Monday, October 1, 2012


She was such a pretty corpse that I kept her around for a while.”

Em was talking about a praying mantis she once saved from a black widow. After that, the mantis would ride around on her shoulder when she worked in the garden.  Eventually she died, and Em kept her body until it disintegrated.

We were zooming down Highway 60.

We passed a place that was freshly painted white with huge, bright red letters that said JESUS SALVA. “Jesus Saves” in Spanish. Or was it somebody's name? A religious retreat? A cult headquarters? Or the location for a horror movie?

When we arrived at the Nature Conservancy's Hassayampa River Preserve, I noticed a head stone with MURDERED on it. It was the final resting place of the Barney Martin, his wife, and two sons who were killed in 1886. A bit of bloody Wild West history.

In the preserve's visitor's center Em said,“What a pretty tarantula!”

We had to wait for a pair of cows to move on before we hit the trails. “It'll be okay, as long as you stay out of their line of sight,” a volunteer said. It got me thinking about the mechanics of bullfighting, as we passed the RATTLESNAKE ALERT sign.

I wasn't expecting to find datura here, but it was all over. At one point, it was a jungle with the devil's trumpet as far as the eye cold see. This is what the plant does in its natural habitat. Some of the flowers were as big as four inches across. Black insects crawled on the white petals.

There was also a marijuana-like scent in the air. And spectacular fungal colonization of certain trees. And lots of large ants, black and red, scrambling around the trails where a lot of the footprints were non-human.

There was place full of giant, rust-covered dinosaurs as we entered Wickenburg.

We better not stop there,” said Em.

Yeah, we may find something we want,” I agreed.

We were also greeted by an abandoned motel with a RE-ELECT SHERIFF JOE ARPIO sign, and a tire place with an inflatable Bigfoot.

In town, we kept mistaking painted statues in of Old West characters for real people. One was chained to Wickenburg's Jail Tree, where outlaws were chained “for lack of a hoosegow” from 1863 to 1890. They say no one ever escaped.

After chicken-fried steak sandwiches at the Golden Nugget Restaurant, we got back on Highway 60, and discovered that a section of it was adopted by The Doom Family. Could it be the Doctor Doom? We looked carefully, but there was no sign of Doctor, the Missus, and the little Doomies picking up roadside litter.

We had trouble finding Vulture Mine Road, and Vulture Peak Road, but eventually found the trailhead near the volcanic neck, were we got our tramping-through-the-desert fix before zigzagging our way back to Phoenix.

It was a pretty day.

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