Throughout my journey, in every corner of the globe, therein lie magic and opportunity. It is everywhere.
Pay attention and adventurous offerings will place themselves squarely in your path. It is up to you to acknowledge them when they appear. They are always recognizable, not unlike a very beautiful woman giving you an extra glance in a crowded bar. In this case, the crowded bar is a world where everyone is “Bellying up” for their next existential round. Then suddenly and without warning or introduction there she is: flashing her deep and depthless eyes, filling your senses, and revealing what the sparkle of your quest is all about: adventure and knowledge and yet another chance to journey down yet one more uncharted road. There is an old John Stewart song, “The Road is my woman and she’s never done me wrong... and I’m true to her.”
The next day before I left Ranchita, I thanked the gracious people who took me in the night before. I had an indescribable feeling of accomplishment, probably having to do with the fact that I walked halfway across one of the most inhospitable deserts in the world and somehow survived (or, at least in my own mind I did). It was a feeling of accomplishment. Regardless, the evening in Ranchita as a guest of total strangers was very, very nice.
By midmorning I was walking the Anza-Borrego highway, desert on all sides with the singular personality of varying red dusty dirt... everywhere. Otherwise, the landscape was devoid of character. The Anza-Borrego is a wild and arid landscape without a breath of wind. Soon, I came upon wild bushes that appeared to be climbing out of the parched soil, like convicts trying to escape an earthen entrapment of which no escape is possible.
These scrub bushes were generally devoid of green and owned little character, yet were able to thrive in this brutal environment of heat and zero water. However, this foliage, if one were to call it that, was far too low-slung to offer any respite against a hot bargaining sun, which seemed intent on turning me into sizzling chunk of walking road kill. I regretted leaving behind my wide brimmed Stetson hat. My friend, Ardeshir, had insisted it was time to get away from the cowboy… I had only a white T-shirt in my backpack which I tied “Bedouin” style to cover my head.
I must’ve been quite a sight.
Soon, I was on the Montezuma Road. A couple of hours passed until I reached a crossroad. Depending on which culture one believes, a crossroad is either lucky or unlucky, depending on your point of view. In the end, somebody is always going to be wrong and I found myself amused at the thought. Ahead was the highway, snaking blackness all the way to an immense shadow, far beyond the horizon.
The shadow wasn’t a shadow at all! It was, I realized, the Salton Sea! To my left was an unmarked dusty road, not much more than a rut, and I chose to walk forward from there. It was an interesting choice for soon I found myself in a primitive campground called Culp Valley. There were several scattered cars held captive by the dust near large boulders. They were broiling in the sun. A little further there were tents. Turned out it was an area for camping but without any facilities whatsoever.
Parched and sunburned and sitting beneath tattered umbrellas were several people. Their faces were etched by dust and sun and weather so that in a single glance you knew all the facts of life as it pertained to living off the grid in the Nevada desert. Their faces were a roadmap of the lives they had led up to the point I met them. I looked them over carefully. Looked around at the landscape. No wonder they set off the first atomic bomb here: there aren’t enough living things out here to be incinerated by an atomic blast. Not even bugs or rats or an errant miner.
I nodded a friendly smile as I made my way up the adjacent hill, working my way through the dense foliage.
The trail ended on the topof a large rocky knoll and beyond, on the other side, was the South Fork of Hellhole Canyon. It was a narrow valley and along its course there were the marvelous desert fan palms I had long heard about over the years.
So, I went down the hill and in no time I found myself walking through a dreamlike landscape on an unmarked path through the Canyon.
On all sides were palm trees, strange and lush and green. They appeared to be shoved into the ground as if by unnatural forces and they were everywhere. I’m not exactly sure what kind of trees they were from a scientific perspective. But, at maybe 20-30 high, they were different from any palm trees I’ve seen.
It was the perfect place to begin a deep and profound inner inspection of whom I am, and why I’m here.