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Desert Man

In June, I was in the desert with family & friends. Our friends hadn't seen the desert yet, but they trusted me enough to agree to go (even though it was a little hotter than perhaps I'd mentioned). Luckily, they loved it :) We had fairly normal goals (hike, rock climbing for spouse & kids, & general unwinding) and a checklist of Want To See (sheep, coyote, rock art, roadrunner).
  • Day 2, 6am, on the trailhead: We meet a very friendly man who stops & says "you might still be able to catch the sheep."
  • Day 3, 5am, trailhead: Sheep!!! Coyote!!! Friendly Man. He is washing rocks along the trail to help remove the taint of careless visitors. We christen him "Desert Man." I think it may be a little odd to crush on a man almost twice my age, but I have a historical weakness for Senior Citizens. Seriously, if someone is over 65, I forgive 99% of anything. Cut me off? Call me "sugar buns" (no joke, when I was bartending) or "Wench"? It's ok. Be terribly rude? Still ok.
  • Day 4, 5am: No sheep. No Desert Man. I am sad. Still, we hiked to an oasis that was pretty awesome.
  • Day 5, 5:30am: Desert Man is tucked into a nook between rocks. I am inordinately excited to see his skinny legs and long grey hair. He invites me to a nearby rock, & we sit in the sun watching the world, talking about life and coyotes while my family members clamber over small cliffs with a speed that make me unable to watch. I ask for his address to send him a thank you for the sheep tips. Desert Man tells me he's decided he approves of me and offers a secret.
DM: "Have you ever seen petroglyphs?"
M: Only twice.
DM: "There is a secret cave here."
M: Nearby? *gets maps from backpack*
DM: Oh, it's not on maps. There is no marked trail. We unmarked it. *he laughs* A few times.
M: Oh.
DM: I will trust you though. *gives directions that include climbing through things & scrabbling up a edge*
M: *Calls over friend. Gets repeat of directions.*

The 2 families started on the not-trail exchanging suspicious thoughts on Desert Man being Coyote Himself  . . . or possibly a serial killer's accomplice--but rock art? Incentive enough to risk it. A few scratches, scrapes, & does-someone-know-the-way-back exchanges later we were at the site. The ledge was higher than I liked, and I had a few moments of no-rattlers-please concern when I had to stretch out on my back to see the art, but DAMN, it was the highlight of the trip for me and my archaeology majoring daughter. 

I've since sent Desert Man my book, & he's replied a couple times now with actual handwritten letters AND desert photos. I am now trying to come up with an interesting gift for him. 

So, umm, I'm sitting here smiling over the joy of that handwritten letter & those sheep photos and I have to say that trusting my instincts that I wasn't chatting with Coyote (or an accomplice to some sort of killer akin to the Pied Piper of Tucson) has resulted in all sorts of joy. I'm not sure if my Desert Man experience has a Moral Of The Story, but it's been such a joy to get the latest letter today that I had to share. Strangers in the desert can be kinda awesome . . . and I'm still a little hopeful that he might at least KNOW Coyote.


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