Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seasonal Exchange - Day 2 - Clifton, AZ & San Francisco River Camp

Bright and early we continued southward on Highway 191, up into snowy mountains and pine forests. At the small town of Alpine, we were thwarted by a flashing sign saying that the highway was closed ahead. To investigate the matter we stopped and had breakfast in a cafe and, over our meal, asked a few questions of the locals. Yes, the highway, known to locals as just "The Trail," really was closed. Always is in the winter.

We followed directions and drove eastward into New Mexico, then south and west back into Arizona near Clifton. Clifton was a hopping town. Was, I'd guess, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There were many classic buildings strewn through a steep canyon, and a main street lined with victorianesque store fronts. Almost all of which had been abandoned and were in a mild to advanced state of decay.

From AZ Travel

The big copper mine that rooted the community seems to have abandoned the old town for banal tracts of grey company housing and a nearby generic company town where all the usual needs of civilization can be satisfied. Trina and I were happy to revel in the decay of past glory in the old town.M

From AZ Travel

From AZ Travel

From AZ Travel

For research purposes, we stopped and bought a milkshake from a pleasant curmudgeon who had turned one of the old store fronts into his personal hermit-hole and private collection of rotted mining artifacts -- and then, apparently, decided that he could make a little money if he added a refrigerator and a blender and sold milkshakes. The charm of the place was as deep and thick as the dirt and dust. He gave us some excellent advice about where the locals go to camp. Good milkshake, too.

Sometimes "Where the locals go to camp" means bullet holes and broken glass. We drove the dead end road up the San Francisco River and found plenty of that. But we also found ourselves on a nice little hike in the warm sunshine; warm enough to force us out of our winter clothes and into shorts and t-shirts. At last! And we found a nice camp, right along the river under some arching acacia trees.

We lolled and strolled by the little river, while the dogs romped and chased and dug. Sun dropped behind the canyon wall. Clouds lit with sunset light. Stars emerged and burned cold over where our fire burned warm. Warm, calm air. Quiet shh-ing of the river. We put the dogs in their kennels in the back of the truck and rolled out our beds under the stars.

From AZ Travel

Ah... Bliss!

Or, nearly. We all slept beautifully for many long minutes until Sprocket decided that he had been abandoned forever, there in his kennel in the back of the pickup under the topper, about 20 feet from us. He started in with whining, skreeling, plaintive howling, and desperately scratch-digging at the door of his kennel. Trina and I (and probably Zeek) lost some sleep to this. Lots of sleep.

Then we lost more sleep groggily discussing what we should do about it. Trina's thought was that giving in to his bad behavior would just teach him to use it in the future. I had to agree, since he's really her dog, though I wondered if his anxiety was more of a panic and was less of a behavior than a frantic fear that could be somehow effectively calmed, though I didn't know how. I also (secretly) wondered if maybe some kind of tranquilizer dart might be effective. His waves of panic rose and fell throughout the long night, attracting who knows what predators out there in the dark.

When the sky above the canyon wall began to glow with morning light, we staggered up to greet the day. Sprocket was very, very happy to see us after his long night of separation. Bella was the only one to get a good night's sleep, as her advanced years have blessed her with near-total deafness. She was up and dashing about on her old, stiff legs, while the humans got the truck ready to roll.

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