About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Familiarity Doesn't Necessarily Breed Contempt

I think most people can get pretty excited about traveling somewhere new to discover and explore. But there is a particular beauty in the excitement felt about visiting a much familiar, and still much loved, spot. So it goes for me with many spots in the Mojave. Just say the names to start me talking! I have tales to tell about each and every location: what the weather was like, the hikes, what we saw, the rocks I always pick up to fill my pockets, carry home and display. I can go on and on about the cactus and flower species to be found in a given location, not to mention the birds and animals. So go ahead - make my day. Come on. Say it. The Cow Holes, Cow Cove, Coyote Springs, Kelso Dunes, Hole in the Wall, Midland Hills, The Garden I, The Garden II, The Garden III, Clark Mountain, Teutonia, Cima Dome . . . . Aiken Mine, Morning Star Mine, Evening Star Mine, Colosseum Mine, and a multitude of tiny, one-man, nameless mines.

Is it surprising that the names of some places include the word "cow"? One should know that the area now known as the Mojave Preserve has been heavily ranched, mined, homesteaded and railroads have crisscrossed the territory since shortly after the Civil War. The Preserve teems with ancient cow patties bleached white and compacted hard as adobe. Some are my approximate size (yes, I'm slightly exaggerating) and probably much older than I. The land had been overgrazed and degraded by the early 20th century and is still terribly distressed as I have written previously. The Preserve is peppered with crudely constructed corrals, chutes, holding pens and long-dry watering holes. In some locations a few head of cattle can still be spotted, and once we saw a small herd of cows and calves cavorting around the meadows on Clark Mountain. Soon I shall write about a venerable Mojave cow the Badger dubbed "Clarabelle", but that is for a future post.

Cow Cove has been our destination perhaps more than any other. It is very low in altitude, so it's one spot that is almost tolerable even in the most frigid months. It is easy to reach, only 8 miles off the paved road. It has the attraction of Aiken Mine and some lovely petroglyphs, several different hikes, suitability for hosting a night fire, a flat spot for pitching the tent, good parking off the jeep trail. It is easy to find our spot even in the dark, and we can always confirm we're in the right place by checking for our much-loved Joshua sentinel and the posts blocking vehicles from driving out on the path to the petroglyphs. Cow Cove was also the spot where we left the car on a trip when we backpacked from the jeep trail to the petroglyphs and beyond, to camp in a tight stone gorge. We packed almost everything out to the gorge on the first trip and the Badger hiked back to bring the water needed to get through our backpacking adventure. I stayed in the gorge setting up camp in screaming winds. In the wee hours, it snowed on us, causing me to utter my only words of true protest in all of the trips we've ever made.

Ooooops, I've swerved here and I need to right the course. I intended to speak of this past weekend at Cow Cove.

On Saturday morning, he asked me which hike I'd like to take. One has choices at Cow Cove. I cared less about which one we took, than just "Let's go!" He mentioned a hike that's long, bushwhacking for miles, no trail, but soft, sandy washes and a challenging charge up a rocky outcropping. "Yes, let's do that one!" We set off, stopped to visit the petroglyphs where we learned that my small camera's battery had failed to hold a charge, and moved on. I felt strong and sturdy . . . until that outcropping. I am always a little touchy about heights, but I had a true failing of fortitude as we rose 100 feet from the bottom of the wash, climbing loose rocks. When I began to lag, he asked me if I was tired and needed to rest. "Not tired, Badger, petrified!" The more dicey it got for me, the more my knees began to shake which made for a frightening ride on the rocks that were loose. I managed to bark the skin off of one knuckle and cut my arm on the rocks. When I arrived at the top rather gracelessly, I was embarrassed and said so. He was good to me, reminding me there is no shame in being afraid of something, particularly if one keeps moving despite the fear.

So . . . many of my predictions were correct. Up at the Aiken Mine, all the baby giants' playthings were in the positions one comes to expect. Someday we may learn to better predict what time to go to the mine for sunset photography. The cinder cone to the west is so high, it begins to block the sun by about 3:30. The Badger had to step pretty lively to get all the shots he wanted. I stepped up behind him at one point to see what he was framing in the viewfinder. "My god, Badger, did you pose that?" "Nope - it was exactly that way when I saw it." I won't steal his thunder by announcing this photograph before he posts it. If it comes up on his blog, I'll ask to use it and will comment further. However, you may rely on my opinion. It's a wonderful photograph ~ a fascinating desert still life.

The coyote gourds were spread out in profusion on the lava at the mine, just as I'd hoped. In my trunk right now are several heavy, green and golden wet ones, oozing nectar from their skins. There are golden ones I think must be about half-way through the process, and nearly white ones beginning to make noise when one shakes them like maracas.

Alas, no coyotes howling, but evidence of their presence is everywhere. I don't know what they are eating, as no rabbits showed themselves, but there are coyote droppings everywhere. Chalk white specimens that have been out in the sun a long time, nearly black droppings with fur in them - "That's pretty fresh, Limes." "Yes, I caught that, Badger."

There was the much wished-for tarantula sighting. The Badger spotted him as we hiked back from the petroglyph photo session, lumbering along the path. "Get his picture, Badge!" "The camera's got the wrong lens . . . . oh, OK, quickly unzip the camera bag and hand me everything." I unzipped as he shrugged the camera bag off of his shoulders. Soon he was lying on his belly on the desert floor, eyeball to eyeball with that large insect, who had frozen himself once we were talking and moving around in his territory. "Oh, Limes, I think I got his eyes in the picture. I could see them through the viewfinder. He was looking at me looking at him!"

When darkness fell, it began to get chilly very quickly. We'd hiked well over 9 miles for the day and it was time to start our fire, light the lanterns, have dinner, talk, laugh, maybe play cards . . . . all in all, a good day in the desert, and now the evening was to begin. We drove from the mine to our campsite and . . . .

Faithful reader, this will mark the end of this post. For when we arrived back in camp, things began to go awry. There was angst and then dismay, a decision landed upon that was really the only option, finally some belly laughs, a meal and a fire. Although we are not identical, cookie cutter people, I feel sure the Badger would concur that something lovely happened out there. For that night, under the stars, before the fire, two people shared an unlikely, unexplainable experience. There was magic in the air and it blew across our consciousness and transported us to a better place than where we'd begun our day. But that is for a post of its own.

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse

In my ears right now:
Dixie Chicks ~ I love the girls! And I need them today. Maybe some Sin Wagon. We're open today despite the holiday. I bet someone $1 the phones would jangle a litte. Citizens with the day off, calling the carpet cleaning company just in case they might be open . . . please, god.

Something that charmed me: Last night when I left the office and went downstairs in the dark, my back window in the car was half-way down. I don't leave my windows half-way down. I got in and learned immediately that one of those hideously expensive and difficult to repair motors was shot, never mind that the car is 3 years old and that window has likely been used twice. During the drive home, the window thudded to fully open. Not a millimeter of glass to grasp onto. Great distress as I took everything from the car, put it into the trunk and worried about the car being wide open all night long. I pulled into the parking lot at work this morning, got out, locked up the car (for no good reason, since the window is hanging wide open). Immediately: "Limes, what the hell?" "I've got trouble, Homes." And now, for the price of a couple of fast food lunches, my window is secured. No, the motor isn't repaired and the window isn't usable, but it's up and my car is secured.


  1. I'd sure like to put some of those onions on my hamburger.

  2. OK, I've carefully re-read my post and I'm drawing a blank. Onions?

  3. Are those coyote gourds edible? What a beautiful hike you had Limes, I am envious. I like the home dudes. They like you, I am envious. Word vierfication today is drimus. I belive I've heard him going on and on abouth themerisol in vaccines. A seasoned rancher and cowpuncher who marries children.

  4. Happy Veterans Day, Tag. Thank you for your service.

    Yes, the hikes were wonderful and I put more than 15 miles on my bones that weekend. Very different exercise from my daily walk. And a pair of shoes I detest in the city on concrete proved to be fabulous on the trail.

    The gourds are edible to rabbits, but not humans. Sometimes one sees the seeds in coyote dung, so one assumes the bunny ate the gourd and the coyote ate the bunny. They are too soft/brittle shelled for Mother Badger to craft them as decorative gourds, too. The only purpose they serve, other than bunny food, is to please me with their beauty and to become my maracas.

    The homes are wonderful, Tag. I'm the lucky one here. They're good to me. I try to act in kind.

    Ha! Drimus! Go figure men who marry children.

  5. I'm the one that's drawing a blank. Maybe sculpting a blank. For some reason I thought those coyote gourdes were onions. I just googled the word now and found out it's a member of the cucumber family. OK, how about some pickles on that burger?

  6. Ha, Kirk! Good for you. You certainly gave me pause, though. I thought, "What did I write that I have now forgotten?" For such a thing has been known to happen.

  7. Better than writing something that never was, as I just did.

  8. Oh, believe me, I've done that, too!

  9. Isn't that called fiction? A literary craft of great merit. It doesn't have to be real to be true!

  10. Touche, Tag. I'd also submit that it doesn't have to be true to be real.

  11. The coyotes are known to eat gourds directly, bypassing the rabbit middleman... if one isn't nearby, that is.

  12. It's my impression coyotes will eat anything that doesn't eat them first, Badger. They're pretty indiscriminate.

  13. Of course, coyotes never eat roadrunners.

  14. You're pretty wily there, Kirk! Sunday, coming out of the preserve we saw a really large roadrunner, running down the road. True story.

  15. Yes, but only after the Badger first beep beeped with the X-Terra. ; ~} That roadrunner recognized us birds of a feather.