And the road goes on forever...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Wild Adventure: Or How We Had a $150 Day

There is a mystery area known to some snowbirds but rarely by Yumans, north and west of Winterhaven known simply as the Graffiti Fields. They don’t show up on any map and without word of mouth directions, it would be very easy to miss them entirely. We set out on Memorial Day in the Dodge to see them and do a little exploring with a packed picnic lunch and plenty of water. Once clear of Yuma, the pavement ends and a two lane wide washboard dirt road takes over. We pass little traffic however and are soon enveloped in the blissful silence of the wide open desert. We bounce along thinking we may have driven too far and missed some turn-off before we finally suddenly come upon the “field”.

What’s mysterious about this place is that it has existed since probably at least the 1970’s without any vandalism from the public. Its purpose: unknown. Its originator: unknown. Why in this location: unknown; save for the fact that there are slight undulations in the desert floor conducive to the “show”. For at least a square mile, as far as the eye can see in some cases--people have been writing (primarily) their names and sometimes the date in rock art. Some have enhanced their art with such things as solar lights, flags, flowers, and even a couple of favorite beer bottles. It is akin to those experienced with western travel coming upon a shoe tree in the middle of nowhere to walk among all these people’s names and wonder at the time it took to gather the rocks and make the art. The fact that it exists out here without any vandalism or heedless damage is almost beyond belief. People respect this graffiti!

Seeing our fill of graffiti, Marc and I resume our travels in the Dodge heading farther north towards some pinnacle looking peaks, as the road greatly deteriorates and narrows. At one point it hovers mere inches from a 100 foot drop-off into a giant wash; a wash large enough that trees grow and gather along its mid-section. People have driven in it though, as evidenced by the tire tracks. Actually, this is all BLM land and the small marked trails criss-cross everywhere, but some are in much better shape than others. In winter it probably crawls with ATVs and Jeeps but today we are solo with nothing but the blowing wind to keep us company.

By now we have spent over an hour bouncing about on different spur trails getting ever nearer to the peak when we decide after one last steep ascent in 4 wheel drive to stop at a flat spot and have our lunch. It’s not yet too miserably hot but the sun is intense as we step outside and I hear an “Oh no” from Marc, who is standing on the passenger side of the truck bed. “What?” I say with an edge of panic to my voice. “Shit, we have a flat tire!” Since the Dodge has dual rear wheels, a flat on the outside dual is not the ends of the earth, even if we did not carry a spare. Fortunately also, Marc had earlier decided to throw in a high-lift jack, making the task that much easier. The problem grew from trying to twist and break free the lug nuts which had been attached just a week earlier with an air wrench when Marc had purchased new tires. For awhile, we thought he wasn’t going to make it. Yes, this was a brand new $150 tire—now more than likely shredded!

Back in action with one rear dual wheel on the passenger side, we continue on the dirt trail hoping it is headed in the right direction (we have no GPS or maps) to meet up with the original gravel road called Pichaco Peak. We climb more hills, scoot down and through yet more washes and hesitate at each trail junction as meaningless numbers confront us at every turn. Why did we come out here without a map?! Did you see how wide open and alone we are out here if we get into trouble? Do you know how hot it is going to get today if we just drive in circles all day? “Relax Dear; we’ve got plenty of time” he says to me…To be continued….