April 23, 2018

Sunset, Sunrise in the Mountain Empire

I'd planned on getting to the Mountain Empire a little earlier in the day to do some exploring—but since things rarely go as planned, I didn't end up leaving the LA area (Glendale, instead of Beverly Hills) until 3 p.m. on Saturday, making my arrival time in Potrero dangerously close to sunset.

I hustled as fast as I could in weekend traffic, stopping only for gas and snacks-to-go and foregoing dinner altogether—and as it was, I was heading up the pass just as the sun was dipping behind the mountain.

I was staying at a ranch of sorts, having rented a tipis at the end of a dirt road that turns off just before the county park and the local Christmas tree farm (a.k.a. the Rancho Noel). I thought I'd arrive and get situated and then leave again to forage for food, but the dirt road drive up through the "pasture land" was harrowing enough to make me want to stay and accept my hosts' offer to share burritos they'd gotten from Mexico earlier that day.

"You're brave," my host said when he realized I was the one staying in the smaller of his two tipis. I couldn't understand why, since there was a real bed in there, just like the tipis I'd stayed in before.

But I suppose to people who are used to having a door that locks and room service at their beck and call, a mere flap and just some solar lights is pretty adventurous.

I'd brought my headlamp from Ukraine so I could read in bed, but I found its light attracted too many bugs for my taste, so I simply went to bed early.

It was cloudy, so I didn't get to see the stars I was hoping for (much less the Lyrid meteor shower that was supposed to occur that night). But I did get to see both the sunset and the following sunrise, a rare treat for my current schedule and something I find so incredibly healing.

I slept fitfully on a bed whose frame had collapsed on one end, leaving me at a tilt and sliding down somewhat thanks to the plastic sleeve on the mattress. At some point, a cat walked into my tent with a "meow," just enough to wake me up and greet him with a "kitty!" and then fall back to sleep when he meandered back out. I don't think I dreamed that, though I suppose it's possible.)

I set my alarm for 6 in the morning, a few minutes before sunrise, but I ended up waking up on my own before it even sounded. I had a big day ahead and, being four hours from home in an area I hadn't visited in a decade, I wanted to make the most of it.

I'd actually expected my tipi to be visited by the guinea rooster I'd heard about the night before and that I'd heard calling throughout the night—with no hen to silence him—but it wasn't until the next morning that I spotted him, when he positioned himself in front of the nose of my car and wouldn't move.

With a few consoling expressions of "hey baby" and a few strokes of his back feathers, I either irritated or excited him enough to peck at my hand and not want to leave me alone. He encircled my car a few times before I could finally outrun him without running him over.

And then as though the early morning hadn't already been magical enough, I happened across a turkey vulture perched on a fencepost while I was on my way out of town, just long enough for me to snap a photo and watch it spread its massive wings and fly away.

And then I was back on the 94 East, just a stone's throw from Tecate, ready to start the day without breakfast, looking to squeeze in as much adventure as I could before heading home to my own bed and my own cat to wake me up in the middle of the night.

Related Posts:
Sunrising the Salton Sea and Its Forever Folly
Sleeping Under the Stars
A Little Fall of Rain

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