It's our M. O., after all—to arrive at Chiricahua National Monument late one afternoon and without campground reservations. Recall the gist of one of my sacred, but oft abused, 10 RV Commandants: The fork in the road is excuse, means, and reason enough to tweak one's trajectory. It's a random Universe, what have we got to lose? Look, itineraries are fine for business trips, but leisure travel? The best way to keep Miss Sara N. Dipity in a box is to make grandiose plans and reservations, then soldier on—rank and file, nuts to butts, follow the leader down the Yellow Brick Road...
That's my Treadmill PTS disorder acting out again. I have these anthropomorphic nightmares of dancing Day Timers, alarm clocks, and other man made devices that regiment spontaneity from life, and they all have my old boss's face on them. So you see, it's understandable that I enjoy living on a whim and a prayer—that intoxicating feeling of not knowing where I'll be next year, next month, next week—tomorrow. Life today teems with controls—jobs, children, debt, obligations. Should those responsibilities be satisfied, you will realize that true freedom is not a noun, it's a verb. It's not enough to know one can, it's that one does. There is no greater waste of Freedom than Freedom unused. I digress…
So, arriving late, worst case scenario, we boondock one drainage over from Chiricahua—backed up to a live creek on National Forest land. Win-win.
"Goldie," our modest sized Class "C" Rv, looms large within the claustrophobic confines of Chiricahua's esophageal canyon—the proverbial square peg in a round hole, the big angular pill that doesn't swallow down—hopelessly wedged in the tunnel-like gullet-of-a-campground.
It's suffocatingly obvious that Camp Chiricahua was designed and built in an era when camping was synonymous with "pup tent," as opposed to today's "Land Yachts." What a jungle of vegetation and jumbo rocks. John Muir himself would have cut more trees.
It reminded me of campgrounds we tried to squeeze into up in Oregon—where trees are as sacred as cows in India and are meant only to be "hugged." Where I see a renewable source of firewood, furniture, and more sunlight, Left Coast Oregonians see adopted children or rescued pets. I've never suffered so much mandatory shade or a tighter RV obstacle course than when traveling the 101. That's the price one pays for a tree-slotted ocean view, that along with vitamin D supplements and running a heater 24/7. I digress…
I park (block) Camp Chiricahua's entry out of fear for Goldie's solar panels and paint, while Bobbie forages the overhanging "maze" for an untagged site. In less than one minute, a side mirror reveals trouble… an silver haired gal in uniform briskly approaching like a cop on a mission.
"I hope you're not looking for a campsite."
It's hard to resist being a smart-ass.
"You mean I can't camp right here?"
Her face is frozen. Either her "smile muscles" are atrophied in the frown position or she's fresh out of a Botox treatment.
Finally I give her one of those pleading Pregnant Mary-in-need-of-a-room-at-the-inn nods.
"Well everything's reserved or occupied," she says with Soup Nazi authority.
"Didn't this use to be a first come first served campground?"
I'm not exactly pleased with Govie's new campground policies and consider taking it our on "the messenger." Discretion prevails, however, and I chew my tongue instead, swallowing a stew of pride, blood, and indignation.
But she is somebody's grandmother, I reason, therefore somewhere beneath her sagging bosom beats a heart that can be melted. I turn up the heat and boil her in kindness.
Suddenly, Ms Ranger Ma'am's body language does an about-face, she takes pity and says we can stay in the empty Camp Host site, "until they get here... tomorrow or the next day or the next." I exaggerate humility and gratitude, planting smooches all over her ass.
"Oh thank you, thank you."
In dire need of exercise, we grab a "quickie." No, not that kind, a hike… on the main canyon trailhead near the visitors center. After a couple of miles we are approached by a threesome coming down, so I step off the trail to let them pass. They look hot and tired, ready for beer. "Almost done," I say, then realize that I'm looking at familiar faces.
"Don't we know each other?"
It's Déjà vu all over again… and again, and again, and again.
|From the top, Rick, a retired minister from Chicago and guest of Paul and Linda, Snow Bird neighbors of friend Sandy in Green Valley.
What is it about Chiricahua—one of the most remote, obscure, little-known hard-to-get-to places in the west—yet every time we show up we stumble across people we know or that know us?
This is a true story, so help me God.
Chiricahua is not exactly an on-the-map National Park destination like Yosemite or Yellowstone. Most travelers have never even heard of Chiricahua, and the one's who have couldn't spell it if their life depended on it. Unless one is in the business of Drug Smuggling or Coyote-ing illegals into the USA, this far removed southeastern corner of Arid-zona is on the way to Nowhere, Man, like totally off the radar. One doesn't just up and decide to take a little day-trip from the megapolis and swing down to Chiricahua. There are no motels or B and B's, no Lincoln Log Lodge with a walk-in hearth and formal dining. Nope, you need a tent or a very small Rv to stay and see Chiricahua… oh, and reservations.
So the gang "Selfie" is of people we met a week prior, at Sandy's birthday party in Green Valley. Ok, not unheard of, just a fun coincidence. Or is it????
Let me tell you about the previous time we were in Chiricahua, when we ran into a couple of hiking/biking acquaintances from Montrose, Colorado. That happens all the time, you say… not that unusual. Maybe… but keep reading, my Doubting Thomas's.
Then there was the time before that, when we ran into
Scamps, Eric and Maureen. Bobbie and I were trudging along, way down in the bowels of Heart of the Rocks, when we came upon a trail junction. Bobbie notices some hikers chatting about a hundred yards off in the distance. "That's Scamps!"
Sure enough. We (mostly me, actually) were amazed by the infinitesimal chance of crossing paths, of all places, way down in Chiricahua. I mean, even if we tried to meet "somewhere on the trail" on a specific day, the chances of finding each other with all the route choices, various loops, and side vistas is remote at best. An additional piece of toast for breakfast or an extra pee stop or one less pee stop, and we would missed Scamps like ships in the night. Of all the known "circles" in the Universe, I find one-in-a-million (billions?) random intersections fascinating. When it happens twice in a row, it's compelling… three times, it's getting weird, like maybe there is a Vortex or something.
But what if I told you it happened again, a fourth time? Insert Twilight Zone music here.
After the surprise reunion with Scamps, we went separate ways on separate trails. Bobbie accepted the chance meeting at face value and moved on—literally, as in way ahead of me on the trail, and figuratively, as in "wonder what we should have for supper."
Meanwhile, I was blown away… reeling in higher math, "statistics," and calculating/predicting such random intersections of random circles in a random Universe. Okay, we're on the same planet, so maybe that's overstated. Still, I couldn't get it out of my head. It bothered me, to the point I wished I was more like Bobbie and could just accept (breath in) and let go (breath out). Yeah, I think grilled chicken sounds good...
Here we go...
"I passed Bobbie a ways back and thought I recognized her. And now you."
"I'm sorry, have we met?"
"No, But I've been reading your blog forever."
"Oh. Wow, this has been a weird day…" I explain about meeting up with Scamps, "and now this, not thirty minutes after."
|Another chance meeting at the visitor's center parking lot… even ran into Scamps again.
|"Granny's Shadow" Chiricahua. mej.
On to New Mexico… What and who will we find there, Ms Sara? God, I hope you show up...