Escape from Tucson: Day 19 – Sunday
What a freaky night!
First off I want to tell you I didn’t make it all the way back to the tracks by morning where I expected to be. I am held up in a shallow arroyo about a mile and a half short of the tracks and interstate the best I can guess. It just got to be too light out for me to chance being seen. So I took the best option I had at the time…this little dinky dry desert stream bed with almost no shade. I am already really hot, drinking water I am going to run out of, and worried about the condition I will be in by night fall. And to top it off…if I stand up I will be completely exposed. When I said it was a shallow arroyo I wasn’t kidding.
There is not a cloud in the sky, I can’t sleep anymore, and I have little room to move around in. I found a small clump of mesquite bushes in the arroyo, put up my camo poncho, and called it home for the day. Problem #110 for this little set-up…I don’t have enough shade. Later this afternoon I am going to have to move the poncho to cast a different shadow because I simple don’t have enough room to move around. And that simple task might make me vulnerable if anyone is watching this area. Not a lot of choice though. And I have no idea where Beans is, I haven’t seen her since I woke up.
You know it is kind of funny, most of what I run into now that I consider just another day would be a complete freak job just a month ago. A lot of it would also be illegal, immoral, and more associated with some third-world country than the USA. And that applies to last night as well. I gotta write this down, at some point people are going to need to know what is happening. Wait, you know there is something I haven’t thought a single thing about…what this all looks like when it is over. Or better yet, is this ever “over” in the traditional sense of the word or is this the new normal? Anyways, last night…
The first part of the trek last night was easy…flat desert grassland, scrubby, and if it had been in the daylight I’m sure it would have been ugly. The two-track was easy to see and stay on so it was if I was just taking a Sunday walk. I tried to hustle because, while it was less than a mile to get to the mouth of the canyon, I really didn’t want to take the chance of anyone seeing me. I bet I walked it in twenty minutes, I was moving. I easily found the north/south trail and headed north.
While the mountains on both sides were really steep, there was this nice little canyon that just gently rolled along. Easy walking is about the best way to describe it. But –there’s always a but– it was stressful. I just kept thinking that this was almost too easy of an option and that it would get ugly at some point in time.
Right before I popped out into the bigger east/west canyon there was a saddle that I had to climb through. I don’t know for sure but I am thinking it was less than a 100 foot elevation change and it was spread out over maybe a quarter of a mile. It was an easy climb…but I have to be carrying forty pounds in the pack and I could feel it. I laid up in the saddle for about half an hour or so just watching the canyon I was about to drop into. I simply have to remain vigilant and not get impatient. Safety is the most important factor right now, right here.
Once in the large east/west canyon I picked up the two-track intersection pretty easily and headed east. The canyon is pretty wide from what little I could see, maybe three or four hundred feet for the most part. Another fifteen minutes of walking and the canyon narrowed noticeably but I had been expecting this. It was just a little pinch point where the mountains closed in a little tight. But, it widened right back out and then another two miles to the Guess Ranch. At the point where I came out of the pinch point is where I thought everything would take a dump, if it was going to happen at all.
I had just made it through the pinch point and stepped off the side of the trail to drink some water and eat a snack. The stench was noticeable and distinct…death. Beans was a little off, she seemed to be anxious I guess would be the right word to describe her. Beans being on edge didn’t do anything to make me feel any better. And like a train wreck that you just have to watch, I had to try and figure out what, or where, or who, the smell was coming from. So I started following my nose.
About twenty minutes of smelling my way around I saw them, two sleeping bags with what I assumed to be people in them. To me they were just lumps in sleeping bags, stinking lumps of sleeping bags. The stench was palatable and I knew what it was, just didn’t know the details. Didn’t really want to know them…but I had to have a look around and see what might be usable.
Beans was trotting around smelling the ground like there was a bowl of gravy hidden somewhere and she wouldn’t listen to me at all. I headed to the little camping area by myself. I can’t blame Beans.
Making a long story short…there were two dead people in the sleeping bags, I am thinking male and female, couldn’t tell for sure. Their camp was strewn with trash but their camp seemed as if it was more like a backyard camping trip not a mountain camp. I would have thought the camp would be well organized and stocked this far out in the middle of nowhere, but it wasn’t. And it was all trash, not a single usable item anywhere to be seen. But, what made me stop dead in my tracks…a much smaller sleeping bag laid out between the two adults…empty. I just got a very creepy feeling about it…very, very creepy. I moved on as quickly as I could.
About an hour or so later I was coming up on the Guess Ranch. It was a little hard to see at first, it was wedge up against the foothills on the south side of the trail. I came up on the corrals first and then I noticed the ranch house kind of back to the west off to my right and behind me. Not a single light on, no cows, no dogs, nothing. I was a little spooked. I decided to hold and watch the house for a full hour…if I had a watch on. I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t going to be any surprises. Why no dog?
I found a decent spot, sat down, ate a little, and watched the ranch buildings. Beans was OK with all of this for maybe a half hour…she was bored, and she looked it. She just gets up and heads off towards the house…never said a word to me…just headed down there. What the heck??? I thought we were a team here! So I followed her at a discreet distance. If she wanted to be impatient, she could catch the first bullet.
I kept waiting to hear a gunshot ring out in the night and feel the burning sensation or hear Beans yelp…but nothing. It creeped me out. I lost track of Beans because she was just trotting in as if she owned the place. I was a whole lot more cautious.
I slowly made my way to the house and not a single sign of life, nothing, nada, quiet enough to be really spooky. I was going to just walk on but I wanted to test the door and see if it was open. Why? I have no idea…just stupid impulse. As I started to open the door I envisioned all sorts of booby traps being set and I was about to fall into some chainsaw murder’s house of horrors dungeon of something. In retrospect…I was a little delusional…or at least stupid. Here is the really funny part…no locked door. Actually, technically, there wasn’t a way to lock the door…no locking mechanism at all. There was a latch that kept the door secured tightly closed but that was it. So you already know what I did?
Yeah, I opened the door and walked right in like I owned the place. In for a dime, in for a dollar. It was pitch black in there till me eyes adjusted. First thing I did was search around for a light switch. Yes, honestly, I did. Then I felt ridiculous. I could tell there was a fireplace on the far wall. Where there is a fireplace, there are matches. I was right…on the mantle…next to a candle. There was a really nice warm glow to the place with the candle going, found a couple more and turned the place into a little get-a-way in the desert. And then it hit me…this was someone’s place in the desert! I started looking around expecting to see someone in a rocking chair in the shadows with a double-barrel shotgun pointed at me.
Well, I was there…I might as well look around.
This place was very, very well stocked with everything. It was like a prepper’s Wal-Mart paradise! I was starting to stack up some stuff on the table when I once again had the thought that all of this belonged to someone and that someone was not me. I tried very hard to rationalize taking what I needed…but I couldn’t. And let me tell you…I tried really hard.
I decided I would only take one thing…a 10lb bag of instant rice. I was going to leave a $20 bill and a note explaining myself. I was OK with that and had no issues. Well, no issues until I tried to put my pack back on…it felt like a ton and fit very uncomfortably. Now what? Well, it just so happens that they had a closet with some nice Kelty backpacks…the exterior framed ones. I dug out another $120 in cash, left it, added that to the note I placed on the table, and walked out the door after having moved my gear to the new pack. I left my old one in addition to the money.
Beans was laying out on the front porch eating a rabbit…bloody as all get out. I headed out, she stayed on the porch eating. She caught up with me a little ways down the two-track. Actually, the trail was now, way nicer than a two-track, it was a pretty decent little desert dirt road, and easy to follow. I was out of the mountains by now and headed across more flat desert ground again. There were a few rolling hills I had to transit up a head but nothing major or serious. The only complication that was in front of me was the spaghetti intersections mess. I had to make sure I took the correct turns at the right times. And that was just about the time I noticed that the sky in the east was just starting to show a little light. I had to move, and move quickly.
Maybe two or three miles later I was finding it more urgent that I get a spot to layover for the day. And by now I could tell I was going to get caught out in the middle of the flat desert for the day with no real cover or shade. Maybe that was my punishment for taking the rice and the pack. Hey!!! I paid for both and I even left my old pack.
Now, I’ve been saving the worst for last…tracks. Yeah, as I was looking for a decent shallow arroyo, or somewhere, to hide for the day when I saw the tracks. Look I am not expert to be sure. Maybe I would have been if I had taken onPoint Tactical’s Scout class, but I didn’t and I’m not. But, I could make out several adults of different sizes…and one set of small tracks. I am guessing that the tracks were made a couple of days ago…maybe…I am just not sure. That is not the point. The point is…there are footprints out here…that is not good, period. Not good for me, period.
But, I have to move the poncho and try to sleep a little more. According to the map I’ve only got a mile or so before I hit the tracks/interstate. I want to be on my toes tonight as I get close, I don’t want any surprises. Once I hit the tracks I have about three to four miles before I hit Hwy 338. Weird, I know that highway really well. I bet you I’ve driven that road south a hundred times going to and from fires. It goes due south to the border with Mexico. I hope that doesn’t pose a problem. But, then another ten or so miles and I have to deal with Lordsburg.
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