We had arctic sleeping bags, an enclosed tent with a floor—like a zippered bubble—and a tri-cornered tarp for those who wanted to sleep in real, rugged man style—practically out of doors. Turtle also took fly-fishing equipment and wore his New Mexico license around his neck with those little clippers for setting the fish free once you have proved your superior intellect and perseverance by snagging them.
That first night saw us in a canyon state park called Villa Nueva.
There were adobe shelters for picnic tables and a little stream ran nearby. (It was the Pecos River after two years of drought.) Even more importantly, restrooms were close at hand and the park managers were parked within hailing distance should a cougar decide to visit us all. I suggested setting up the tent inside the shelter, but Turtle considered that too prissy, so we found a spot of hard ground and cleared the rocks.
I hardly slept all night. I know, running water is supposed to induce slumber, but somehow it just made me feel cold. The Arctic sleeping bag didn’t warm me. (It’s a good thing we tried it, before we took it to the Klondike). Somewhere, way up on top of the canyon, a big cat was screeching, and I could hear every footstep that crunched on the dry ground outside. Speaking of ground, well it didn’t have much give to it and my one inch of mattress didn’t dull the sensation of stones against my bones. At four o’clock I asked Turtle to accompany me to the bathrooms. It was so warm inside the building, I almost opted to move my sleeping bag into the dressing room, but the thought of camper-stalkers deterred me. At five o’clock, Rocky Mountain time, the birds started screaming for the sun to come up. Grudgingly, it obliged.
Turtle used his Irish Kelly Kettle to heat a pot of boiling water. We added instant coffee, ate granola bars and briefly grilled a can of what turned out to be a generic variety of Vienna sausages. Yum. Turtle went fishing while I re-arranged the luggage in the trunk. (Car camping is great; it gives you a huge secure, portable locker for stowing gear. Now that I think of it, the back seat would have been more comfortable too...but hardly sporting of me...)
We took lots of pictures and a few breaks to recover our altitude-challenged oxygen levels.
Along the way, we hiked past a hundred swallow nests stuck tightly to the underside of an overhanging bit of rockface.
Far below, we could see our tiny campsite next to the faithful gray automobile/camping locker. The sun was bright; the breeze cool enough, and we only stumbled a few times on the way down.