I woke on a foam pad in the middle of the gravel road. That was the best guarantee I could imagine, in my exhaustion, for not missing the sky that night, which worked gradually. The twilight chill coaxed me back to consciousness, while the horizon’s afterglow still washed out familiar constellations even. I think Penny stood the entirety of my sleep. Maybe it was just 10 minutes, I have no idea? Staring down the jeep trail she seemed to be pondering an invitation. I was curious about something too so we indulged.
“Signage back there seemed haphazard …”
- Butterfly Springs said “Campfires in designated rings only”
- While “Ground fires are prohibited” at our shuttered fish camp
- One’s at the crossing, the other at the terminus
- They’re just ½ mile apart along a single-phase power line
- Why the difference?
- Lights off we ambled through the darkness and inspected both
Butterfly Springs is compact. No buildings there, but we did find an underflow seep just upstream from the culvert. The creekbed cuts into the water table on the inside elbow. Lined with cobble, the natural well was so clear Penny walked into it twice. Beneath the glass tadpoles swim through air. Aha, that’s what the Ranger meant when she shared, “You can probably still filter there.” Duh.
Back at fish camp an opening in the trees revealed a dry stock pond. It’s more like a hay field than a fishing hole. The old dam is broke. No saplings grow in the clearing yet so the breach seems recent. Torrential too. Boulder-sized fill rolled downstream almost to the spring. Above the water line is a porch cabin, trough feeder, drop-off silo, and drink tank in the shadow of a concrete tower. No power, and no water anymore, except what we carried in plus a 5-minute sprinkle when sunrise pushed back the cold.
Our starlight shadows are prominent now.
Exploring the ravine reminded me of something my dad described, decades earlier, about ancient people who followed migrating herds wild and domestic. “Before flint-and-steel, a responsible youngster was selected to carry fire from camp-to-camp in a small clay pot, carved-out stump, or nestled in a fungus. Too hot to touch, the censer hung from twine, which the little carrier whirled above her head intermittently to kindle in fresh air.”
One historic tote is called the Apache match today. It’s simply ingenious really: build a nest around a smooth branch, bundle it with bark chips for smoldering, wrap that bunch with cedar strips, and secure the whole lot with jute fiber. A healthy coal’s placed in the hollow. Family groups carried fire that way all day, tending it indefinitely, then share it.
“the heavens were opened” – Matt 3:16
Title: Set Fire to the Rain
Artist: Adele, 21 (2011)
“Sometimes an ember is all we need” – Bear Grylls