A Change of Plans
We wake up in our cozy tent, looking out of the net, hungry. That huge mountain rises up above us with its sense of beyond. There is more hidden up there, lots more, eventually there is a National Forest filled with pines and lush life.
Stepping out of our nest is like stepping into adventure. The view is spectacular. The valley is now its normal self, under a big turquoise New Mexico sky. We are on vacation. Breakfast comes, as I tear down the tent. I carefully tuck each component of our campsite in its assigned place in the small car.
The plan was to be out somewhere in the Lincoln National Forest, this morning, somewhere near Capitan, New Mexico. Yesterday, we altered that in a moment and visited White Sands National Monument instead. We then stayed here, just a few miles away.
So, we’re hours from that original goal, in no particular hurry and about to alter our plans again. Like I said, “We’re on vacation,” But what I haven’t said is that this is an open ended trip. We can stay on the road as long as we like. Just that, feels mighty liberating.
I pull out my notes and check our parameters. What can we do today? There is a compelling notion of a hike up a spectacular looking canyon that we have been curiously viewing from our breakfast table.
We stop by the visitor’s center to find a nearly empty parking lot. It is summer and it will be hot. Most of the campers are leaving for the road. Few are staying. It is Wednesday, mid-week for any local’s picnic.
The visitor’s center is closed, but there is a kiosk with a map. The map shows a longer vista trail up on a hot ridge. There is also a shorter trail up this high walled canyon, which is called “Dog Canyon.”
I’m seeing the beginnings of riparian vegetation. There may be a swimming hole. There may just be a pleasant stroll and some shade. We’ll take the time to find out.
I don’t expect anybody, after checking the parking lot. There is a slight maybe, that someone might have walked from their camper. A few feet down the trail, I pull off my kilt and fold it up, tucking it under my arm. DF is more cautious, or just not wanting to bother pulling her sundress over her head with water bottle and camera straps on her shoulders. The trail is short indeed. We are soon staring at a plaque and a bar across the path.
So far, to the left, there has been a dry creek bed. It has trees and slight vegetation thirsting for the next rain to wash through. Here in the shade, reeds and ponding are happening.
The north facing southern wall is thick with a fern like covering. It clings to the rock wall, has die offs and rises like a phoenix from its own debris. The effect is lush and florescent.
We decide to see what hidden gems may be further up the canyon. There is old concrete infrastructure where the pioneers hijacked the flow for their orchards many years ago. We climb up on it, the conveyance replacing the trail at one point.
After a meandering walk, a natural bathtub greets us. Fresh water flows in and then out, keeping the water clear. It is inviting. A splash on the face and we continue to explore.
The surface of bedrock widens, creating steps for us to walk up.
More trees line the canyon with their shade.
After a short while, the vegetation begins to takeover and the canyon thins. This makes bushwhacking the only possibility. We’re not doing that. Shade gives rattlesnakes, it is getting hot, we don’t know what the payoff might be and more than anything, there is a nice clean bathtub waiting for us.
Hopefully, no textile intruders will be found in our private little canyon, imposing on our solitude and naturism. We had no showers and we’re aware of the paste of gypsum and dust on us. The heat is coming on quickly, as noon approaches. A bath would be wonderful. A natural bath will be better still.
How primeval this is. How basic, refreshing, how perfect. This is a gorgeous spoon of vitality gifted to us and most likely countless Native Americans through the millennia.
We squat and then are seduced to slide further down the slope into nature’s great blessing, our kinship with water.
We could stay awhile longer, but I’m hearing in the back of my mind, “Maybe we should get going?”
“Are you ready?”
“Oh, I guess so. We have quite a drive.”
I resolve to stay bare until Capitan.
We’re on our way to see Smokey. Yup, Smokey the Bear!
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