Day 30- Cottonwood, AZ - Placitas, NM * Day 31- Placitas, NM- Bloomfield, NM* Day 32- Bloomfield, NM
Our time in Sedona was exceptional. We awoke fulfilled, popped down and pointed our compass East for New Mexico. I originally had a private house show planned for Placitas but because of the governor’s newest COVID mandate, the host opted to move the show to a nearby Santa Fe brewery. So we were Santa Fe bound.
Along the way, we crossed over onto the Navajo and Hopi reservations. There were many trading posts along the way that tempted us with their promise of Native Art and Jewelry, but because of our lengthy day of travel and a 6pm start time for my show, we were unable to stop and peruse. Luckily, August called for a bathroom break just before the exit for “Pee Pee by the Tee Pee.” (literally a road side port-a-let positioned next to a Tee Pee) It’s a novelty I guess, but it’s main purpose is to lure you into the on-site Navajo trading post filled with native crafts. Well, it worked.
With my eye on the time, I quickly gandered at the offerings and purchased a piece of rough turquoise from the eager sales clerk behind the counter. The turquoise rock was full of beautiful veins and I plan to cut it into 4 pieces and polish the stones for later use in pieces of jewelry.
We pressed on and made it to our destination just in time for load in. The brewery was enforcing mask rules while ordering or walking around the premises which made us feel safer about doing a show at an actual venue. Once seated at one of their properly distanced tables, you could remove you mask.
Our friends, Melanie and Kyle, who were originally going to host the house show arrived and we caught up while I set up the gear. The difference between this show and the others I’ve done so far I’d that this one would be performed to an audience that had no clue who I was or that they were even going to see live music that day. There’s certainly a difference in comfort level in this situation, but I did what I do and they seemed to receive it well. August joined in on a few songs, and the socially distant crowd loved it. After an hour and twenty minutes or so, an evening rain shower came in and put our performance to a halt. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.
We loaded up and headed back to Melanie and Kyle’s place in Placitas while the New Mexico sky put on quite a show of its own. The sky out here is part of the reason I love New Mexico so much. The clouds are full and deep and the sunsets produce some of the most vivid colors. There’s almost always a rainbow or two in the sky, at least during this time of the year, which they call monsoon season.
It was dark when we arrived and we opted to pop up Stella, Mel’s 78 VW westfalia bus, and sleep in it instead of setting up the camper. Melanie drove Maggie to our wedding in this bus, so sleeping in it tonight seemed apropos as we just renewed our vows a few days ago. But before we retired, we continued to catch up over beers by the fire, underneath an amazing star filled sky.
I was up around five thirty, only two and a half hours after I was able to close my eyes. I got up to pee and tried to lay back down in our car as to not disturb Maggie or August. I eventually moved to a reclining lawn chair in the middle of the yard and rested until about eight thirty, never fully falling back asleep. I got up and started cleaning and organizing the car. The load out after the gig was quite a frenzy in between bands of rain, so I pulled everything out to situate it just right. I cleaned out trash and organized dirty clothes to better prep up for our next stop.
Today we are headed to meet up with our friends JP and Lexi and their two huskies in Northwest New Mexico near the Bisti Badlands. Melanie and Kyle and their dogs were going to join us, but because of concern for how the dogs would interact, they decided to go to Taos to camp. We had planned to meet back up, but that wouldn’t happen.
Excited to see JP and Lex and congratulate them on their recent wedding, I fought through the tiredness to arrive at our rendezvous, Angel Peak campground. Angel Peak is beautiful mountain composed of what appears to be sandstone and volcanic ash amongst other things I’m sure whose shape is reminiscent of a Christmas Tree Angel topper. It protrudes out of a vast, colorful canyon amongst another amazing formation called Castle Rock. This place is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and we have just arrived.
We were just finishing getting set up when our friends arrived, and we all exhibited excitement to be in each other’s presence. They, too, have been on a long journey, and we all had many stories to share. Lex made cocktails and we explored our home for the next couple of days. Our walk turned into a hike that none of us were prepared for. I mean we were in flip flops drinking vodka for Christ’s sake. We turned around with plans to go further tomorrow, better prepared.
I cooked a steak and potato dinner for all and we ate and drank Oregon wine as we prepped for what was to be the most amazing sunset and night sky we’ve seen yet. But first, August treated us to a sunset DJ Auggi D set. Afterwards, we laid our camp rug with yoga mats and pillows to lay on our backs and gaze at the stars for the next four hours.
With very little light pollution from the tiny nearby town of Bloomfield, we were in for quite a show. As the sun tucked further back behind the horizon, the sky got darker and the stars got brighter and more plentiful. The Milky Way was prominent and satellites were sliding across the sky at a rate that kept us in awe. Behind us, just below Ursa Major, the comet we had been hearing about for days was finally visible. This was the stargazing night we had been waiting for all trip, and on day 31, we finally got to experience it with some of our best friends.
We laid on our backs for hours with our eyes peeled, cheering on the vast, night sky as dying stars shot across it. There was one that we believed to be a meteorite that we all saw that seemed to shoot across the sky for up to five seconds. We laughed at ourselves as we celebrated the free show that our universe was putting on for us.
August fell asleep under the stars. When Maggie noticed I was starting to doze off too, she nudged me to pick up August and made our way back to the camper. We fell asleep with our windows open, with the cool breeze blowing through, and with the stars as our nightlight. We shared more than just a few hours of stargazing that night. We shared a childlike wonder as if we were seeing the stars for the first time. We shared a mutual respect for how small and uncomplicated we really are. We shared a love for each other and the universe in which we live. It’s nights like these we’ll never forget.
We had to say goodbye to JP, Lexi, and their wolves today, but not before we ate leftover steak and potato quesadillas for breakfast, played an impromptu music set with Angel Peak as our background, and finished that hike we were unprepared for yesterday.
The hike took us around the end of the cliff from where our camp was set, and before we knew it, we were at a juncture that split off onto a narrow path that led to the end of the ridge that separated our campsite and Angel Peak. Lexi decided to walk back to camp as the dogs were pulling and they didn’t think it was safe to bring them across the ridge. We were eye level with the Peak as we moved on cautiously across the hairpin trail with dramatic, rocky slopes on either side.
Our goal was to make it to what i would consider the peak of this particular ridge. It was a large boxy stone that jutted out from the wavy volcanic ash that lay beneath it. There were rock structures on either side of the peak, and the trail along the ridge between them mimicked the arch of a strand of garland hanging across a front porch at Christmas time. Once we reached the peak, which August had named “The Bible,” August and I noticed that the trail went further. JP headed back to help Lexi load up, and Maggie pleaded with me and August not to go further.
The trail from this point on was rather treacherous. We made it about halfway across the next stretch of garland before Maggie had a conniption fit and we obliged her pleas to return. We chilled out on the shady side of the Bible for a few minutes before making our way back to camp.
We soon said our goodbyes to our friends as they headed out for their next adventure. Joshua Tree was next on their list, but we weren’t done here yet. We were off to hike the De Na Zin Wilderness of the Bisti Badlands.
We traveled East down HWY 550 until we reached 7500 which was an unpaved road that seemed to go on forever. Maggie was on a conference call while we were en route but finished up just before we arrived at the trailhead.
We signed in and entered the wilderness which started out as flat desert land full of sagebrush, prickly pear, and little yellow wildflowers. After about a half mile or so, the terrain changed drastically. All of a sudden we were in a wash of tightly packed sediment of all colors that swirled together to create a sort of tie dye effect. With every corner we turned, more and more rocks appeared, and then petrified wood, and then the star of the show, the hoodoos.
The hoodoos are these stand alone sandstone formations that August would describe as phallic. He wouldn’t be wrong. Hoodoos are formed when the sandstone erodes at different rates. Evidently the top layers of sandstone are more firmly packed creating a more dense property than the sandstone below it, which erodes more quickly. This results in these strange top heavy formations, some resembling mushrooms, others arches, and some are completely unique in their structure.
August found a snakeskin near the base of a hoodoo at the end of our trail. We were all excited for his find. And we were all blown away by the hoodoos. They lined a canyon of volcanic ash, and every one was more interesting than the next. Unfortunately, the skies started turning dark on us and thunder was rolling in the distance. I wasn’t so much worried about rain, but lightning is a different story. And our phones were almost dead meaning we wouldn’t have our GPS to keep us from getting lost in the wilderness.
We trucked back down the trail at record speed for us and made it back safely with one phone dead and one at two percent. A portable charger will be coming with us next time. We reveled in the light sprinkle from the edge of the storm that cooled us off towards the end. We are still learning, but we are getting better and more adventurous. I’m digging it.
We took in another magical sunset after making nachos out of leftover Mexican food from Cottonwood. We ventured to a couple different spots to have different vantage points. Maggie and I sat back on a strategically placed bench while the sunset painted the horizon, and August entertained himself and us with his standard evening burst of energy. He truly is a delight to have on the road.
Two jackrabbits made their presence known to us on the way back to camp before we set up to take in some more stars. The only difference tonight is that we are dead tired from last night’s star party and almost 6 miles of hiking today. Nonetheless, we laid out our camp rug, pillows, and mats and got horizontal.
The sky tonight was just as amazing, but we just didn’t have the energy to stay up very long. Another day done is another day that I feel completely fulfilled. We piled into the camper once again with the windows open and stars as our nightlights, we faded into our dreams.
Be good to yourselves and each other