Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tenting Tonight, Palo Duro Canyon

Are we there yet?
No, dear, it's Texas, flat and forever.

This, babbled to myself to stay sane and awake, sola, the many miles.

Topographically, the few elevations stand man-made: wind turbines, hundreds of them, with odd whooshes of EMF when close to the road; the occasional water tower; old weather-vane wind mills to pump water into tanks for cattle, mostly black Angus.

After the lushness of Indian paintbrush and bluebonnet-spring in rolling-hills-Texas, the bleakness came as stark coda. The land lies windswept and brown.

Winter wheat of huge acreage glows chem-fertilizer deep-green; the irrigation rigs look like low bridge spans many-linked. with danglies hanging from the arches to spurt water closer to the ground. Sprayed water would just go poof in the dry air. Fields were being disked and furrowed for cotton.


I have never camped alone before. Five hundred miles later, am about to. Crying has helped a little, remembering great adventures past with friends and family.

For comfort and Godspeed, my aunt had given me an inflatable mattress while I stayed with them over Easter. I had laboriously set up the tent at their place, a trial run, with my uncle trying not to snicker too audibly in the background.

I glared at him, sniffed, and turning with affronted dignity, stumbled over a pegged tent rope!

He came back later and gave me a long-dead great uncle's old hammer, held together with black tape--for the tent pegs, and to keep beside me at night--a sort of talisman of family protection, with a business-end.

Am arrived in a canyon, the first glimpse of southwest colors, strata upon strata of rose, rust, sand-beige.

I've snooped around for wildlife, wishing my grandfather had lived long enough to teach me tracking. Have noted deer and wild turkey prints, fine; a possible snake hole, hm, wear boots, stomp; armadillo rootings.

I set up the tent as a mockingbird sings from bare mesquite branches--mesquite, cedar and cactus country.

As suspected, the instructions to pump up the air mattress are not female-friendly. So as not to insult most of the population, the following cautionaries were omitted:

1) Yes, first turn key in ignition, for pump plugged into car to be activated.

2) An inflating mattress becomes a sail!.. airborne from the hood of the car, sailing high, to fall in the dust. But not impaling itself on a thorny mesquite, a large mercy.

3) The mattress on which you lie down at last, may suddenly deflate to the cold cold ground, IF the closure where you did the pumping is not so jammed in that you may never be able to open it again.

4) At which point, repeat step #1.

That done, I tuck into bed, deciding to leave off the tent fly. Deep into the night, lying still, I watch the Milky Way.


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