path and called to him, "Is your dog a biter??"

   He laughed and said no. "They'll bark until they fall down, but that's about it."

    I got a hold of the dog's collar, and delivered it to the man. The goats whined and tangled themselves around juwels' legs.

   He had another dog on the other side of the river, looking scared to cross, and he called to it, "Oh .. come on, Smiley, don't be such a wimp."

   The dog waded in, being taken by the current for a moment, but got across okay, and then ran, smiling, but not barking, up to the goats.

   Chia and ezzie, still on the leashes, ran directly up the side of a near-vertical rock wall and turned around to look down their noses at the dog. They were standing about level with the height of juwels' head, 5 or so feet up the wall, and it looked like she had a couple of perched birds on a leash.

I couldn't help but smile at the scene.

   I grabbed the second dog, too, and delivered it to the man. We talked for a few seconds. I apologized for the "conflict of species" and told him that we'd moved out of the pools quickly so he wouldn't have to damn those poor dogs to the ropes, and he thanked me and said he was leaving today.

   And as we started to walk our separate ways, I noticed that he was now wearing a giant, giant diver's knife on his hip. I smiled at the idea that we're all strangers in this world, and we went on our way back to camp, and food, and the swinging hammock chairs.

   We were starved by the time we got back, and I had a headache. (I'm not good at dealing with headaches, and luckily I never really get them.)

   The rest of the day was spent around camp and by the river. Off the shallow banks, we bathed ezzie, who'd gotten so emotional about the last run-in with the dogs that she'd come down with a bad case of diarrhea and had made quite a mess of herself. And when that was all over, we napped under the mulberry tree .. this only becoming possible after learning that tea tree oil made a great fly and insect repellent.

   I kept eating honey and pounding spring water to try to kill my headache, but it was a part of me for better or worse. We relaxed, and read books on beekeeping in the hammock chairs, and every few minutes juwels would say, "Oh ... poor ezzie .. I feel so bad for you, poor girl." when she'd let another loose one go.

   We had a shovel for the campfire, and she used this to dig up the landmine spot each time and toss the whole clump off into the bushes. The way she'd vocalize poor, poor ezzie's condition every time (and there were many) made my headache worse, and I said that I though that kind of pitiful energy wouldn't help her recovery any, but she was just trying to be compassionate and empathize.

   I thought about going home ... to let my head pound in my own fenced-in space where I could get clean if I wanted or fish an ice pack out of the freezer for my head if I needed to. But that was just a dramatic thought .. besides, we couldn't leave with ezzie in this volatile state anyway. We'd used up all the paper towels cleaning up their liquid "bad potties" on the way here, and it would be a complete shit show to get out now, so I didn't voice my thoughts, and we hunkered down, enjoying the rest of the day and getting to bet very early.

  Tomorrow - everything would be back to normal for pappa and emotional ezzie, and we'd all have a good time.

Until next time, loVe,

 -p&j .. & c&e


  1. i was so excited to get this one i practically swallowed it whole, and am glad to have the office to myself just this minute to revel in the photographs at least. it's so hard for me to read something slowly, savoring each phrase, i'm more of a type that eats the whole box of candy in one sitting (bad me, naughty me). but don't think i didn't enjoy every second of it immensely. if only you could have the goats do some writing to help you out a little.

  2. Thank you for sharing these stories, taking the time to write them, read them, record! I really feel like I could be right there w/ you all, descriptive details, and colors, it's like participating in a masterpiece which begins on blank canvas! What adventures...most definitely see a book about these published in your future ;-) xoxo, Ambuja