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El Camino del Diablo, Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, AZ

There is a woman I covet. I lose her. I find her. I lose her again and each time I hope she stays a little longer than the last. Her heart is soft as silk. Her spirit a splash of color against the fading desert wash. Her mind resourceful. She is the understructure of everything.

The wind is coming in, the sun is going down, and my eyes burn from traces of sunscreen – I knew better than to wipe them.

After three hours on this washboard road with its hard waves and soft traps there is nothing to do upon arriving but rest. I park across from an old windmill and adobe cabin, viga tails exposed, windows and doors boarded. A shelter at one time for staff, border agents and livestock line-riders.

Nearby, the border wall with its wedge-shaped posts and steel beams dead-ends into a series of triangular uplifts, a mountain by any other name. This is the nearest to it we’ve camped thus far, ten miles at most I would guess. Maybe less.

Likely less.

And there are gaps here, in the wall. Border Patrol keeps a steady presence but this crossing has roots that extend through time and it has claimed many lives over the years. The Road of the Devil is a rugged inhospitable place for travelers. A place where even today minor mishaps easily cascade into dire consequences. This desert knows death well.

I saddle the horse, throwing my hip into it for I am a short thing and the horse is tall and we ride south, further into the Sonoran with its Saguaro and Ocotillo in bloom. On our return I step off and fire a round. My only intention to acclimate the horse to gunshot. After he calms I remount and lope uphill toward camp. I am pleased to say he handles it all admirably.

In the evening, I sit under the new moon reading and glance up just in time to see a rocket launch, twisting and turning its way into space leaving nothing but a snake trail in its wake.

As always, my thoughts run rampant:

- What am I doing here.

- I miss my home.

- Worry about the horse escaping.

- Dreams of fire and rescue – of losing everything.

There are others camped nearby - too close for these 800,000 acres of remoteness – and sleep does not come easily. In the morning I change my mind and reduce a multi-night stay into one. It is time to leave. I am upset with myself for being upset but the horse is restless, as am I, and so we go.

But it is in and on my mind to return. To find the solitude in this life-or-death place. To stay just a little bit longer. And someday I (she) will.

Note: Recommend accessing via Charlie Bell Road.


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