Saturday, May 22, 2010
Cliffs of Insanity
Rain drops started to plop down onto my dusty windshield as I drove out to Crazy Woman Creek again. I was determined to make it to my transect though as I turned down the ranch road onto private ranch land. Black Angus cows stood in the middle of the road, reluctant to let me drive by. One small male calf even challenged my car refusing to move until I honked my horn and he ran to mama. The rain was really coming down now, but the methaners used this road and had put down gravel for easy access. I drove for a while with no problem through herds of cattle in bright green fields until I passed the last methane check station. My little car slid around on the mud like it was ice. I was 3k away still and knew the road got within 1k, but didn't want to get stuck, so I parked it. I put basic necessities in my backpacker backpack, no pillows or extra blankets, and hiked in the pouring down rain the 3k. It got sunny above the sage that would be my home for the night. I had cliffs nearby and hoped lightning would strike those before my metal poles.
I put up my tent and was amazed at the vast open landscape so far from civilization, except my phone worked. All I could see was a ranch house in the far far distance. I let the cowboy boots dry in the sun and changed out of my wet muddy pants into a fresh pair in the bag. I read my book "I Capture the Castle", a cheap find at a consignment shop, while a lark sparrow wooed females with his alien space invader gun sounds and occasional farting noises. Meadowlarks were abundant and a sage thrasher went off on his cute rhythmical song of romance.
Night came, the wind blew hard again bringing rain droplets that hit my water-proof tent with load thuds. A flash illuminated the darkness...lightning. Fear lodged itself in my throat, maybe I should have camped in a canyon. I counted the distance for every bolt, it started at about four miles away, then came as close as 2 miles. I finally decided that if I died, I didn't care because I would finally get some rest and nodded off for the night.
I was reluctant to get out of bed after a late night phone conversation with my new boyfriend, a cattle rancher, that drained my phone battery. The storm didn't help either. I hiked up the cliffs above my tent and was shocked at the intense landscapes I had to walk over that day, it was so hard. First point was easy enough with a Northern Shrike sitting on a fence post for me to count. I spent the rest of the morning climbing up and down the most insane crumbling mud cliffs. I nicknamed them "The Cliffs of Insanity" and kept repeating the lines for "Princess Bride" in my head to inspire my legs to move.
I was so worn out and covered in mud with no extra change of clothes to hike out in. The pack felt heavier hiking out, and my shoulders and hips ached by the time I made it to my car. Immediately I changed and tried to scrap mud off my poor boots. I put them by the floor of my car and turned the heater on full blast back to Buffalo to dry them.
I went to the Occidental Hotel, and was barely understandable as I asked for a room. I couldn't afford it, so she offered me the bunk house for a low price and I took it knowing I was using my car payment money. I'm looking forward to my paycheck already.