Being on the road certainly has its ups and downs. There are times when things go to plan. There are times when even the best laid plans shatter unexpectedly. And then there are times when despite having no plans at all, things slide perfectly into place…
We drive into Monument Valley with our best western soundtrack blaring on the car stereo. Bon Jovi gives way to Calexico and every strain of gunslinging tune in between. Jutting monuments decorate a flat land of lightning strikes and red dirt. There’s no sign of a campsite yet but the sun is low in the sky with its golden rays streaming across the rock spires, so it’s hard to get too worried about little things like where we’re going to sleep tonight.
We hit the jackpot right in the middle of the stunning monuments. I’m peering out the window with my camera poised, when down a little dirt road I spot a tiny wooden sign saying: “Camp Here”. We whip the car around and drive into a perfectly rustic campground right on sunset. The monuments rise up sharply in the distance all around us. A few picnic tables and the red dirt to pitch your tent in are the only facilities. No toilets. No water. No hookups. And most importantly, no other people. Just the way we like it.
We set up camp with periodic breaks to take in the wonderful colors that are lighting up the sky. Small bats keep us company while we battle with tent flaps in the breeze. A bright full moon peeks its head over the cliffs in the distance. Tents pitched, we bring out the tequila bottle as the wind slows its pace for the night. Moon-bathing to the reassuring rustle of tent flaps as the warm desert air slides past. We wander the red dirt full of smiles and chuckle that this feels just like we’re in our own cowboy movie.
A storm creeps in far across the desert. Distant lightning dashing across the dimming purple sky. Forks of light stab down between the monuments, splitting the horizon and spotlighting the rugged spires in the distance, with the fat full moon gazing down on it all.
This is one of those rare moments where I feel totally at peace. I’m completely aware that this will be one of the best moments of my life and my only worry is that I’m not fully appreciating it because there’s so many good things to be taking in at once. It’s a small worry though.
When I finally turn in for the evening, I doze with fabric doors left open and the cries of coyotes invading my dreams. I wake to the sunrise peeking through my eyelids and spot a nervous scorpion as he tries to sneak past my door.
It’s back to Arizona today, where we’ll be retracing our steps back to California. It seems fitting that our last night exploring brought us to such a magnificent place. A grand show-down indeed.
As we’re packing up the Navajo man that runs the campsite comes to chat to us and guess what? The campsite is actually an old movie set that’s seen numerous John Wayne flicks come past over the years. So there you go, we really were in our own cowboy movie.
Listening to: Close Behind – Calexico