trippin’ and fallin’, solitude, sacaton, sailplane,
and expenses

The first trailhead I camped near was off rt180 on FR196. Had to camp nearly a mile and a half away, however. Really did not need all that warm-up and cool-down hiking between the camping spot and trailhead. It didn’t get any better. I lost track of how many times the trail crossed the stream. Nowhere could I just jump across it since the water was high from the runoff. I had to step from rock to rock and managed to slip only once, thanks to my trusty PVC staff. Years ago, they used to mine up this canyon so whenever I saw an old mine up in the rocks, I climbed up to take a look. Even being careful while off the trail, I fell three times. I used to be able to feel myself falling and make an effort to catch myself. That seems to be a thing of the past. Two of these falls had me down on the ground before I realized I tripped. Not good—ended up with free-flowing leg and thumb cuts. I swear I’m going to die on a hike. Maybe I should start sticking just to the trails. All-in-all a nice hike, though—guess my standards are changing. This trail followed the creek for much of it and was cool and shaded but I was pretty maxed by the time I got back to camp the first time—lunch and a nap.

One day I had to wash my hair and the weather was overcast with intermittent rain and occasional flurries. I REALLY did not want to out and use the sun shower bag. The water was so cold my head actually hurt. Had to stop once and give myself a break. Then in Outside magazine, I read about Lynne Cox and how she swam for 20 minutes in the waters off Antarctica, covering 1.2 miles. And yes, I maybe, might have, possibly felt, for a few very short seconds, somewhat like a wuss. Sure felt good when it was all over though.

Most mornings I heard a wild turkey not all that far away. Two turkey hunters came by one day and asked if I had seen or heard any birds. Nope. Just what I want, people shooting shotguns near my camp and felines.

I’ve a feeling we’re not in the desert anymore, Todo.

Meadow and Onyx relaxing.

One of our camping spots. Not great but a good base for exploring the area with my mountain bike. Some nights were down in the 30’s and it actually felt good.

I need my social fixes and I really enjoy spending time with my friends but I also need solitude. It’s not only being out by myself but also the fullness of realizing that no one knows where I am. It’s an awesome feeling, like a deep meditation where you don’t really want to come back up. It’s SO recharging. I’m sure it contributes a good deal to why I appreciate simple things. And it’s not like I make being out of touch an issue, it’s just how it is being off the grid with no cell phone coverage. I frequently don’t even know myself what dirt road I’ll be off on at the end of a day moving to a new camping area. Or which spur I’ll be down. And if there are no hiking trails, I don’t know where I’ll end up when I go off on a cross-country trek. It’s true solitude. Even if my life changes in the next couple years, I’ll still need to go off and do this from time to time.

Went mountain biking one day over to Sacaton mesa. There’s a whole network of dirt roads up there on the flats. I can see myself spending 3 or 4 weeks there next spring. Not looking forward to pulling the casita up there, though. I’m sure the Cherokee will be over heating. It’s a 500’ elevation gain in a mile. No problem with an 8 but with a 6 pulling all the stuff of a vagabond, it will be tough. Been there, done that, know it for sure. Once I get up there, it looks like I might be able to cut over to the Dry Creek Trail for hiking if I go back in far enough and there’s a lot of ground for mountain biking and running.
When I was up there, I saw a white remote control plane flying around but I didn’t hear any sound. I got off my bike and watched for a while, saw the pilot and occasionally heard an electric motor start up on the plane but most of the time it was quiet—something like watching a hawk playing in the wind. I rode over and met James from Rodeo, NM. He was flying an electric sailplane. I have seen gas powered remote control planes in the past but they make a lot of noise and they didn’t do anything for me. I was not the least bit interested in trying it. BUT this sailplane was way cool. An electric motor is used for launch and climbing. Then you turn the motor off and fly the plane, searching for a thermal or updraft. One can turn the motor back on at any time with the remote to get the plane higher or to try out another spot. The signal goes out a mile but at that distance you can’t really see the plane so you can lose it. You can send signals but you can’t see how the plane is responding. You might have the plane flying away from you. An alternative is to have a buddy following the flight with binoculars. But then, if he lost sight of the plane you would have to shoot him. One can also get the sailplane in a good thermal and it would keep rising until it was out of sight. You have to constantly keep track of it and turn out of the thermal before you lose it. James has a number of sailplanes back in Rodeo with one having a 12’ wingspan. He suggested I look into the Radian RTF sailplane (ready to fly). The whole package, plane and remote is only $250 and has a 4’ wingspan. The wings come off for transport. Definitely will be checking this out on the web. Don’t know how I will learn how to fly it if I get one though. It’s easy to launch. You throw it with one hand while holding the remote in the other. But for a few short seconds I can see this becoming very intense. James also mentioned that replacement parts are cheap. This is good.
As you know, I generally always have a camera in my pocket. But this was all so unexpected and interesting that I never thought of the camera. James was having a buddy come up in a couple days who happened to have a Radian so I made plans to bike over to check it out and take notes on flying a sailplane with every intention of taking some photos. Yep, forgot to take out the camera. Guano. Anyway, I think I leaned enough to try it on my own. We’ll see.

You know how you might be taking a break and checking out the view after hiking up to a ridge, you’re sitting down, relaxing, and you catch sight of a hawk soaring the ridge updraft or rising in a thermal? If you are feeling pretty mellow as you watch the bird soar, you can kind of feel an exhilarating sense of freedom. Once I even felt a rush and lightness, like in an elevator, as a hawk dropped and swooped into a turn. An absolutely stellar experience.
I wonder what kind of experience it is for those who go up in sailplanes. They only have the sound of the wind up there. Don’t know if I would feel comfortable up a couple thousand feet in a plane without an engine though. Don’t even like going up on a 6’ ladder.

There were two steep sections of forest roads in the first few weeks of my meander north this year that had me urging the Cherokee along—steep, loose, and curvy with drop-offs. There was no way I was going to stop on the steep parts to take a photo. I don’t know, maybe a large class A rig, interstates, and starting on the sights-to-see is the way to go—do the old butt-voyeur thing. Nowadays I don’t really want much in the way of thrills and risk, but to have absolutely none would seem kind of lifeless.

Tallied my expenses from the first of the year and my spending has averaged $665 a month for the first 4 months. Should be less for the next few months since I’ll generally be farther out but, then again, I have some things I want to order while I’m up in Chama.

I read my April copy of National Geographic—their special issue on Water-Our Thirsty World. Jeez, sure glad I’m not going to be around in a hundred years.

Two things to learn from dogs:
Run, romp, and play daily.
Delight in the simple joys of a long walk.

RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’


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