One hundred and thirteen miles inside Arizona. Destination, Painted Rocks Petroglyphs. Our campsite, an ancient confluence of Indian and explorer trails over the centuries, a pile of rocks marked mostly with the signs, signals, and advertisements of human civilization, proclamations of good hunting, means of acquisition, weather, composition of home and travel habitation, sexual expression, animals and human culture. Later, western notations: Juan was here, 1785. Speaking of which, Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto visited here in 1795 on his travels from the San Francisco Bay Area down into southern California, across into Arizona and down deep into Mexico. We have traveled much of his route and will be leaving him here to continue across Arizona into New Mexico. As the title lists, Juan had quite a regiment and support team, including Indian guides, to allow him to pass through the many tribes and regions safely. It must have been an incredible logistical trek, and word of this strange group of horses with men on top must have created quite a stir at the time. One thing we can thank Juan for was, if his presence hadn't graced the continent, we would very possibly be speaking Russian, as their explorers had a very keen interest in the New World at the time. As it was, the Russian immigrants and claims only grabbed the extreme California coastal regions.
The temperature was an even 100 degrees when we rolled into the campground. No one was in sight camping, though two cars were parked in the day use area. We found an acceptable site close to the petroglyphs and restrooms, set up tent, cracked open the obligatory ice-cold champagne welcome-home bottle, and set up chairs in the shade of our car to wait out the sinking sun.
I went out to quickly explore a center section shade structure and see if there might be a BLM info guide. Sitting in the coolness of the shelter, two men, looking heavily sunburned, sat drinking cheap beer and invited me to partake. They worked about five miles away in a huge sun-powered electric generation station. I mean huge. It took about ten minutes of driving to cross one side of this plant, which was lined with uncountable numbers of parabolic mirrors focusing the sun into a closed-loop plasma heat collecting system that boiled water much like a nuclear plant takes the radiation heat to make steam. They told me that just being in the presence of the mirror system required a tolerance of close to 150-degree heat. The skin of one man was actually peeling off his face as he compiled a report of the day's activities. They said that the shade of the petroglyphs provided a respite to the grueling temperatures...that, and a lot of beer. Our conversation ratcheted up as they realized that I totally understood the technology and could carry on an intelligent discourse. We talked about the science of it, and they had a lot to say about the economics -- apparently, billions in taxpayer dollars that went to a Spanish company, as they were ahead of America in designing these systems. Their beer was cheap and although the conversation was interesting, the champagne and my sweetie called to me like a siren song.
The temperature dropped to a perfect 75 degrees and we cooked up a delicious stir-fry, then went out to photograph the rock inscriptions. We could see the impending light on the eastern horizon of a half moon to rise. A previous camper had left a healthy dose of firewood, and the celebration kicked up a notch. With music playing on our iPod speaker, we recreated the rituals of the ancient past, which came flooding back to our psyches and danced around the campfire, one hand waving free. In time, slumber and waning embers called us. I woke with a start for some reason and peered out of the tent, sensing something moving. Frozen in the moonlight was the shimmering silver coat of a coyote, staring directly at me with crystal eyes. We exchanged souls for a minute instant and I shushed a warning to avoid our camp table with its dinner remnants. The coyote performed a cartoon turn and disappeared in an instant...was it real? I got up, climbed outside, and surveyed the moonlit landscape. Everything was as it was supposed to be, except for a forgotten trash bag that had remained untouched to be put out of temptation. The night passed somnolently until morning revealed a gift on our camp table of one carefully crafted and placed artistic piece of remembrance scat!