Ahhh, to be back in the west. The goal of this trip was to see new cultures, which have been nothing short of amazing, but something just felt right when we pulled into New Mexico and over to a mountain biking trailhead. We were home.
After Texas, which took approximately nine months to drive across, we headed west without direction. I found some guy’s personal mountain biking website online and called his cell phone. (Who puts their phone online not expecting phone calls from random road trippers? Right?) After a bit of friendly chatting – “That place has snow…that one is too muddy…that trail’s no fun…,” he directed us over to some BLM land near Las Cruces. We hadn’t seen any bum-friendly government land in months, so we were thrilled! We set up camp at the trailhead and met every single mountain biker in Las Cruces over the next two days. And I say this without exaggeration – they were the nicest group of people I have ever met. They offered us food, beer, a place to shower, and to be our tour guide on all of the trails. We were blown away by the unconditional love displayed towards strangers.
After two days in a parking lot we decided to head west and came across a sign for the Continental Divide trail on an empty highway. “Let’s do it!” And lo and behold, the only other campers there was a young couple doing the exact same thing we were, except for an entire year. As the first young road trippers we had met, we bombarded them with questions: “How do you secure your spices?” “Is the ground level enough for a camper at that spot?” “What kind of poop shovel do you have?” “Is it hard to admit that this isn’t always fun?” It was like finding our clan in the woods, away from civilization.
After a short stint in Tucson to shower and launder up, we headed north to the desert. We were craving solitude after strip malls and busy interstates, and we sure found it. Miles up a dirt road, nestled amongst the cacti and coyotes howling at night, we parked for three (four?) days and soaked up the sun. We mountain biked, trail ran, and picked a hundred cactus needles out of Moose, and drank cerveza like the locals.
But the biggest surprise came when driving along an almost impassable sandy wash and came across a small wooden sign, handwritten: School and sanctuary 6 miles –>
As an overly excited, adventurous person, these are the moments I live for. “OH MY GOD DAVE WE HAVE TO GO! LET’S GO! THINK OF WHAT WE’LL FIND!” Most likely to quiet my squeal, Dave took the sandy, rocky drive up and up and up into the mountains until we hit fresh spring water and the cacti were replaced with evergreens. We parked our car and hiked through the lush trees to an enormous garden watered with spring water, yurts and teepees, solar panels, window panels on a greenhouse, and a man tinkering away in his shop. We met Peter Bigfoot, the desert doctor of Arizona. Once a professor of natural medicine at the University of Arizona, Peter studied with local Native Americans who taught him to live off of the land and he found his passion. In the 1970’s he walked 85 miles across the Sonoran Desert for 15 days with no food or water, relying only on the resources he found along the way.
Today he lives up in the high desert collecting and growing his own herbs to make into salves, teas, and tinctures for health, wellness, and healing. We meandered blissfully through the garden and around the grounds before talking to him about which tinctures we should purchase based on our health and his knowledge. We could have stayed up there all day, but he warned us, “You two should get home. We have your Montana headed our way, with six inches of snow predicted up here tonight.” We made our way slowly back to Gloria, thinking of him nestling up against the elements up in the mountains.
Even though I could have stayed in the desert forever, Moose couldn’t handle anymore needles in his face, so we headed over to visit my aunt in Scottsdale, whom I hadn’t seen in over two decades. My immediately family has always been small and fairly reserved, so I didn’t see much of my extended family. But it only took minutes for me to realize: family is everything. I saw my mom in all of her sister’s movements and laughter, and we had a blast seeing where she and my uncle live in the rolling desert hills. Hiking, hot tubbing, and a few glasses of wine later … road trip? What road trip?
And now we’re off again, scrambling to find our way amidst snow and a plethora of gorgeous sights that this amazing country has in its buffet of beauty. Today, Sedona with all of its vortexes and red rocks. I’m certainly no desert doctor, but who knows? Maybe I’ll find my own peace and magic in this desert of the southwest. To the rocks we go.