Skip to main content

Scenery as an Excuse to Go There

As long as I'm coming clean on past transgressions, I might as well extend the streak. Today I'll admit that pretty scenery does actually serve a constructive purpose, although it's not the one that people usually advertise. Scenery serves as an excuse to go somewhere, and it's the going that actually matters, not the silly scenery itself.

For instance you are probably aware that there is some postcard scenery near Abiquiu, NM. The movie, City Slickers, was shot near here; and before that, what's-her-name did a lot of painting here, with the topography sometimes serving as inspiration. 

So I took off on a mountain bike ride along the cliff edge. How nice that the road followed the edge for a couple miles! When the main road finally left the cliff, I tried to return to it by opting for smaller and smaller roads. Eventually there was no road at all, except for the faintest linear vacuity perhaps left from some firewood cutting long ago. There was also more sky showing through the trees, as there always is near a cliff or saddle. 

There is always that magical moment in the fainting away of a trail when it becomes immaterial, and when you finally realize that you are just imagining it. It is a slow moving and non-slapstick version of the classic cartoon image of the Coyote running out over the edge of the cliff before he finally senses that something is wrong and then looks down. The experience is even tastier if you hear a little voice whispering to you that maybe you really aren't supposed to be here.

I was tempted to lean the mountain bike against a ponderosa and walk on. But it's surprisingly easy to lose a bike that way. So Coffee Girl, the bike, and I plowed through oak scrub as we stubbornly aimed at a cliff that was still only a possibility.

Finally the viewscape opened up:

Perhaps I'll even drop in down there for a closer look if I'm in the neighborhood. But there will probably be fees, nature-nazi regulations, rangers with guns on their hips, and crowds of windshield-tourists looking for a paved parking lot and a gift shop with what's-her-names paintings for sale. 

When travelers are surprised by roads, it's usually an unpleasant surprise. At the moment I am experiencing the exact opposite of that. The gravel/dirt road has the sort of marking on my DeLorme and Benchmark atlases that usually means, "Try it with the trailer, but first probe it with the mountain bike." But a month ago this road was given quite an upgrade, from start to finish. (A local firewood cutter confirmed this.) My gosh, even the shoulders have been graded. I'm not sure what to compare this experience to.

Good luck should be enjoyed, but I'm not going to get over-confident and expect this to happen the next time. Probing forest roads with the bike (or towed or detached tow vehicle) is a necessary step when you are a dispersed camper.


XXXXX said…
I think, in another life (sic), you were a mountain man. Do you ever wonder about those white men, the first to enter Indian land, usually for the purposes of trapping skins and that is how they made their living? The Native Americans often befriended them, not knowing yet that to do so would eventually bring more and more white folk and their inevitable demise. These early men often married Indian women but were off trapping for months or even years before coming back to civilization. They must have been alot like you; to choose such a life, they must have had a part of them that loved the wilderness.

"When we can no longer cheat and exploit the environment, but must come to equal terms with our world, what will it be like? ...Our species evolved as one, but while it has dominated nature, it has been able to diversity into a host of different individualities, cultures and attitudes. Have these personalities built upon our true nature, or has our true nature become buried within our civilisation and assumed sophistication? ....What would remain if our artificial supports and teachings fell away? Wildness is only interested in true natures, but do we still know how that feels?

Our Wild Niche, Laurie Cookson, p.3.
Rubye Jack said…
This reminds me of the time I went camping in Yosemite with a forest ranger I'd been dating. When he showed me where he wanted to pitch our tent I was shocked to find it was in the midst of probably 100 tents up next to each other with concrete roads for parking. We got in a big fight about what camping was all about and not surprisingly that was our last date. Ha.
Unknown said…
If we didn't think "there" had something to offer that "here" doesn't we'd never go anywhere.

Scenery, when you've seen little, is amazing and well worth the journey. Scenery, when you've seen a lot, seems more muted and less interesting.

Personally I like to close my eyes and feel a place, something you can't do by looking in the guidebooks or even snapping photos out of your car window.
VtChris said…
be sure to check out the Plaza Blanca in Abiqui
John W. said…
Boonie: FYI
John W. said…

FYI - Federal Land Use (West)

George, I wish I could read a realistic and non-romanticized book on the "mountain men." I mean a book that is NOT written for the same kind of person -- usually found in metropolitan areas of 5 million people -- who buys $100 coffee table books put out by National Geographic or the Sierra Club or WWF.

Personally I'm not much of a true wilderness guy. Wilderness is boring.
Anonymous said…
The artist you refer to is Georgia O'Keeffe