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16: a wake-up

Updated: Feb 27

Dear Friend,

Thank you for taking the time to check in! I can imagine the myriad of things that you could be doing... you could be sculpting jade, making earrings, painting, selling your house, attending classes, writing a memoir, walking to a distant land, practicing your trumpet, treating some friends to a rafting trip, playing a saxophone, working on your car, cleaning someone’s teeth, riding your motorcycle, composing a master piece for twenty flutes, reading to a child, repairing your rain-gutters, adopting a puppy, … but, instead, you are here, and I am grateful!

The Lost Dutchman State Park campground at the foot of the Superstition Mountains was our home for 8 days. The campground is outside of Apache Junction, AZ, and set fairly close to a neighborhood and businesses. There’s an outdoor museum with a working model-train (and whistle) just up the road. A large wedding venue is next to that, and across the highway, Gold Field Ghost Town and Mine Tours Inc. offers lots of activities for tourists.

Our focus was nature. We took some really good walks and hikes on the trails and Frank enjoyed photographing the beautiful Superstition Mountains.



The weather was mostly mild, but we did expect a couple of really hot days (upper 90’s) and decided, in preparation, to attach our awning to the truck for shade.

The awning kit comes complete with two poles, 8 pieces of string, 6 stakes and the nylon awning. We pulled everything out of the little bags and soon the truck and its contents had shade!

Oh, my gosh, Leslie, that sounds so easy!

Honestly, during our set up, we should have been wearing flight gear. There were too many sudden gusts amid the steady, unpredictable breeze… In those conditions, a nylon awning is a parasail to the moon!

The stakes and string that came with the awning were so fervent on escaping that we resorted to holding them down with heavy rocks, and the two poles just stood there, slightly bent, looking on, like a couple of bored teenagers.

Prior to our trip, we had purchased two (glass-mover) suction cups to use as secure tie-downs. They worked well! We could have used a few strong clips, extra string, and better stakes. But in the end, the truck had its awning, and we stayed fairly comfortable in the shade of a Palo Verde tree.

We took the truck awning down Wednesday morning, and went into town to do laundry and to buy a pair of specific Saucony running shoes for precious me, actually, for my knees. It was quite a thing, going from one Big 5 to another, you’d think we were buying for Cinderella’s other foot, but, finally, the perfect fit!

And as Sir Emery would say, “A pound of prevention is worth an ounce of pain.”

That evening, the sky was overcast with an assortment of cloud formations. Frank (and his camera) were thrilled as the sunset kicked incredible color onto the mountains.


Thursday morning, we drove away. But I’m leaving out all the excitement! Let’s go back to Tuesday night.

It was around 12:30am, clouds had covered the moon, it was very dark. We were asleep in the back of the truck, actually Frank was asleep, I was listening to the night, distracting myself, to avoid another quarter-mile, round-trip walk to the bathroom. (I drink a lot of water).

I listened to an occasional burst of laughter from neighboring campers, traffic on the highway, and coyotes, barking and yipping, simply communicating with each other, nothing unusual.

Suddenly, 14 gun-shots rang out! (I tend to count such things). The coyotes barked, yipped and screamed, frenzied, louder, closer to the campground. I worried that one had been shot. I grabbed for a flashlight and started to climb out of the truck, (a long process that we’ll go into at another time), and, Boom! From somewhere close by, a door slammed and a vehicle back-fired and revved its poorly tuned engine, kept revving it, I heard shouting, then to make matters worse, someone turned up their Country Western Music!

I felt like I was blindfolded in a scary clown-house.

I wasn’t sure if the person with the gun was finished, the music was blaring, I could barely hear the coyotes. Somehow, Frank slept on, so I woke him up (poor guy) and this was our (whispered) banter:

Me: “Sweetie, there’s stuff going on, did you hear the gun shots?”

Frank: “You want me to walk with you to the bathroom?”

Me: “And someone is playing Country Western Music!”

Frank: “I’ll walk with you, are you going now?”

Me: “And the coyotes, somebody might have shot one!”

Frank: “Am I walking you or not?”

Frank wasn’t quite awake. I sat silently, staring into the darkness, waiting and listening.

Me: “And there’s some truck or something out there, revving, do you hear it?”

Frank: “No.”

Me: “Oh, it stopped. I’ve really got to go … it’s getting bad… the neighbors are probably awake. Why are they always awake?”

Frank: “Am I going with you? Let me know what you’re doing.”

Me: “Dang! Where is that music coming from? It’s so loud! Oh, man, I have to go!”

Frank: “No more talking, stop all the words, just say yes, or no!”

Me: “Oh, wow, that music is so loud, can you even believe that? Why do they need it so loud?”

Frank: “Am I walking you or not?”

Me: “I wish I knew if the coyotes were ok!”

Frank quietly climbed out of the truck, pulled on his shorts and put on his shoes. It took me a while to find my shoes. He waited patiently. Then we walked the long, dark road that skirted the camp, to the bathroom.

As we neared the building, we saw two people, women, stumbling out of the women’s bathroom. One of them sat down on the ground, the other yelled at her to get up. They both had wet hair and were carrying bags full of something that they quickly shoved into their SUV. They had obviously used the showers.

As we approached the bathrooms, they jumped into their vehicle and slammed the doors. The slams seemed so out of place, so explosive, didn’t they know that way too many campers were already having enough trouble trying to sleep through the blaring hoedown?

I wondered if the women were finished in the bathroom as I entered the women’s and Frank went into the men’s. I noticed that the TP, and some other things that were normally there, were missing, but I was very grateful to use the facilities! Then, before I could finish washing my hands, I heard another - Boom

Is Frank ok?

I stepped outside the bathroom. Frank was right there, waiting by the door. And the women were also right there, waiting in their car. I noticed that their dark green suburban-ish, SUV looked like it had rolled a few times and sounded like it was on its last leg. It back-fired again.

Not a gun.

The driver revved the engine over and over.

No need for us to linger, we walked on back toward camp, along the dark, narrow road. The SUV pulled out of the parking lot and started up the road behind us, entered the ‘Do Not Enter’ section of the road, and continued slowly, closer and closer. We ducked into the darkness, behind a road barrier, and waited for them to go by. They sped up as they passed and left the park through the entrance.

We made it back to our truck, climbed in, and tried to tune out the music. The last words I remember: “Think I’ll slip on down to the Oasis, I’ve got friends in low places…” (Garth Brooks, 1990, No Fences album)

This was, probably, a tiny teaching moment from the universe in which everything turned out ok, but magnified the fact that our surroundings are unpredictable – something that we might have been taking too lightly.

Thursday morning, we left Apache Junction and traveled to Payson, AZ; from saguaro country to pine trees!

We liked what we saw of the town and met some very kind people. We visited a Dairy and a Music Store. At Danzeisen Dairy Creamery Store, Frank enjoyed a genuine dairy milkshake, a rare treat! Then, on a whim to check out travel-size-guitars, we visited Quigtone Music & Supply, Old School Service, owned by Ric Quigley and his sidekick doggy named Bentley.

Ric is a real gigging trumpet player and also plays the bass guitar (and no doubt lots of other instruments). Ric is also a substitute bus driver for the schools in Payson, so his store hours vary. I held little Bentley for most of our visit, which reinforced the idea that I miss having a dog, but reminded me of the level of commitment to a doggy’s well-being. Bentley has a very comfortable scene with Ric.

“Leslie,” I reminded myself, “No dog would be comfortable living in our truck on this road trip.”

After chatting with Ric about music stuff, he invited us to hear one of the groups he plays with, a community band, rehearsing on Saturday at 3:30pm at the United Methodist Church, on Easy Street, Payson, AZ.

Thanks for the invite, Ric and Bentley! We weren’t able to stay in town that long, but we hope to pass through Payson again, looking forward to the music!

We camped that night at quiet and clean, Sharp Creek campground (at nearly 6000’ elevation), Tonto National Forest, AZ. The well-maintained campground has a trash dumpster, pit toilet bathrooms, and hand-pumped drinking-water. The nightly cost was $14.50 (with the Sr. Park Pass).


Our camp hosts were very friendly and knowledgeable about the area. We discussed snow levels and wild-fires, raven and bears, and they told us that a herd of Elk often passes through the back of our campsite. We didn’t see any Elk this time, and though bears were probably around, the only creatures that we encountered were ravens. (I’m sure they aren’t the same ravens from Stove Pipe Wells, Death Valley, CA, responsible for showering our campsite with Carnation Instant dry milk powder, but they could easily have the same sense of humor. We, no longer, leave our resources unattended).

It was a tough decision to leave Sharp Creek, the tall pines and blue oaks, the junipers…It was good to spend that time with trees but by 8:30 am, we were back on the road, North, toward the Petrified Forest National Park outside of Holbrook, AZ.

On the way, we were treated to a spectacular sky, full of clouds!



The Petrified Forest celebrates the old days of Route 66. These very (weathered) telephone poles ran next to the original highway at the southern end of the park.


And this poor, old car demonstrates the weight of a petrified log.


I especially liked the Jasper Forest section of the park. I found a fist-sized piece of petrified wood and held it in my hand. It is precious to be able to hold something so ancient, to imagine the whole tree and its life. I felt like I was setting down a living thing as I laid the piece back where I found it.

The photo below shows how two pieces of a log sit still and quiet in the Jasper Forest.


Frank’s photos capture the essence of being there (you can even sense the wind in the sky that day).


As we drove through the park, Frank pointed out how the clouds can look like a sunrise (or sunset) in mid-day. They take on a pink hue when they are reflecting the red rock below.


We could have meandered through the Petrified Forest for days and days, there’s something new around every turn. We didn’t want to leave, but camping isn’t allowed. So onward to our next destination, Canyon de Chelly, Chinle, AZ!

And this is where I’ll leave you for now. Our first evening along the southern rim at Spider Rock overlook… have you ever felt like you are home, even though you know you can’t really live there? It is a wake-up, a breath taken, a refresh, good to be alive; and we’re so glad to have had this beautiful sunset at this special place and time to share!

We are grateful for your helpful encouragement and appreciate your thoughts and prayers! It is, as always, such a Hug to know that you are there, and thank you for keeping in touch!

We hope that you have a happy week!

Gently Be,


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