Posted June 17, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
When the desert fired up to a blistering 102 degrees, we broke camp and pulled out of Fisher’s Landing heading up toward cooler ground.
We took U.S. Route 95 north to 60 east to 71 into North Central Arizona, and ascended the Bradshaw Mountains on the 89 into the Prescott National Forest.
For three soul-searching weeks in late Spring, we would acclimate at 5,367 ft. in the centuries old domain of The People of The Sun.
We would like to thank all who have expressed concern about our health and safety during the pandemic and who have reached out to offer help. We’re happy to report that we’re doing just fine. Oh sure, there have been a few hurdles, but any minor inconveniences we suffer due to park closures, and the anxiety about COVID-19 surging to the leading cause of death in the United States, is currently eclipsed by the darkening umbra of white privilege, a moral dilemma which Jim and I have explored ever since we began LIB.
Though we are comfortable in almost any social situation, our bohemian SoCal existence simply did not prepare us for the almost exclusive whiteness of the outdoor recreation community in the USA.
Race disparity in the camping world is an enduring symptom of racial segregation in the early history of the parks, and is compounded by centuries of frontier hate crimes. This shameful history has robbed many black and brown people of their connection to the land – both physically and spiritually.
But despite signs of a rough road ahead, Jim and I are determined to press on. What else is there to do in these uncertain times?
And, as for COVID-19 … I am a resilient person by nature, but I am losing sleep over lines drawn in the sand. And I know that I am not alone as I try to make sense of the constantly shifting social cartography of staying healthy. It’s a struggle to decipher the political and economic kabuki that has been staged on the blurred lines of this pandemic. Navigating coronavirus is like an ongoing game of rock, paper, scissors except real blood is spilt and real rocks are thrown and real relationships are severed.
Maybe that’s why I find myself humming that comforting old church hymn,
Rock of Ages
My love for natural stone formations must be embedded in my mother’s faith where so many of the hymns are about rocks. I’m more of a root person when it comes to metaphors, but Rock of Ages is a great hymn because it riffs on every poetic note in sacred writing, invoking The Christ in both feminine and masculine imagery.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,– Augustus M. Toplady
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.
The Granite Dells
From atop a scenic viewpoint, The Granite Dells looks like a giant bubbling, brewing, flesh colored sonogram.
But these shrinking formations inform the past, not the future. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been here before.
The Granite Dells, named “Point of Rocks” in the 1800’s, is located about five miles from downtown Prescott, near Willow and Watson Lakes.
About 1.4 billion years ago this Precambrian granite protruded one to two miles from the valley floor.
Today, the highest point is just a few meters. Whoa … How the mighty have fallen.
I’m sure what the geologists say is true, but as I paddled around the lake those whisperin’ cottonwoods, had another story to tell.
When did it happen? Where did it happen? When and where did it not happen?
Once upon a time…
… a plague ravaged the land and Mr and Mrs God grew weary of isolating with their beloved but precocious brood of stair-step children.
Jonesing for a night out, they begged their neighbor’s daughters Magma and Wind, to watch the children so they could have a much deserved date nite.
“Sure, whatever,” the sisters said.
“Woo-hoo!” shouted the Gods. So, before the daughters of Chaos could change their minds, the Gods squeezed into skinny jeans, slipped on their boots, dove into the jeep and blazed a winding trail into Prescott.
Before the red road dust cleared, Wind murmured a sigh of resignation, “Bummer.”
“Yeah,” Magma condoled, “Cute kids, but they give me a headache.”
“Yeah,” Wind said. Then, she shifted. “No. I mean …Yeah, about the kids, but it’s a bummer that Andreas is dancing on Mesoamerica’s Got Talent tonight and we’re stuck with the little monsters.
Magma closed her eyes and percolated four even little sighs, “He. Is. So. Hot.”
“And,” said Wind, “it’s the finals.”
So, the sisters formulated a plan. They gathered the children together …
and presented each with a slingshot woven from scraps of rainbow …
and a bucket of Play Dough (They had Play Dough back then, but it wasn’t called that). Then, the daughter’s of Chaos strolled back home to the far side of the valley to watch Andreas’ excellent moves on the big screen, oblivious to all they had wrought.
Around midnight, Mr and Mrs God returned from Whiskey Row. They opened the door, turned on the lights (you can still hear their gasp pulse across the surface of the lake) and found the children sleeping blissfully, each in his or her own unique cove.
The Gods smiled and kissed each sweaty forehead before collapsing wearily into their glorious new La-z-boy thrones.
“I always wanted a place with edgy world class art and custom built-ins,” said Mrs God.
Mr God said, “Granite details. Radon spa. Nice touch. Our children are geniuses.”
“I’m sure they had some help from the sitters, so please tip generously,” she said.
Mr. God, gazing love-struck into her eyes, said “You know, the kids take after you.”
“Uh-uh. Don’t pin that on me. You get all the blame,” she teased.
“No. You” he said, taking her into his arms.
“Oh, you …” she said.
And thus, the adorable banter continues to this day.
Watson Lake is a place for lovers to paddle together and picnic on a favorite island.
And, it’s a place for old guys to fetch the dinner.
Both Watson Lake and Willow Lake are full of bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and carp – and stocked with trout in the wintertime. If you don’t catch the fish, the birds will.
A crusty local fisherman in a kayak said he had named all of the mallards in the lake – claimed he regularly hand-feeds a seventeen year-old female named Rosie.
Motorized boats are limited to 5 mph, so fishing along the shoreline or from kayak or canoe is preferable.
The Granite Dells attracts rock climbers who use the cliffs adjacent to the lake for top-roping and lead climbing.
And, it is a place of legends. The scenic Point of Rocks Campground where we stayed in Yavapai County has a colorful pioneering history. Tall tales and folklore about buried gold in The Dells are woven into Prescott’s founding fabric.
But, be warned. The pareidolia can make you crazy.
But back to the buried gold.
The story goes, in the 1800s, a party of successful prospectors returned from the Big Sandy River with a load of canvas bags full of gold dust and nuggets. Stopping beside a spring in The Dells to rest before the journey’s final stretch into Prescott, they rejoiced, for on the morrow they would all be wealthy men. But, alas, their fortune took a turn when they were caught off-guard by a surprise Indian attack. But, even as arrows zipped around them and ricocheted off the rocks, the prospectors somehow managed to bury the gold. Tragically, all but one prospector was killed.
The lone survivor escaped to Prescott, formed a search party, and returned to the site. But the gold was gone. Countless campaigns to recover the lost gold continued for decades. Had the Indians discovered the gold and reburied it in a different location? Or did the gold move naturally in a flash flood? Or did the ghosts of the dead miners ferry it off to Hades? If anyone knows, they’re not sayin’ but most believe the treasure still remains hidden, somewhere in the Granite Dells.
At the end of the month, we hitched up and descended the mountains, heading toward Cottonwood in the Sedona area. Taking 89 North through the Black Hills of Yavapai County, and then up Mingus Mountain and the perilous and frightening 89-A into Jerome – almost rivaling Jim’s Smuggler’s Notch episode of a year ago.
We made it through okay, but next time we’ll take a different route into Cottonwood. It took nearly a week to find my nerve, but we returned unhitched, to inspect the scene of the crime.
Later, we masked up and did some window shopping for graduation cards and gifts and overheard shop owners express their fears of contracting the infection.
They call it the Wicked City – Yeah, with a wink and a smile – but Jerome is really a good-natured little ol’ mining town that has capitalized on their precarious situation.
But COVID-19 puts them at a high level of risk as they are entirely dependent on tourism. Just do us a favor and throw money out the window as you (slowly) drive through watching out for pedestrians, of course.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
We chose Dead Horse Ranch because our dear friend, Cyndie Sands and her husband, Lee, live and work here as camp hosts. We had been isolating for months and decided to form a Covid Bubble with Cyndie and Lee.
I’ve used Young Living oils for decades and Cyndie is my consultant. I was amazed how Thieves Household Cleaner gently and smoothly removed hard, dry cottonwood sap from aluminum – easy as wiping a baby’s butt.
When we weren’t cleaning Prescott’s cottonwood sap off the trailer and truck, we fell into the relaxing rhythms of ranch life.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park was once an actual ranch of the same name. Today, it is suburban camping at its finest – just a short drive to Old Town; twenty-minute drive to historic Jerome; and a thirty-minute drive to Sedona.
Dead Horse Ranch is for relaxing, fishing, horseback riding, cycling and hiking the rolling hills on beautifully maintained trails.
There’s also wine country,
and paddling on the Verde river which I missed because of the sap.
Our two-week maximum stay at Dead Horse State Park went way too fast. We said our farewells, hitched up and – to escape a predicted heat wave – drove up into Flagstaff …
where we boon-docked in a comforting stand of pine woods just outside of town.
Jim found a nearby source for Happy Hour supplies.
Though warmer than usual for Flagstaff, the nights stayed cool.
But other than the weather report, we haven’t much to say about those two weeks abiding with the trees. Serenity, says it all. We commenced with our isolation plan. Pico soaked up the midday sun …
Jim got acquainted with his new drone …
… and I settled down with a good book. My friend, Julia introduced me to Paul Theroux. His book, Deep South, triggered a hankering for the food of my people.
So, on that last restful Sunday morning in the woods, we whomped up a mess of biscuits and gravy, and celebrated Pico de Gallo’s 12th birthday.
We would have stayed longer but rain was predicted, and Cyndie who is knowledgable about the area advised us to skedaddle before the downpour.
So, we packed up and drove through a wind storm into the Navajo Nation …
Sadly, a very strict COVID-19 shutdown was in progress. All but essential businesses were closed due to the extremely high number of cases.
Thankfully, the management at Teec Nos Pos Trading Post – where we stocked up on provisions – granted us permission to park overnight on their property.
The next morning we drove a couple of miles to the Four Corners Monument …
… where the very important lines drawn in the shifting sands were closed until further notice.
On to Colorado to see what we can see.
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.