Around 4:30 in the morning, a large truck came through our part of the camp, the distinct sound of its diesel engine waking me from my sleep. Thoughts of their intents floated through my mind, ranging from wondering if they were simple fishermen arriving early in hopes of a good catch, or trying to avoid paying the park fee by arriving so late, or perhaps something worse.
I woke up again nearly an hour and a half later, with the sun already high enough to light up the sky. Knowing that today would be an event filled day, I got dressed and started gathering my things, while trying not to disturb Alyssa. It was during this that I realized I didn’t have my toiletry kit anymore. Remembering I had used it the night before, I went back to the bathhouse to look for it. It was gone. I had used that black Eddie Bauer bag for years, it traveling with me from one side of the world to the other during my time in the 89th. I went back to the tent, disappointed.
Eventually, with the camp torn down and everything repacked into the Fusion, we were both ready to leave.
Just like on my previous trip, I forgot about the turnoff towards Aztec, which would have taken us on a different route, instead of backtracking our way towards Bloomfield and Farmington. It was only when Alyssa commented about Aztec ruins in the area that I realized my oversight.
I continued taking us on the same routing I had used once before. As I pointed out the Shiprock rock formation, Alyssa opened the sunroof and stuck her phone through the opening, angling to take a picture.
We arrived at the Four Corners monument behind a duo of Harley Davidson riders. After paying our fee, we parked and toured the grounds. Unlike the last time I was there, the stalls surrounding the point were open and full of wares. After taking the obligatory photo, we walked the perimeter, checking each of the vendors. The majority of the shops were all the same, just slight variations of jewelry, ornaments, and magnets, while a few had t-shirts and bone weaponry. One vendor was skillfully etching pots by freehand, and he invited us into the stall to watch him take his blade to the clay.
But, with another engagement in the afternoon, we couldn’t stay longer. We made our way to the car and drove off, the route finally differing from what I had taken before. Alyssa took the opportunity for a nap, while I drove onwards.
During my planning for this trip, I was worried that by booking an event at 3pm we would arrive late and miss out on the experience but, with no later openings, I didn’t have a choice. Somehow we arrived into Durango sooner than expected, early enough to check into the hotel, make ourselves sandwiches, and even relax for a few minutes before heading out to Rapp’s Corral.
After some time spent assigning horses to each of us in our group, our wrangler led us away from the ranch and off into the San Juan mountains. This was my first time on a horse, this one named Cochise, but I knew that a lot of the control came from my legs, not dissimilar to offroad motorcycle riding. I’m sure it’s because of how broken the horse was, but I felt comfortable in the saddle and throughout the ride began to experiment more and more with nudging Cochise with my knee to position him exactly where I wanted.“]
Our trail ride took us to a small hiking trail that led down to a limestone cave. My boots, motorcycle boots designed for traction in slick conditions, performed well as we hiked down the steep and narrow trail. Alyssa’s boots however, more for style than function with their smooth soles, made her cautious.
With recent rains, the cave was more flooded than usual, leaving us unable to venture far past the opening. So, we snapped a few pictures, and hiked our way back up to our waiting horses. The ride back seemed quicker, though I was uncertain whether we had taken a shorter route or if the novelty of the experience was wearing off.
Back in Durango, we walked through the city’s historic main street, noting it’s similarity to old town historic districts of Virginia’s Alexandria or Fredericksburg as we looked for a place to eat. Eventually, we decided on a small drafthouse that had live music. We ordered some burgers and some locally brewed beers, and listened as local guitarist Rob Webster performed acoustic covers of songs spanning various genres. I made some comparisons between his sound, and that of the indie band “One Eskimo,” who I had seen perform years ago in Seattle’s famous Crocodile Cafe. There were a stack of free CDs next to the tip jar, so I traded some of the few $1s I had on me for a disc.
Knowing we were going to be camping, or rather “glamping,” for the next few days, we chose to go to Wal-mart and resupply my toiletry needs. With yet more unplanned purchases made, we headed back to our hotel and settled in.