Craziness and Cowardice in the Desert
Recently I read a story, in High Country News, about a campground in Colorado that was overrun by gun "enthusiasts". It sounded pretty bad and reminded me of a trip I took to Mojave a year or so ago.
I was camped in the site you see above at Hole-in-the-Wall campground. It was quiet and calm and fairly private. One late afternoon, while entering the trailer, I grabbed a small exterior handle to hoist myself inside and didn't see that a bee had decided to latch on to the back of handle. I felt a burning sensation and then - DAMMIT! I'd been stung. I saw the poor dying bee, sticking to the side of my hand, but felt little sympathy for the SOB. I went to the first aid kit and got the tweezers, pulled the stinger out of the side of my hand but it immediately started swelling. I took three aspirin, ate a pain filled dinner and iced up my hand.
At about 8:30 that night I decided I'd better turn in but, wimp that I am, my hand was hurting and continuing to swell and I couldn't fall asleep. I read and listened to the radio and finally, I'm guessing around 11:00 fell asleep.
At around midnight I awoke to a light, bright as day, shining in my trailer. I then heard the gunning of engines and went to open the door and my campsite was bathed in light from some jerk's spotlight that he had mounted on his Jeep. I was pissed. I decided to get dressed and have a word with my new neighbor. As I was getting my pants on I heard several more vehicles drive around the campground and started to get a little nervous. Still, I was mad and with adrenaline kicking in decided to confront these morons.
Charging out of my trailer I heard the "Pop-pop-pop" of gunfire. I stopped. Directly across from my campsite there were four or five men armed with rifles and shooting at something in the vast darkness.
OK - new plan.
I high-tailed it back to the trailer and locked the door (which I never do) and looked for my bear spray and machete. Yeah, that's me...I bring bear spray and jungle clearing implements to a gunfight.
The gunfire, now sporadic and accompanied by loud, drunken shouting continued for probably 20 minutes. I decided, at that very instant, to become a pacifist and not confront these "people". I tried to go back to sleep and the throbbing in my hand really kicked in (from the adrenaline kick I'd guess). I had the persistent thought that I might have to go to the emergency room, an hour away in Needles, if the swelling continued. After awhile the gunfire stopped completely although my campsite was still lit up like Fifth Avenue and 45th street. Around 3:30 or 4:00 AM, I eventually fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning to the racing of engines and more loud voices. I looked out the window and there were probably 6 or 7 Jeeps and maybe a dozen guys packing them up. I made coffee, fretted a bit about my hand, and stepped out into the sunlight. I heard these guys talking and discussing their plans for the day. They were talking about a route on the old Mojave Road. As they got ready to leave one guy, with a minor conscience, I suppose, walked over and said, "I'd tell ya I was sorry about the noise last night but we're all retired cops and we don't apologize- hahaha". I didn't say a word. I did give him a bad ass glare, however.
They were gone within 30 minutes. I jumped into my truck and drove to the nearest Ranger Station to report these community pillars.
It was closed and locked.
My hand got better.
This was written prior to the decision, along with Syria and Nicaragua (who thinks the accord isn't enough), to drop out of the Paris accords regarding Climate Change. Multiply my comments by several factors...
The photos above are from Mojave Trails National Monument.
An online friend of mine R. Scott Jones suggested that us "nature and public land lovers" write a blog about the federal government's attack on our public lands. I think it's a wonderful idea.
I started to write a long editorial essay regarding the Trump administration's "review" of our magnificent National Monuments and I wrote 6 pages of angry vitriol. The more I wrote the angrier I became. I made a list of the National Monuments I have visited. I made another list of the lies coming from Washington DC. I got ready to publish it and had second thoughts.
I got depressed and sad as I thought about the world we're leaving for my grandchildren and their children. I started writing again and will try to offer a simpler message. I want to convey, without bitterness, the beauty of the public lands and how much is at stake if we lose them. I'm in love with what's left of the West and our National Monuments, National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, and ALL public land that WE own and that our descendants deserve to enjoy. I want to come from a place of love...not hate.
My opinions on the decimation of the West are found, right here, on this website. If you want a more complete description of exactly what's happening this is an excellent article.
My hunch is that venting my anger is not a productive exercise for those of you who follow this blog. I only hope you will condemn and resist the development of our public lands in general and our National Monuments in particular. Please join us in doing all we can to halt the destruction of our land.
As Edward Abbey said,
"The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders".
Consider me an ardent defender. By any measure it's easy to see that our wild lands are being paved over, mined, drilled and ultimately destroyed. It is one of the great heartbreaks of my life.
My words fail. I am too emotional to be very articulate. Instead, I offer more photos of one of my favorite National Monuments, Organ Pipe Cactus in southern Arizona. Please visit a National Monument if you can. I promise, if you do, you'll want to stop the madness of this "review".
I hope you'll agree that these lands deserve saving. Contact your representatives by mail, email, or phone. Join one of the groups that advocate for the outdoors and our precious public lands. Fight for beauty and nature- it's a battle worth waging.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.