#88 - HOME IS WHERE YOU PARK IT: Wheelhouse at the Corral
'm on my second Dos Equis lager and the first inch of a Romeo y Julieta Romeo #3 Cuban cigar Joel brought me back from his travels with my sister and brother-in-law (Dominican Republic?). It's been a long day. I'm seated at the picnic table outside a Wheelhouse that is now parked somewhere new. My new home is at "the Corral" and, yes, there is the horse dung to prove it. But the corral and adjacent tack house are sadly vacant.
I am perhaps one hundred yards or meters from the V.I.C. Night has fallen and it is serene and eerily quiet. Crickets chirp and the last of the day's birds now rest and give way to the bats and owls. There are trees every way I look and it is yet to become too dark to take in the silhouette of the huge pink and green rhyolite rock faces that too surround me.
The move was not Plan A. Hell, I'm not sure it was my "C" but things changed and I rolled with them. My official volunteer start date isn't until June 1, but I hit the ground running when I arrived exactly one month ago. My training started immediately and really was just two days shadowing one of the two couples who have been here for the past two months and then doing the same with the other couple who leave tomorrow after their third stint volunteering for the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon. However, with the training quickly completed I took on other projects: cleaning, gardening, weed-whacking and making two 170 mile round-trips to Willcox, Arizona for a piece of equipment that was the wrong tool for the job.
The plan that F.O.C.C.C. and I had agreed upon for some time, me staying at Rusty's until the two RV sites were vacated by the aforementioned couples, and F.O.C.C.C. reimbursing me for Rusty's site fee and electricity plus fuel I was using to make the 20 mile each way commute from Rodeo, New Mexico to Portal, Arizona and Cave Creek Canyon. A few weeks ago the forest service came in to do some filling and grading a third site that sits alone above the Visitor Information Center (V.I.C.), but I didn't pay much attention because although I hadn't looked at it myself, the other volunteers believed that my rig was too long (55' truck to trailer; 31.5 feet of it my rolling cabin) to both back/pull in and then maneuver to back the RV onto the pad area. A fourth site was even supposed to be in the works, but it would be new construction and nothing came to fruition. Meanwhile, I didn't mind the commute as it is the scenery and habitat I adore, and it's cool going from one state, in a different time zone, situated in the sunny, hot, often windy and arid edge of Chihuahuan desertscrub of Rodeo to the rocky canyon ten degrees cooler and almost 1000 ft higher in elevation even though the drive seems confusingly level. I love staying at Rusty's and enjoying her swim spa at the end of the day before heading out to road cruise for snakes. But the original offer of covering the cost of a private RV park quickly evaporated into my giving it a college try to shoehorn my lengthy highway dwelling into the former home of forest service horses used for ranging. In the southwest cattle are free to wander and sometimes they become wayward. And, I too, live by 'all who wander are not lost' and was ready to take on that challenge.
Driving into the canyon would be different. A route taken hundreds of times in my truck would be the maiden path in my rig. Steve and Rick, the male halves of the two couples I have trained and worked with, met me outside the VIC at 8 a.m. (AZ time; you ought to try being in two different time zones every single day!) and the process was much less painless than prepping the rig at Rusty's yesterday and breaking down camp and doing the myriad tasks required of making a sedentary RV move again.
For those of you wondering, both the beer and the cigar are wonderful, as is the cool breeze and peaceful sounds of night. Soon it will be pitch black and the dazzling clear sky gazillion stars of the southwest when there aren't city lights for 100 miles will twinkle. Setting up camp has taken up my day. A Blue-throated Hummingbird, appropriately also known as the 'mountain gem' and only second to the Elegant Trogon in target species for Chiricahua birders, tried to get at one of my hummingbird feeders as I was unboxing it so I became motivated to erect feeding stations around camp and then focused on sanitary hook-ups and running solar powered LED rope lights beneath my Wheelhouse to deter rodent visitors. As I was setting up feeders and tidying the grounds I flipped a couple 'snaky' looking rocks and beneath the first was two Devil Stripe-tailed Scorpions so I became distracted with the business of macrophotography.
So the plan that unfolded was contrary to what my melon had understandably presumed for two weeks, but it has me now living in the heart of Cave Creek Canyon, which for me is the most magical of places. As my day's work completed my new 'backyard' was visited by a group of Coue's White-tailed Deer. This is a dwarf subspecies of the abundant deer of my home Midwest and throughout much of the U.S. Here the Mule Deer is the 'full-sized' deer and the much smaller deer seen every day along FR42 (the forest road known right here as Cave Creek Road, but over its length as the Trans-Mountain Highway). As dusk approached, the little deer eventually gathered in the corral itself – a sight that was amusing at first and then was advanced when I tossed them the last bunch of fresh hay that was left behind.
The two original RV sites - call them the official volunteer housing - are being improved on next week, and I could move into one of them June 1. A couple that is arriving next week to replace one departing couple while i replace the other, would be my neighbors. No offense to them - I haven't even met them yet - but my thinking right now is that I enjoy my privacy. I strum my guitar and listen to demon rock music. Rarely I smoke a damn fine cigar. Occasionally my parrot Jesse screeches. I am certain that I snore. The only problem with 'the Corral' is that I can't pick up the V.I.C.s Wi-Fi. We played with a few booster/extenders today and didn't get them to work. The primary extenders and antenna towers were designed to broadcast the V.I.C.'s Internet *north* toward the 'official volunteer housing'. There is a receiver mounted up a pole by those sites. They can stream Netflix. Right now I walk the lovely little hundred yard trail from my exclusive horse camp to the V.I.C. for access. It will be cathartic to relieve a little device dependency. But it shouldn't be that difficult to get a VIC- supplied booster configured correctly, and adding my own RV cell booster to my Wheelhouse's antenna would be wise.
So this morning I woke in New Mexico as I did for four months last year and one so far in 2018, but I sleep in Arizona for the next few months at least. I'll close this by remind y'all that the images that often accompany these posts are there for the story-telling, but the bulk of my photos are posted on Instagram. There are so many more to see. You don't have to be a user or have an app to just view. Just point your browser that direction [click here & bookmark please]. For those of you who do use the app make sure you also check out my story. The *posts* are primarily 'serious' wildlife pix, but the story has all sorts of shenanigans, plus scenery from the trail and road. Here are some images from today's story as the 'Wheelhouse at the Corral' adventure began.