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Thursday, April 23, 2015

As The Earth Shrinks: On The Intersection of Random Circles in Chiricahua

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... 

I'm dragging behind Bobbie a good quarter mile—taking photos, doing probability calculations, enjoying the visual bliss of balanced rock monoliths—when a voice says, "Are you Mark?"
Here we go... 
"Uh, yes."
"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."
It clicks.
"Oh. Wow, this has been a weird day…" I explain about meeting up with Scamps, "and now this, not thirty minutes after."

Ok, memory test time… I believe this is Canadians Steve and Gloria… her mom was Ethel? (Bobbie somehow recalls minutia). It turns out that I (the blog) was to "blame" for them selling their house and going full-time. Thank God they were Newbies so it was still more fun than Cracker Jacks. I escaped a folk hero, instead of being shot dead in my tracks. I'm guessing they're back in sticks and bricks by now… 

I seriously doubt Steve and Gloria (Grace? something that starts with a "G") still tune into this drivel. That's the inherent problem with long term RV/travel blogs; people get tired of the same old humdrum year in and year out. Different place: same old shit. And to make matters worse… everybody and their literal dogs are Rv blogging nowadays. No more mysterious Miss America in lingerie or secret boondock rendezvous. Nope, we've undressed her to the world, and photographed close ups of her most private parts. 

I've noticed the evolution on the BCB, of once "hot" commenters slipping away into the abyss for the tired and bored. Eventually, when even cool and amazing places come around for the third time on the same blog, well, it's time to either hang it up or reinvent oneself, cause the Pacific Ocean is still blue, the mountains still purdy and snowcapped, and Mrs Autumn's still so lovely, but we've seen the photos a thousand times already. 

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... 


  1. I love Chiricahua! I have a childhood memory of hiking in a place with my family with all these grey rock monoliths but in all my years of travel have never seen it again and do not know where it is. Then a few years back we go to Southern Arizona and get a campground (the benefits of having a 22" foot pull behind........the max lengh is 25" I think. Next day we take the shuttle to the top for hiking and there it is the place from the childhood memory. I really want to go back as it is such an amazing place.

  2. Chiricahua is still on our list. We almost made it this year until the unfortunate incident with the tow bar. Maybe next year. What is the content of the blog header? It's an amazing photo.

  3. The header photo was taken in Colorado recently… Just down the road from Lovely Ouray…
    thanks, mark

  4. Chiricahua is fabulous isn't it? Apart from hiking the trails, one of our favourite things to do at Chiricahua is to drive over Onion Saddle Pass via Paradise and end up in Portal, a great drive. Have fun!

    1. Bobbie and I tried to bike over that pass from Camp Chiricahua… Didn't make it :(

  5. As your self-appointed Editor-in-Chief, I feel it is my duty to inform you that you accidentally let a photo of "long pants" appear in your latest post. More careful cropping next time, or your image of "Neither rain nor sleet nor snow" could be at risk.

  6. The Chiricahua's were amazing and we loved our time there exploring. So glad we made the trip over. Of course, not having plans preset allowed us to change things around and spend a few days there. That seems to be how our whole winter went:) I love the water color:)

    I do believe the Canadian couple you met at one time was Steve ans Esther who were originally from Alberta but relocated this last summer to Ontario. We met them on cruise we did a year ago December through friends. Super people.

    1. Ester!!!! Right… Are they still full timers?
      Thanks for the memory jog :)

    2. No, Mark, they have moved to Ontario but I believe they still travel part time.

  7. "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."

    That was so funny I just had to repeat if. Brings back not so fond memories of parts of our trip up the west coast last year.

    I'm getting the impression that Bobbie lives more in the moment and lets you worry about past, present and future?

    The longer we have remained in the western part of the U.S. the more friends we have made and we are surprised with how often we meet up. Although, we mostly plan those things.

    As usual, love the photos.


    1. Me? Worry???
      Try going to Chiricahua and not telling anyone… see who shows up :)
      thanks Jim

  8. Okay, so I'm totally bored with your drivel. And your photos suck. Particularly the purdy ones. Oh, that's right. They're ALL purdy. Oh, and that group shot in the parking lot along with adjacent shots, looks like somebody curled their hair and cleaned up real good. No. not you dips%^ t. The "purdy" one. You, sir, look much taller in the photo than you actually are. There! Are you happy?

    And as a total aside, I got to spend last night in the ER at the V.A. Very humbling for someone who was told just two months ago that "you're one of the healhiest veterans we see here".

    1. Bobbie wants you to know her hair is naturally curly :) And I'm just tall enough for my feet to reach the ground…
      Now, let's hope they don't find anything serious at the V A… You didn't eat any Blue Bell ice cream did you???

  9. Replies
    1. Thanks, now I can't get that stupid song out of my head...

  10. Meeting other RVers happens all the time and if you didn't blog you might not get that chance. I rather like it.

    Wanted to explore Chiricahua but it was just too cold during the winter. Maybe next year. Your photos certainly entice me there with my small truckcamper, and I'll try to remember about reservations which I HATE.

  11. We've hike there when snow was on the trails… it's pretty, but the wind chill on top, not so much.

  12. Couple of years ago we had a similar "unscheduled" meet-up with a couple from Alberta, when being at Arches Nat'l Park. It does happen all the time, so it seems.

  13. Still reading , Mark, I suspect it's been a few years. I'm always behind on my reading though! Always happy to see you comment on my humble blog now and then. Fresh topics for travel bloggers is a problem, isn't it?


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