I slept fourteen hours. The nearby white noise of rushing water was not only relaxing, but served to drown out any campground revelry. I probably would have slept even more, but was awakened by a klaxon and rose to investigate.
I found myself in a mesquite grove at the bottom of a mountain. There was a steep rock wall to the rear of my tent, and a slow moving river about a hundred and fifty feet in front of me. There were several camps set up along and in front of my own. The alarm soon ceased and I found it wise to locate the shitter we passed on the way in before investigating my whereabouts.
On the way there, I passed the dog-catcher's truck. I thought it odd that there would be such services this far into the wild. I waved and the woman driving stopped to tell me she had come on the report of a vicious dog and asked if I had seen one, I told her I had not. I later learned that Goat's puppy had bitten somebody and they had gone to town and reported it.
Wandering around, I noticed stuffed animals hanging in the trees and lurking behind rocks. As I continued, I began seeing eggs; both boiled and plastic. I hadn't realized it was Easter.
I spotted some signs and verified that I was at Childs campground on the Verde river. I had studied this area at the library, hoping someday to visit. I hadn't planned on it, as the road was too long and dry to hike (for my purposes anyway). I worried how I would ever get out of here.
There was no vehicle at the camp across from me, but a rafter had drifted in, and older guy, and he crossed the path to introduce himself as Frank. He asked me if I had ever had Apple Pie. I thought that odd. “Of course”, I replied. “No” he said, “I mean APPLE PIE!”. I conceded that perhaps I hadn't. He asked if I had a cup and, producing one for him, he dashed back to his camp and poured me a few fingers. “It's a local favorite”, he told me, and urged me to try it. It was delicious. Cider and apple juice and cinnamon and spices. “It's made with everclear”, he divulged, “Be careful”. And he went on his way.
I sat there, in front of my tent, enjoying my sweet, fruity breakfast. It wasn't long before another gentleman came by with a prosthetic leg and invited me to a pancake breakfast, to which he said the entire camp was invited. I followed him to the shade of a Mulberry tree where indeed, the entire camp had assembled. Ron started on the flapjacks and his wife, Penny, busied herself giving haircuts to the hippies. Barely sprouting stubble, I would wait a year to avail myself of this kindness. I learned that it was Ron and Penny who had hidden the toys and treats for the kids, and that it was an annual endeavor for them.
Johnny, the naked kid from the night before, was there in filthy jeans. Goat was with him and dragging a gallon wine jug full of keg beer on a leash. Goat handed me a sack of grass. “What's this”? I asked. “You said you didn't have any” he said. “Enjoy”. Then he tried to sell me some rocks. I traded some lapis I had worked for a local crystal. That month, everybody I met got a piece of lapis or malachite from me.
The shy guy, in the hat with the fire-dick diagnosis was standing off to the side (as he does) and motioned me to come over. He asked if I had any pot and handed me a carrot.
The strangeness and incongruity of this group of people and the words they used seemed to have no end.
“Turn it over” he told me. Turns out, the carrot was a pipe. “Rangers don't think anything of a black old rubbery carrot in the bottom of your pack”. He smiled and pulled a small drill bit from his pocket, explaining that it was better to carry fruits and veggies and a drill bit than a pipe around these parts. “There's a ranger here called Frau Bluecher”, he warned me, “and she's a real ball buster.
Rusty had a white Toyota van and a little dog that looked like a cross between a Jack Russel and a Javelina and behaved likewise. He also wore the most magnificent hat. He called it a Dorfman. While we talked and smoked, a white truck had joined up with Frank. A woman and a young man with coke bottle glasses and an enormous grin got out. Not long after, a Sherrif's SUV showed up at their camp with a Ranger behind.
All the authority this morning was making me nervous. It appeared Rusty felt the same and he suggested we walk. We went south as far as the trail would allow. Rusty would occasionaly dash up a hill or reach into the bushes and retrieve some piece of camping gear he had previously stashed. He gave me a grill grate from up a wash. I still have it, as well as the Dorfman, but the hat didn't come into my possesion for another year.
On the way back to camp, we saw the ranger, in fact Frau Bluecher, with a clipboard writing down peoples license plates. Rusty said “Hey sis! How are you doing”? “Fine”, she replied, “and you”? Rusty gave her a sly look that I would learn often proceeded a sally of wit and asked if she was German by descent. “Why yes”, she said. “Why do you ask”?
Rusty gave her that squinty eyed crosswise look and said “Because you're acting like a fucking Nazi, that's why!”
I walked the other way, pretending not to know him, and asked a few different people how to get to the Hot Springs. I received as many different directions as people I asked. I ended up following footprints north, and actually found it. Turns out the klaxon I had heard was the alert that the power plant to the north was going to open the turbines. It was a warning to steer clear. The white noise that gave me such restful sleep, was the turbines, churning out water from Fossil Creek.
I returned to camp about an hour before dusk. Ron and Penny had left, and Rusty was at Frank's camp with Dee, Mikey, Goat, and Johnny. There was a fire going and people kept blowing through their fingers at the coals to stoke it up when it died down. This was curious to me, as it was a mannerism I had never seen before.
Rusty cut the fat from a pork loin and threw it on the grill grate. It was a sheet about 18 inches square. Vultures circled overhead. We drank Apple Pie and laughed at the vultures. When the fat was cooked, Johnny and Goat fell upon it, gnashing it with their teeth, oils dripping and running down their elbows. Sated, they moved on and Rusty cooked the loin for the rest of us.
By the time it was done, Dee was passed out in her truck and Mikey had bloodied himself falling down while professing for the umpteenth time that “I believe in US man, I believe IN US!”. The Apple Pie was taking it's toll.
I asked Rusty about the blowing through the fingers, because it seemed so affected and I couldn't see how it was effectual. I'd noticed people at different camps doing it.
“The Anasazi's came down once, and taught us all that”, he said. Everybody nodded in understanding.
Once again, I was bewildered at the customs and language of these people. I was under the impression that the Anasazi tribe had disappeared or died out a thousand years ago. I stated as much, wondering if there was a lost sect hiding out here.
It turns out the Anasazi Rusty referred to were a group of troubled youth who were sent out to a camp a few miles south to learn responsibility through hardship and survival in the desert. Apparently, they would sneak off in the night and party with the hot springers. Since then, the project had been shut down.
Their technique, silly as it may look, is a very effective way to coax fire from coals.
To do this, take your thumb and index finger and hold them together like you would if holding a joint. Now do it with your other thumb and forefinger. If you push the two together, you will see a diamond shape about one quarter inch across. If you place this diamond to your lips, it has the property of focusing your breath into a concentrated stream. It works really well, and prevents the hyperventilation sometimes experienced by normal blowing on coals. I call it the Anasazi Bellows.